Board filing date nears

No one has entered race for 2 school officials' seats

Deadline is next week

Hiltz intends to run

Holt discussing with family

Carroll County

December 15, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

With a week to go before the candidate filing deadline, no one has submitted the necessary paperwork to run for two Carroll County school board seats - the same seats that 24 people fought for in a contentious election nearly four years ago.

While incumbent board member Thomas G. Hiltz said he intends to file his candidate application with the county elections board this week, fellow incumbent Susan G. Holt remains undecided. She said she would like to run for re-election in the March primary but is "still in negotiations" with her family.

The dearth of candidates contrasts sharply with the election of 2000, when two dozen people battled through the primary for two seats on the five-member panel and the four general election finalists outspent every other cast of school board candidates in county history.

Hiltz, of Woodbine, spent more than $10,620 in his successful bid for the board, including about $6,000 from his bank account, which meant he and his wife, Ingrid, had to put off plans to add an upstairs bathroom to their home.

This time, despite not having any home-renovation projects on the horizon, Hiltz said he hopes to limit his campaign spending to less than $1,000.

"I'm hoping it's an easier campaign than was the last time, and I suspect it will be," he said. "It is a much, much different world this time."

Four years ago, the Carroll County school system was embroiled in multimillion-dollar lawsuits and a county grand jury investigation into bungled school construction projects and the Board of Education's management style. A bitter general election campaign was peppered with promises to correct mistakes, return integrity to the system and fire the superintendent.

The vote in November 2000 was so close that absentee ballots could have decided the election.

Cloud removed

With the cloud of scandal long gone and a new, well-liked superintendent more than three years into his tenure, far fewer people seem to believe the school system needs fixing.

Hiltz, who works for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Holt, who runs a photography business, said work remains to be done.

Federal and state education laws have added layers of accountability that must be met, the county's battle against state-mandated all-day kindergarten continues and growth keeps constant pressure on the school system's ability to accommodate an ever-increasing student population.

"I have a lot of knowledge, and I would like to use it," said Holt, a Sykesville resident who served as board president this year. Again comparing her decision to seek re-election to negotiations, she added, "I think I'll be running, but until the contract's ratified, we'll have to be talking about it a little more at the Holt house."

Nonpartisan elections for the five-member school board are staggered, with two seats open in presidential election years and three slots vacated in the years of gubernatorial contests.

The candidate field is winnowed in the primary to two contenders for each open seat.

Paula Troxell, the county's election supervisor, said that only two people have picked up school board candidate packets. Hiltz and Holt said they have done so.

If fewer than two candidates file for the two seats, elections officials say they aren't sure what they will do.

If it were a partisan election, such as state delegate or county commissioner, Carroll's Republican and Democratic central committees would be involved in appointing someone to fill the seat, said Gail A. Carter, deputy director of the county's elections board.

"But the school board is nonpartisan, so we truly do not know," she said. "We'd have to go to the state board [of elections] for advice if that happens."

The filing deadline is 9 p.m. Dec. 22. Candidacy filings are taken by appointment at the elections board.

March 2 primary

The school board primary will coincide with the presidential primary March 2, with the general election in November.

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