Arundel Council Names Johnson To Seat Left Vacant When Reilly Took Senate Position

July 14, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

The Anne Arundel County Council voted unanimously Monday night to appoint county school board veteran and Davidsonville resident Tricia L. Johnson to the council seat vacated by former chairman Edward C. Reilly.

Johnson, a six-year member of the Board of Education and director of marketing for a local golf club, said she would be an asset to the council because of her work on the school board, which had helped her familiarize herself with the budget process. She said she hoped that she was chosen because off her strong work ethic and collegial attitude.

"The people in the county have the answers, you just have to listen to them," said Johnson.

One of 11 candidates, Johnson faced perhaps some of the toughest questioning during the council's public four-hour interview process, with council members quizzing her on her positions on slots, a tax cap, and her ability to balance a push for school funding with the county's gloomy fiscal realities.

Johnson said she would be willing to vote for slots "under certain conditions" because county residents voted for them and the council should "recognize and respect it," but she stressed that there is a need to address transportation, crime and other issues. She added that she opposes dropping the county's tax cap and thinks school needs should be better prioritized.

Acting chairwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, who has sparred with the school board in the past over funding issues, said that despite not always seeing eye-to-eye she has admired Johnson for honestly expressing her opinion.

"Tricia Johnson and I went head-to-head on countless issues," Vitale said after the meeting, adding that she didn't like one of her responses to a policy question, but "respected it."

The seat became available in June with Reilly's departure to the state Senate to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Janet Greenip. Under county law, the council selects a new member by seeking applicants and voting publicly on a replacement to serve out the remainder of the term, though many council members commented that they would have preferred a special election.

Johnson joins the council as it considers whether to allow slots near Arundel Mills mall, a contentious issue the council has been considering since May.

Eleven candidates applied for Reilly's seat, representing district seven on the council, though Kevin Scott Whisman, a retired Navy lieutenant from Edgewater didn't attend last night's meeting, putting him out of contention.

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