Zimmer settles in on board

New commissioner, incumbents will clash on issues, he predicts

December 10, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Collegial first week for Zimmer on county commissioners board Conservative Republican Michael D. Zimmer joined incumbents Julia Walsh Gouge and Dean L. Minnich in an unusually conciliatory and collegial first week together as Carroll County's 58th Board of Commissioners.

After a divisive campaign season that pitted Zimmer against GOP moderates such as Minnich and Gouge, the three voted unanimously on how to reorganize the board and on business issues concerning landfills, a Hampstead annexation and the county farm museum.

"Life's too short to dwell on those things," Zimmer said of mudslinging during the election. "We'll have to work it out. I was never not optimistic."

But at a Carroll County Taxpayers Association meeting in Westminster the Monday evening after he was sworn in, Zimmer said he expects to disagree with the stances of the other two commissioners in the future.

"I hope there will be a blending process, but it takes two votes to pass something, and if it's 2 to 1, there's nothing we can do about it for the next four years," Zimmer told the association's members, speaking in a symposium on "Illegal aliens and Carroll County," co-sponsored by the John Birch Society

As a candidate who stressed his personal ties to Carroll's delegation in Annapolis, Zimmer has tapped Amanda B. Miller, the former aide to Joseph M. Getty, as his special assistant. Getty is a policy director for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and a former state delegate from Manchester.

Miller said she worked on election policy research in Annapolis. She is a lifelong resident of Carroll County and a graduate of Westminster High School and Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College.

"I'm very pleased that the state's loss is our gain," Zimmer said of Miller during the holiday open house hosted by the county Department of Economic Development on Wednesday.

Cindy Parr, the assistant to retiring Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr., is staying on with the county as a chief of administrative services - a position that will be funded by eliminating the county job of zoning administrator.

To devote himself to the commissioner job, Zimmer, 42, said he is closing his private Mount Airy law practice at the end of the month.

To supplement the $45,000 yearly commissioner salary, Zimmer said he may do some estate planning and clerical work.

During his campaign for commissioner, Zimmer called for trimming nonessential county staff positions, pledging to work directly with legislators in Annapolis instead.

Given that Gouge and Minnich were re-elected, Zimmer has said he won't have that power.

"The voters have indicated that I'm not allowed too much say on that," Zimmer said. "I just can't reinvent things."

Though not required to hire a special assistant, Zimmer said he didn't hesitate, especially when Miller became available for the job.

Zimmer's wife, Cherie Zimmer, and daughters, Joy, 12, and Melody, 9, who attend Eldersburg public schools, were by his side as Zimmer took his oath of office Monday.

The next day, Zimmer was voted in as secretary of the board, Gouge as the board's president and Minnich as vice president, corresponding to the percentage of votes each candidate received.

Zimmer also approved of his assignments as a liaison to the county Board of Education, the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

"Whatever works for you all is fine by me," Zimmer said to the two commissioners, and Steven D. Powell, the chief of staff.

Zimmer said that in his first week in office, the role was coming to him naturally.

"I'm loving it," he said. "In some ways, it's like an old, comfortable shoe. In other ways, I feel like a toddler."

Zimmer expressed reservations about a dog tethering ordinance the last Board of Commissioners approved two weeks ago.

The ordinance was amended and then re-adopted Monday.

The reworked ordinance prohibits dogs from being chained more than 12 hours a day but allows owners to tie up their dogs at night.

In the previous board's last vote, the members split, 2 to 1, in favor of the ordinance.

"It was the last vote of the last board, which was criticized for getting along too well," Minnich said of his vote against that of Gouge and Jones. "Isn't that ironic?"


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