8 seek interim seat on council

2 ex-presidents among Westminster candidates

`The field's wide open'

No clear favorite

vote is expected Jan. 27

January 20, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Eight candidates are in the running for an open Westminster Common Council seat, among them two former council presidents, a medical doctor who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in November and two community activists.

Ken J. Hornberger, a councilman from 1983 to 1991 who was president of the panel the last two years of his term, was among those who filed last week for the open seat.

Also filing last week were: Robert C. Brown, 40, an insurance broker who works in downtown Westminster; Robert D. Miller, 38, a special projects representative for a media research company who has been trying to build a sports complex in Westminster for two years; Timothy DiPaula, 40, who owns a hardwood floors company in Reisterstown; and Darcel Harris, 47, who runs the We Can Help tutoring program.

They join pediatrician Dr. Robert Wack, 41, who lost a bid for a House of Delegates seat in District 5A; William F. Haifley, 73, a former council member and president who served from 1985 until 1993; and Josephine Velazquez, 40, a community activist who served on a task force that made recommendations to rehabilitate the city's Pennsylvania Avenue area.

The deadline for filing was Friday.

The opening was created when L. Gregory Pecoraro resigned his seat and 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 Jr., which he said would not leave him enough time to devote to the city.

The remaining council members are expected to vote on his interim replacement at the Jan. 27 meeting.

The chosen candidate 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.

One candidate's backers wasted little time before making their pitch.

"I've gotten about seven or eight calls and e-mails endorsing Dr. Robert Wack, more than anyone else," said council President Damian L. Halstad. Councilmen Tom Ferguson and Roy L. Chiavacci had similar experiences.

Still, Halstad and the other council members were unwilling to name a favorite.

"I can't tell you accurately what I feel without having the whole package in front of us," Halstad said. "It takes time to digest and read the applicants' packets."

Councilwoman Suzanne P. Albert said she was "going to do my homework before I'd say someone stands out" But, she added, "Having persons that have experience certainly weighs in, such as a William Haifely, who's had two terms in city council as finance chair and president. In spite of that, I want to be able to consider everyone."

Hornberger, 57, is semiretired after 40 years in accounting, and now works part time at a retail store in Westminster.

"I think the last couple of years there have been some decisions made by the councils that have gone astray," he said. "The five priorities in this city should be employees, fire, police, water and streets. Everything else is fringe."

Brown first moved to Westminster as a teen-ager with his parents and attended Westminster High School. He earned a master's degree in finance from Mount St. Mary's College, and he said his financial background and involvement in the community makes him a strong candidate to fill Pecoraro's shoes.

Miller, a father of three, announced his intention to fill the seat at the council meeting Jan. 13, where he pleaded with the city for a partnership that would allow him inexpensive land upon which to build ice skating rinks, a pool and other indoor facilities for a sports complex.

As a councilman, he said his emphasis would be on developing revenue for the city and to increase its parks and recreational facilities.

The last seat on the council that was filled by members' votes belonged to Kevin E. Dayhoff, who left it when he was elected mayor in 2001. Ferguson was appointed to that seat, which is up for re-election in May.

When Ferguson was up for the seat, he was one of three applicants. He and the other council members realize that more candidates means that they have more work ahead of them.

"At this stage, the field's wide open," Ferguson said.

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