3 apply to fill Westminster council seat

Doctor, former member, activist seeking post

Pecoraro taking new job

President hopes for vote on replacement Jan. 27

Carroll County

January 13, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A Westminster pediatrician who in the fall ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates, a former president of the city's Common Council and a community activist have applied to fill a vacancy that will be created when a two-term veteran of the council steps down tonight.

Dr. Robert P. Wack, a Democratic candidate for the District 5A legislative seat; William F. Haifley, who served on the council from 1985 until 1993; and Josephine Velazquez, who was active last year as a member of the Lower Pennsylvania Avenue Advisory Task Force, have applied to fill the seat held since 1994 by L. Gregory Pecoraro. At least one other contender is expected to apply before the deadline.

Pecoraro recently stepped down from his job as an assistant secretary at the Maryland Department of Transportation to take the post of chief of staff for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith, which he said would not leave him enough time to devote to the city.

The candidate chosen by the council to fill Pecoraro's seat will serve until May, when that seat and two others on the five-member panel are up for re-election. The Westminster races are nonpartisan.

Wack, a Westminster resident since 1997 and a Bethesda native, said he was approached by current council members and friends to apply for the seat. He said his experience in last fall's election - which he lost to incumbents Nancy Stocksdale and Carmen Amedori - prompted him to seek the Common Council appointment.

"I have absolutely no regrets about the experience, except the losing part," Wack, 41, said. "As part of that process I got to know a lot of people in community. I enjoyed being out and being involved. This is a great opportunity and very fortuitous."

If appointed, Wack said, he would strive to make Main Street more vibrant.

Haifley, who was Common Council president in 1992 and 1993, decided to tackle politics once more by applying last week for the seat.

"I guess I've run out of things to do here at home," said Haifley, 73, who has been retired from a supervisor's post at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. for 20 years.

Haifley, a registered Republican according to election records, served for several years on its finance committee.

"I don't know anybody in Westminster who has more council financial experience than I do," he said. "I still have the time and desire to help the citizens of Westminster."

The most recent applicant is Velazquez, 40, bookkeeper for a machine-part manufacturing company in Owings Mills.

A 16-year Westminster resident, the single mother of three was active as a member of the task force formed last summer to look for ways to improve the troubled Pennsylvania Avenue neighborhood. She became a vocal activist in the spring, when she joined Drug Action '02, a community group that wanted to eradicate the drug activity on and around Pennsylvania Avenue.

Velazquez said she was moved to act "due to circumstances of my neighborhood, where the quality of life should be improved."

"Maybe in the short term that the seat is available, maybe the person who fills the vacancy can make a big impact for the city of Westminster," the Republican said.

Her neighbor Darcel Harris, who also served on the committee, also picked up an application for the position and plans turn it in today.

Harris, 47, works for Carroll County public schools as an adult educator. She said she would add to the council the perspective of residents of her neighborhood.

City clerk Laurell E. Taylor said a man, whom she could not identify, also picked up an application.

Damian L. Halstad, Common Council president, said Friday is the deadline to apply to fill the seat and that he hopes members will vote to select a replacement at the Jan. 27 meeting.

"It's important to have a full slate of council members so all the work, which is ever increasing, is distributed evenly," Halstad said.

He said that a nomination will also be made to install Councilman Tom Ferguson as the new finance committee chairman, a position Pecoraro now holds.

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