Political novices face off for council president

Farmer and accounting technician say life experiences qualify them to lead county board

November 05, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,[Sun Reporter]

A prominent horse breeder and a county employee, both lifelong county residents who are inexperienced in politics, are running at large for the job of president of the Harford County Council.

The winner will lead the six-member council for the next four years and tackle a rewrite of the zoning code soon after taking office.

Billy Boniface, owner of a 230-acre horse farm in Darlington, upset a seasoned incumbent in the Republican primary and has not let up since.

"I started way behind in the primary," Boniface said. "But I know how to capitalize on my own strengths and the strengths of others I put in place to work for me."

Charles J. White Jr., an accounting technician in the county government treasury department, had no opposition in the Democratic primary. He is running on his experience from a decade as a county employee.

"I understand the budget," said White, 35. "I know how to collect taxes, and I know where the money goes. I know the inner workings of county government and what to ask department heads."

White, who is not married, said that he would immediately propose legislation to ease the tax burden on seniors and that he would pay for new school construction by increasing the real estate transfer tax -- a fee collected during home sales transactions.

Boniface, a 42-year-old married father of three, has acquired business and budget experience running the family farm and was introduced to the workings of government at an early age. He grew up in politics, traveling to Annapolis with his father to lobby for agriculture, particularly the horse-breeding and racing industries. He has also served twice as president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

"I have a good, no-nonsense approach," he said. "I know that the council president job takes time management and putting the right people in the right places. I would bring my life experience to this position. The council could certainly use more business sense than it has now."

White would have to resign his county job if he wins the election. He would devote at least two days a week to Edgewood, where he grew up. The area along the U.S. 40 corridor has seen marked increases in crime, particularly gang-related violence.

"I want to do whatever it takes to end the violence, and that means more community involvement," White said. "We have to give kids a positive alternative to gangs."

If Boniface wins, he won't leave Bonita Farms, which has pastures and stables for nearly 200 horses, but rather would combine jobs and bring the farmers' voice to government, he said.

"Serving on the council is not a full-time job," Boniface said. "It is representing the community, being out in the community and recognizing what residents want and then coming up with solutions. People just want to know that you will listen and follow through."

Boniface sees himself as the consensus builder on the council.

"To get six different people with different backgrounds and issues to agree requires compromise," he said. "I have proven that I can do that. My approach will be to get in and do the things I said I would do. This job is not about re-election."

White complimented the 13 candidates running for the council.

"Every one of them could bring fresh ideas to the table," he said.

The near-daily round of candidate forums and debates has ended, only to be replaced with sign-waving at busy intersections and last-minute door-to-door interviews with voters, the candidates said.

"People have to know that you really want the position," Boniface said. "I am well-known in the ag community, but I am working hard in other areas."

He said that he realizes most people have made their decisions, but he is continuing to circulate his message and to get out the vote.

"I can bring real-world experience to this job, and I can get the council to work together," he said. White said his concern is for the nearly 240,000 people who live in the county today.

"I would work for our families," he said. "We have to build schools and rebuild roads."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.