Craig elected Harford executive

Mayor of Havre de Grace wins by County Council vote of 5-1 to fill out Harkins' term

`I'm humbled and honored by the trust'

July 06, 2005|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

David R. Craig, a small-town mayor who fell short in a past election to become Harford County executive, was picked last night by the County Council to take over Harford's top post, filling the position vacated several months early by his predecessor.

The council vote was 5-1 with one abstention and means Harford remains the only Maryland county with charter government to have a Republican leader. The vote by the Republican-dominated council came after a motion to name Democrat Lucie L. Snodgrass as James M. Harkins' successor failed on a 4-3 vote.

Many in the crowd of 100 cheered when Council President Robert S. Wagner declared that Craig would be the next executive. But Craig, 56, was not there to hear the applause.

"I'm humbled and honored by the trust the council has put in me," said Craig, reached by phone at his home in Havre de Grace after the vote.

Noting Craig's nearly three decades in public service, Councilwoman Veronica "Roni" L. Chenowith said: "We need someone who is capable and responsible and has the ability to ... hit the ground running."

Craig's selection was an issue. Some council members argued that selecting him might provide an unfair advantage in the 2006 election, for which he has raised more than $100,000. Snodgrass had pledged to assume a "caretaker" role if elected and did not intend to run.

Councilwoman Cecelia M. Stepp said last night that she agreed with that approach: "I, too, believe this is a caretaker position ... and not a steppingstone to re-election."

Because the County Charter bars the executive from holding a second job, Craig must resign as assistant principal of Southampton Middle School and as mayor of Havre de Grace before being sworn in as executive.

He said he'll be busy today, first taking his daughter to the hospital to have a baby by C-section, then driving to Southampton to resign. At 7 p.m., he will attend his last Havre de Grace City Council meeting as mayor. Council members expect Craig to take over the $90,000- a-year post in coming weeks.

A Republican thread ran through the weeks-long process of picking a new county executive. The vacancy was created when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. hired Harkins, a longtime friend and political ally, to a key state environmental job 16 months before Harkins' second and final term was to end. Harkins left the Harford post last week.

The council never had occasion to turn to the provision of the County Charter, adopted in 1972, that prescribed the authority to make a midterm replacement of a county executive.

Six people applied to replace Harkins, but only Craig and Snodgrass were nominated last night under the procedure devised recently by the council.

Craig said his first task will be to meet with department heads and determine who plans to stay until the election. Then he will move to comprehensive rezoning, the process by which the county will consider zoning changes.

Craig's main duty as county executive will be to write a half-billion-dollar annual budget.

Born and raised in the Susquehanna River town of Havre de Grace, he is a longtime public servant and career educator. In 34 years with the county school system, he has taught history and English. He is also a former delegate and state senator and was elected mayor of Havre de Grace in 1985, 1987 and 2001.

As mayor, Craig made it clear he wanted to be an agent of change and oversaw growth and development. On his watch, the city annexed the Bulle Rock Golf Course, where initial plans called for 2,100 new homes.

The County Charter gave the council little guidance on making a midterm replacement, stating only that the seven-member council must vote to appoint a county executive within 30 days of the former executive's departure. Craig lost to Harkins in the 1998 Republican primary election for executive.

Snodgrass, a former Harkins adviser who attended last night's meeting with her husband, said she does not plan to run in 2006. "The political aspect gives me pause," she said before the meeting. "I'd really like to see the next 16 months free of the political wrangling we've seen so much of."

Wagner was the only council member who voted against Craig, with the lone Democrat, Dion Guthrie, abstaining. Guthrie, Wagner and Stepp voted for Snodgrass in the previous tally.

Sun staff writers Danny Jacobs, Tyrone Richardson and William Wan contributed to this article.

David R. Craig

Age: 56

Hometown: Havre de Grace

Party: Republican

Family: Married, three adult children

Education: Bachelor's degree in history, Towson University; master's degree in U.S. history, Morgan State University

Career: Mayor of Havre de Grace and an assistant principal at Southampton Middle School. Served three terms on the Town Council, including one year as president. Elected mayor three times. Elected to House of Delegates in 1990 and to state Senate in 1994. Ran unsuccessfully for county executive in 1998. Has 34 years in Harford County public schools, including teaching history and government.

Profile of Craig, Page 2B

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