Krebs focusing on Carroll delegate's race

School board chief notes her record of leadership

October 13, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Susan W. Krebs is running for state office in the county's newly created district for South Carroll and leading the county board of education at a time when dissatisfied teachers stage a work-to-rule protest.

And, she's trying to juggle work- and home-related tasks - she has three children - with the dexterity of a seasoned politician.

The phones - the home, office and cellular lines - never stop ringing at her Eldersburg residence. The 42-year-old Republican fields complaints about the location of her campaign signs amid requests to appear at another debate, forum or community meeting. She handles school board business and messages about her son's soccer team, which her husband coaches.

"This is not fun, particularly the partisan politics," said Krebs, president of the Carroll County Board of Education. "But the job will be rewarding."

In the Republican primary last month, Krebs defeated five rivals to capture her party's nomination for delegate, winning nearly 28 percent of the vote. She will face Democrat Kenneth Holniker, a Sykesville attorney, Nov. 5.

Redistricting created 9B, an area that includes Eldersburg, Sykesville, Woodbine, Gamber, Marriottsville and many smaller neighborhoods. South Carroll, the county's most populous and fastest-growing area, welcomed the opportunity for a voice of its own in the state legislature.

"I have always been passionate about this area," Krebs said. "It really is the orphan of the county, and it needs special attention. Unless you are here and living with the problems growth has created, it is hard to be sympathetic."

Problems from growth

At nearly every school in South Carroll, even the newest ones, some students are learning in portable classrooms. Roads are clogged. The intersection of Routes 26 and 32 - the area's main arteries - has been rated "near failure" by state highway officials. Water shortages and restrictions dog South Carroll.

"People here are most concerned about growth and water, and they just want somebody to do something about it," Krebs said. "They are screaming for sensible growth."

In the 18 years that she has lived in Eldersburg, Krebs has worked to improve the schools. She led efforts that brought three new schools to the area. Her main goal in Annapolis would be education reform and adequate funding for schools, she said.

"Susan has earned her stripes, especially as a representative for the schools," said Ross Dangel, chairman of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, an unofficial liaison between South Carroll communities and county government. "We probably would not have the new schools in the area had it not been for her activism."

Krebs hopes to improve the relationship between the county and state, and to avoid the battles over land use that have occurred when the commissioners ran afoul of the state's efforts to control sprawl.

"We can get a lot done with an effective delegation," she said. "I want to work from within, build relationships with state agencies and aggressively seek the projects this county needs."

In her first try for office - the countywide school board race four years ago - Krebs won a seat handily, running first in all the county's precincts. Her decision to run for a state office was a difficult one because it meant she would have to resign from the board.

"It was Susan who really brought credibility back to the once-beleaguered school board," said Dangel, referring to previous problems with construction delays and cost overruns that beset the system at the outset of Krebs' term.

But many county teachers said Krebs exacerbated tensions between them and the school system when she was quoted in a newspaper article as saying, "I don't want to tell people to leave our school system, but if you're that unhappy, go somewhere else." Some teachers said those remarks helped lead to a work-to-contract job action that spread to at least a dozen county schools.

Krebs said she regrets the remarks, and wishes that the teachers weren't staging their protest. But, she said, her comments won't hurt her politically.

The job action is "hurting the teachers in their profession. And the community is not sympathetic," she said. "I wish it wasn't happening."

`We are ... behind her'

Throughout the campaign for delegate, Krebs vowed she would not shirk her board duties. While she was consumed with school board issues and contract negotiations, she relied heavily on a group of about 30 volunteers whom she called her "grass-roots organization." Her campaign had raised less than $6,000, compared with Holniker's $15,000, as of August, the most recent filing deadline for campaign finance reports.

"I am running on my track record and the leadership I have shown," she said. "I have been to Annapolis, and I have helped to set policy and budgets."

She also is cashing in on an endorsement from Robert L Ehrlich Jr., the Republican gubernatorial candidate. Volunteers have posted the navy-and-white Ehrlich-Krebs signs throughout District 9B.

The Carroll County Republican Central Committee is marshaling support for Krebs, going door-to-door and mailing fliers promoting her candidacy.

"We are very much behind her candidacy," said Robert M. Wolfing, central committee chairman. "We are doing a lot for her, and there is a lot yet to come."

Wolfing said he expects Republicans to rally around Krebs, although many have said they consider her somewhat liberal.

Of the district's 20,000 registered voters, 60 percent are Republican.

"Bob Ehrlich is going to win in this county, and he will need a Republican to help in the legislature from this district," Wolfing said. "There will be no massive crossover vote to elect Krebs' opponent."

The Freedom council has scheduled a forum for the district and state's attorney candidates at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Freedom Christian Church in Carrolltown Center on Liberty Road.

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