In a bind to find someone, anyone, to take on the largely ceremonial position of Anne Arundel County Council chairman, a majority of council members is backing Odenton Democrat Bill D. Burlison to be their next leader.
That Burlison would become the next council chairman - largely because of a stark lack of interest among his colleagues - has been talked about for weeks. But four council members, including Burlison, put their intentions in writing Monday by agreeing to sponsor a resolution that would do just that.
"We did it. The resolution is in," said a smiling Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy shortly after reviewing and signing the document. Murphy, a Pasadena Democrat who has served in the role for the past year, will pass the gavel to Burlison if his nomination is approved by a vote at a regular council meeting Monday. Millersville Democrat Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. would become vice chairman.
In case of a last-minute change of heart among council members, Murphy said she has prepared a second resolution that would make Klosterman chairman and Burlison vice chairman. Neither Klosterman nor Burlison has agreed to that plan, and the alternate resolution is not on the agenda for Monday's meeting.
"Someone will have to be chairman on Dec. 3 because it won't be me," said Murphy.
Burlison, who had not pushed for the chairman's seat and has been coy about rumors that put him there, said yesterday that he'd be happy to serve as chairman, a position that carries with it a slightly higher salary, as well as the responsibility of running orderly council meetings, which has proven a challenge in recent months.
He said he intends to start all meetings on time and that he hopes to reach out to council members who feel they have been excluded from behind-the-scenes maneuverings where most county business is hammered out.
"I will try to maintain a cordial and close relationship with all of my colleagues and try to keep them advised on what's coming down the pike [from the county executive's office]," said Burlison.
Burlison, a former Missouri congressman who was elected to the County Council in 1998, emerged as a candidate for the chairman's position only after no other council member who could realistically win the job expressed interest in it. Murphy, a Pasadena Democrat whose one-year term as chairwoman is drawing to an end, has said she has no interest in another term.
Because Democrats hold five of the council's seven seats, the two Republicans - John J. Klocko III of Crofton and Cathleen M. Vitale of Severna Park - were eliminated as candidates. When other Democrats removed themselves from consideration, only two were left: Klosterman, a former chairman who has said he would rather give someone else a chance at the job, and Burlison.
Burlison, a supporter of County Executive Janet S. Owens, almost always votes in favor of legislation that wins the administration's approval. He often asks staff members whether the administration backs a bill before he votes.
For this, Burlison has won his share of critics, including Klocko, who has been unsuccessful in his attempt to encourage Klosterman and Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle to seek the chairman's position. Klosterman has held the job twice before; Beidle said she doesn't have enough time.
Although his party is outnumbered on the council, Klocko said he'd be willing to take the job himself because his colleagues will be busy with re-election campaigns next year. Klocko is in his second term, the maximum under term limits.
Klocko said he fears that Burlison may "further marginalize" the County Council's image, which has been marred by public spats.
"You just expect the worse and go forward," Klocko said of the vote Monday that would seat Burlison at the center of the dais.
Those who back Burlison, an attorney who is well-versed in parliamentary procedure, say he'll do well in the position.
"He's responsible and dependable," said state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat. "He'll do fine."