New County Council gets down to business

December 10, 2006|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

For the four newcomers and three incumbents on the Harford County Council, the week began with a ceremonial swearing-in before a crowd of about 1,000 and continued with a crash course in parliamentary procedure, a round of introductions to staff and a move into council offices.

And that was all before the new council's first meeting Tuesday evening.

"Standing before the people of this county with my mom holding the Bible while I took the oath of office and became a part of this government was a highlight for me," Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, who represents District F, said at the council meeting.

Nellie Lisanti, 82, held the family's aging leather-bound Bible as her daughter recited the oath of office during the Monday ceremony. Her presence was symbolic of the strong family ties so prominent in speakers' remarks.

Council President Billy Boniface quoted his late grandfather, and County Executive David R. Craig introduced his 89-year-old father. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., an unannounced participant in the ceremony, said he thinks of Harford as home.

"Harford is more family-centered than you see in the more cosmopolitan areas," said Del. Mary-Dulany James at a reception for the new officials at Harford Community College. "Harford gives you a sense of place."

Craig accepted the county shield imprinted with Harford's coat of arms, a white quill signifying the pen used by county's founders, and a sword denoting the close ties to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

He did forget the family Bible and had to borrow one from Aaron Tomarchio, his chief of staff. Craig's wife, Melinda, held the Bible as her husband was sworn into office.

Although he typically does not attend council sessions, Craig took a seat in the audience for the new members' first meeting.

Councilman James V. McMahan Jr., newly elected in District C, opened with a prayer - "God of us all, bless us as we begin to deliberate the business of the people" - and a thank-you to past councils.

Veteran District E Councilman Richard Slutzky might have been thinking of past councils when he twice referred to the new council president with the former president's name.

At the first mistake, Boniface laughed and said, "I will let you slide." The second mistake had Boniface facetiously suggesting they hit the mats.

"I know where my money is going on that one," said District A Councilman Dion Guthrie.

Slutzky, a retired teacher and wrestling coach, apologized profusely to Boniface.

"I knew Billy as a wrestler even before he was a horse person," Slutzky said. "I work on conditioned responses. I will have to recondition."

The council unanimously elected Slutzky its vice president.

"I am sure he meant no malice in the faux pas," said District B Councilwoman Roni Chenowith.

Every appointment, petition and vote won unanimous approval in a short session marked by camaraderie, magnanimity and humor.

"We might break the record with this council," Guthrie said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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