Of the county's seven municipal elections, only Westminster has a mayoral contest, a three-way race that pits the one-term incumbent against a councilman and a newcomer to the political scene.
Councilman Thomas K. Ferguson, a retired bank executive, was the first to announce his candidacy for mayor, nearly five months ago. Kevin J. Alt, a Westminster business owner, filed on the April 11 deadline. The two will run against Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff on May 9.
Dayhoff, 51, a former councilman who was elected mayor in 2001, said the job "is an extension of my passion and love of community. I have much more to achieve, and I believe I can continue to make contributions and a difference."
Dayhoff wants to boost the city's industrial tax base, which he says is one of the largest among comparable towns in the state.
"We have the houses," Dayhoff said. "But it is extremely important that government bring more local employment and a stronger tax base to the city."
Alt, 42, helps run Alt's Formal Wear but describes himself as a stay-at-home father. He said he wants to enact changes at City Hall and give citizens a voice in local government. His would be a hands-on, open-door administration with daily accessibility, he said.
"The city needs to be rebuilt from the ground up," Alt said. "I am not a politician. I am an everyday, ordinary citizen, a hardworking guy who has lived in this town 23 years. I will take people's complaints and act on them. I will take charge of the city on a daily basis."
Ferguson, 63, was appointed to replace Dayhoff on the council four years ago. He went on to win the most votes in the 2003 council election. He has peppered the city with signs billing himself as "your partner in progress."
"The city has reached a point where it is essential to have effective, competitive leadership to face the challenges of today and those of the future, specifically growth, population and demand for services," Ferguson said. "Westminster needs leadership that will get everybody on the same page and one that will develop a long-term vision. It is not the sleepy little village it was 30 years ago."
Growth tops every city candidate's list of issues.
"Growth is inevitable, but we have the capability to say where and how and to manage growth's effects on our quality of life," Ferguson said. "We have to think ahead and plan in a more progressive way for what we know is coming."
5 vie for 2 seats
The five candidates vying for two council seats include an incumbent and a former councilman with eight years' experience on the five-member panel. The three other council hopefuls include a retired state police officer who is the chief of the city's volunteer fire department, a community activist and a former naval officer who is a systems analyst.
Councilman Roy L. Chiavacci, 61, a retired state police captain who chairs the city's public safety committee, wants to continue his service to the community. He is executive vice president of Carroll Lutheran Village, one of the city's top employers.
"Public service is the right thing to do for those who can find the time," Chiavacci said. "It is my turn to give back, at least one more time, if the people want me back."
Gregory Pecoraro, 46, served two council terms before becoming chief of staff to Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. two years ago. He has since changed jobs and hopes to rejoin the City Council.
"Westminster has some tough challenges, and I want to be part of finding the solutions," Pecoraro said. "The city has tremendous pressures in terms of growth. It is important that the city grows wisely and that it has people with experience and knowledge to lead it. If you are going to live someplace, you have an obligation to participate and make it better."
Kevin R. Utz, 47, a retired state police officer and longtime volunteer firefighter who leads the county's busiest station, said he wants to get involved in governing the city.
"Every citizen should look outside their homes and find some way to contribute to their community," Utz said. "Town government is the last leg of government, the one closest to people. I hope to get people involved and responsive to local government. The community needs leaders who will look out for its best interests."
Josephine Velazquez, 42, has immersed herself in the community since moving here 11 years ago and rarely misses a City Council meeting.
"There is good leadership there, and I want to be part of it," she said. "Sometimes, fresh ideas help."
Velazquez said she is campaigning "to keep Westminster as Main Street USA as possible. Westminster can't build by leaps and bounds. ... If it does not have the facilities and services, it has to slow its pace."
Jeffrey S. Dixon, 30, a Naval Academy graduate who is a systems analyst for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, comes from a family steeped in politics, including his uncle, longtime Carroll legislator and former state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.