2 face off in council race

GOP's Malone targets Burlison in 4th District

Democrat's leadership criticized

Incumbent says he is confident of victory

Anne Arundel

October 14, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

During his term as councilman for Anne Arundel County's 4th District, Bill D. Burlison has amassed his share of critics.

Constituents have blamed him for failing to attend community meetings regularly, colleagues have complained about absurdities uttered on the council floor and local leaders have questioned his close voting relationship with County Executive Janet S. Owens.

But so far, none of those criticisms has toppled the former Missouri lawmaker, who handily won the Democratic primary when he prevailed over former county police officer Terry Wilson in the diverse district, which stretches from the waterfront mansions of Crownsville to the duplexes around Fort Meade and the Laurel area.

And Burlison, 72, says he will prevail again in the general election over Republican Michael Malone, a Gambrills attorney.

As the incumbent and council chairman, Burlison has the advantage of name recognition. He also is a tireless campaigner who not only knocks on every registered voter's door but also remembers constituents' birthdays and dogs' names.

"No other council member has the ear of individual constituents that I have, because no other council member or candidate knocks on every door," Burlison said. "I don't have to attend every single meeting that is held to know what the people are saying and thinking in my district."

Malone, who said he entered the race because of what he considered a lack of leadership, acknowledged it would be hard to match Burlison's door-to-door efforts.

But the 34-year-old family law attorney and mediator said he's spending a lot of time attending community meetings and forums - something residents complain their current council representative doesn't do.

"There's value in going door to door, but there's value in doing other things to educate yourself," said Malone, a Democrat until a few years ago. "I'm having trust and faith that people are going to be able to educate themselves to look for a candidate who can best represent them because of his background, knowledge, concern and energy."

If elected, Malone said, he would address the concerns of distinct communities. Among them: Russett and Maryland City would like a police substation; Herald Harbor wants to move its volunteer fire station; Odenton residents say they need more parking at the MARC train station; and Severn residents want to reduce crime and provide recreation in the troubled Pioneer City area.

Malone is a first-time candidate for paid political office, but has been active in local organizations since returning to the area after college about 10 years ago. He is treasurer of the Parent-Teacher Association at Waugh Chapel Elementary School, which his two children attend, and a charter member of West County Rotary Club. He's also a founding member of the Anne Arundel County Conflict Resolution Center.

Burlison, in contrast, served six terms in Congress before he was voted out in 1980. After several unsuccessful campaigns for local office, he defeated Republican Councilman Bert L. Rice for the 4th District seat in 1998.

Burlison notes his experience as a conciliator who helps legislation move through the system. But his critics complain he rarely introduces legislation himself, and often discusses issues that lie outside of the council's scope, such as abolishing the Electoral College.

The councilman said he's pleased voters seem to be focusing on his accomplishments, such as restoring civility to a fractious council and helping to bring a hiker/biker trail and a regional library to Odenton.

"We've moved the county forward," he said. "And we're going to keep moving forward in spite of the detractors we have out there."

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