Senior needs, schools are key issues in District 3

Murphy says she's proud of her record

Dillon says she has been ineffective

October 22, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Council member Shirley Murphy credits her early years as a community activist - fighting traffic in her neighborhood - with preparing her for future battles as an elected official and council chairwoman.

"It was Ritchie Highway, Crain Highway and me," she said recently, recalling a time when as a housewife with two small daughters she raised a ruckus about the need for a guardrail to protect her back yard. A tenacious fighter, Murphy got her way.

Murphy, a Democrat who has lived in Pasadena for 25 years, is running for re-election in District 3, an area that also encompasses Riviera Beach and Riverdale.

Her Republican opponent, Ron Dillon Jr., 27, a finance manager, is challenging her ability to control growth and provide services for the area's large senior population.

"The senior center in Pasadena is the most used in the county," Dillon said. "And it's only a storefront. They've outgrown the storefront already."

Dillon has criticized Murphy for voting to adopt a budget that removed money for a larger senior center at the current Mountain Road site. Murphy said that the proposed center was too big, and that the funds were needed to cover other budget needs.

"The cost kept going up and we couldn't afford to staff a senior center that large," said Murphy, 61. She noted that she has helped seniors by organizing petition drives in support of prescription drug reform that would lower the cost of medicines.

Dillon said that Murphy has shown a "lack of effectiveness" during her term on the County Council. While she was chairwoman, colleagues criticized her for failing to maintain order at meetings.

Dillon said that as a businessman - he helps run his family's charter bus service - he knows how to manage personnel as well as operating and capital budgets.

"There are a lot of parallels between my job and the council job," said Dillon, who lives in Pasadena with his wife, who is expecting their first child.

Dillon has attacked the current council for voting this year to give themselves raises. He also has challenged recent hiring decisions by the school board. Dillon said his research shows that of 1,500 new school system jobs in the past two years, 244 were in the classroom. He said education funds should go toward hiring teachers, not administrators.

Murphy, who is endorsed by the teachers union, disputed Dillon's figures. She said that she investigated recent hiring and found that 75 percent were teachers.

"I'm a fact person and those are my facts," she said, adding that she and other council members have significantly raised teachers' salaries during the past four years.

Murphy said she is proud of the work she's done as a council member, including the passage of legislation to protect fragile bogs, and a student rewards program that encourages local children to excel in math and history.

"I look back at what I was elected into, and I have to give myself a pat on the back," said Murphy, who at one time owned and operated a medical alert business and worked as a manager at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.

Dillon sees the race differently. He knows that some residents won't vote for him because of his age. Dillon graduated from Glen Burnie High School in 1993 and acknowledges that he "still gets carded." Still, he believes that Republicans as well as Democrats will turn out to vote for him in the general election Nov. 5.

Dillon handily defeated his opponent in the primary, former council member Thomas W. Redmond Sr.

"It's going to be a close race," Dillon said. "It will be closer than Shirley thinks. She wasn't worried at first. Now she is."

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