Six file in race for city council

Municipal elections set for May 12

three seats on board to be decided

April 15, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A month before municipal elections, six candidates are competing for three Westminster Common Council seats, with a former Carroll County school board member, a community activist and a businessman challenging the incumbents.

It's no surprise that two-term Councilwoman Suzanne Albert and active first-termer Thomas Ferguson are seeking re-election. But an unexpected candidate, Joseph D. Mish Jr., also is running.

Mish, 62, is a fixture at council meetings, where he represents the Parr's Ridge Condominium Association, a community of older residents off Uniontown Road. At the meetings, he often airs the frustrations of his group, whose members pay city taxes but receive one service - police protection - based on an agreement with the council.

He is used to being in the spotlight - and sometimes the hot seat. The former history teacher, who taught for 24 years at Westminster and Liberty high schools, spent a decade on the county school board after retiring in 1990.

It was an era when scandal often overshadowed the gains made in the school system's test scores, and a boom in the student population and budget. During that time, botched construction plans, sex scandals and internal turmoil drew public scrutiny to the board.

Mish wasn't immune. He was criticized for supporting a measure to remove the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday from the school calendar. Mish said students should learn about the civil rights activist in school instead of taking the day off. He also was vocal in his opposition to including education about AIDS and safe sex in schools.

"They're controversial views but sometimes that's because there's a political correctness in the land," Mish said. "But most people in Carroll County seem to agree with me."

His focus has shifted to city issues, such as opposing tougher landlord regulations and slowing city development. He wants to reduce parking rates and fines that he says will drive people from downtown Westminster.

"I'm interested in public service," Mish said. "It's a logical progression for me."

Also filing before yesterday's deadline were:

Pediatrician Dr. Robert Wack, 41, who lost a bid for a House of Delegates seat in District 5A but was appointed to the council when L. Gregory Pecoraro vacated his seat in January.

Josephine Velazquez, 40, a community activist who served on a task force that recommended ways to rehabilitate the city's Pennsylvania Avenue area.

Robert D. Miller, 39, a special projects representative for a media research company who has been trying to build a sports complex in Westminster for two years.

Miller and Velazquez previously ran for Pecoraro's open seat. The political newcomers expressed concerns about the city's rapid development, crime, drugs and the need to boost downtown businesses.

The Westminster races, to be decided May 12, are nonpartisan.

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