Dozen vie for local seats

Ballot is longest of 7 municipalities voting next month

Main St., Warfield key issues

Ten hopefuls seek council spots

two running for mayor

April 30, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

With 10 candidates vying for four Town Council seats and two others running for mayor, Sykesville offers voters the longest ballot among the seven Carroll municipalities with elections next month.

Every candidate agrees on one aspect of the campaign that culminates at the polls tomorrow: The numbers show civic responsibility is on the rise in the South Carroll town of 4,200.

The most critical issue, incumbents said, is their continuing on the six-member council so that several projects reach fruition.

"We have to keep things on track," said council President Eugene Johnson, who, at 64, is seeking a fourth term.

The town is tackling Main Street revitalization and restoration of the Warfield Complex, a 96-acre former state property with 14 century-old buildings. The town plans to renovate, then lease the buildings for a business and academic center. The state and the county have contributed more than $700,000 to the Warfield project.

"We have invested a lot of time and energy, and it is vital that we see these projects through," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman, a 48-year-old restoration contractor who has lived in town for 16 years and is seeking a third term. "We have all kinds of programs in place that we need to take care of. Consistency is vital."

Herman is so intent on keeping the projects on track that he is campaigning door to door. Councilwoman Jeannie Nichols also is knocking on doors and phoning as many of the nearly 2,000 registered voters as possible.

"The effort is so worth it," said Nichols, 43, a stay-at-home mother. "The price we would pay for failing is too high. We are emphasizing our vision that has the town prospering now and into the future."

Councilwoman Debby Ellis is seeking a second term "to keep things running now and well into the future." Ellis, 49, a Social Security computer program supervisor, has served as liaison to the town planning commission and knows "what has gone down the pike and what is coming up the road."

Two former council members - Maxine Wooleyhand, who won a four-year term in 1987, and Garth Adams, who left the council in 1997 after one term - are trying to return to the panel. Both said Warfield cannot succeed unless it attracts the right mix of tenants.

"I would like to be in on the decision-making for Warfield," said Wooleyhand, a 58-year-old retiree and town resident for more than three decades. "It has to help with the town tax base."

Adams, chairman of the town recycling committee, said, "We can't have a lot of nontaxable entities there."

Herman said nonprofit groups that lease space will make payments in lieu of taxes for offices in Warfield. The town has been planning for Warfield nearly five years, since the state made it available for development. A referendum on annexing the property passed two years ago by an overwhelming majority.

"We have all kinds of programs in place to make Warfield succeed," Herman said.

Ted Campbell, a computer software specialist who is challenging Herman, has doubts about the profitability of Warfield. If elected, Campbell said, he would "initiate a top-to-bottom review of everything that has happened at Warfield."

Campbell, 53, is taking his first plunge into politics. Two years ago, he organized a petition drive and "met more residents in two weeks than in the 11 years I had lived here." Their concerns prompted him to run for mayor, he said.

"Citizens felt the town government was not responsive and was not spending money wisely," Campbell said.

Incumbents Nichols, Johnson and Ellis are seeking four-year terms. The town charter requires Councilman Russ Vreeland, who was appointed to fill a vacancy last year, to run for the remaining two years of the previous member's term. Kathleen Hider is challenging Vreeland for the seat.

"Along with the other incumbents, I want to see Warfield well on its way, and I want to continue the revitalization of downtown," said Vreeland, 41, an accountant.

Hider, 41, director of development at the Johns Hopkins University, said communication between officials and residents needs to improve.

"There is not a lot of outreach between town leaders and residents," Hider said. "There is usually a knee-jerk reaction when one segment gets upset about an issue. The council needs to be proactive."

Vreeland said the town has made great strides in communication, noting its quarterly newsletter, monthly calendar of events and Web site.

Like Campbell, several challengers for council seats said the town needs to improve communication with residents.

"There are people here who don't know where Warfield is or how many buildings are there," said Frank Robert, a 40-year-old pharmaceutical representative entering politics. "This is a really neat town with so much potential. People are just plodding along."

Brian Beck and Robert are running as a team. Both have lived in town for about two years, although Beck, 35, has owned a Main Street restaurant for nine years.

Connie Higgins, who is making a second try for a seat after finishing within a few votes two years ago, said the town puts up barricades around public information.

"They should not make the public process so cumbersome that the average person gives up," said Higgins, a 37-year-old sales representative.

Higgins, who rarely misses a Town Council meeting, said she is campaigning for lower taxes and moderate spending. She also seeks to ensure that infrastructure is kept in working order before the town begins more projects.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Town House, 7547 Main St.

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