Councilman Bartenfelder announces bid for Baltimore County executive

Balto. Co. councilman will face Kamenetz in Sept.14 election

April 30, 2010|By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

Four-term Baltimore County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder undid his necktie and took off his button-down shirt, sporting a yellow "Elect Joe Bartenfelder" T-shirt, after he pledged to continue to improve schools during his speech announcing his candidacy for county executive Friday.

Bartenfelder, a Democrat, spoke before a crowd of about 1,200 supporters yelling "Go Joe" at the Towson Center at Towson University, his alma mater.

"Thirty-two years ago today, it all started here," said Bartenfelder, 53. After graduating from what was then Towson State, Bartenfelder began his career in politics.

During Friday's speech, he told the crowd he would improve the already nationally high-ranking public school system, making it "the best in the nation." While 65 percent of county high school students go on to college, Bartenfelder said the other 35 percent must also be well-prepared in high school for their future in the workforce.

Besides promising strong schools, Bartenfelder promoted his experience, saying, "I know what it's like to run county government."

Bartenfelder has represented the 6th Council District in Eastern Baltimore County since 1994. He started his political career in 1978 when he filed to run for a state delegate seat, losing the job by just 30 seats. He won a House seat in 1983 and has not lost a political contest since.

"Joe was my mentor. He really got me involved," said state Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, who was master of ceremonies for the evening. "He's so down-to-earth and hardworking, and he's going to be our next county executive," she said.

Bartenfelder will face fellow council Democrat Kevin B. Kamenetz in a primary in September for the open seat. Kamenetz announced his campaign at the Randallstown Community Center on April 19. Kamenetz leads Bartenfelder in campaign contributions by a 2-to-1 margin.

Bartenfelder addressed the issue, saying that primary election day, Sept. 14, "is not an auction."

If elected, Bartenfelder will face economic challenges.

Current executive James T. Smith Jr. leaves office at the end of his second term in December. The county just closed a $150 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year by tapping into a surplus fund, deferring several capital projects, and negotiating salary and pension concessions from employees.

But despite strained resources, Bartenfelder said delivering basic county services would remain a top priority, appealing to many firefighters and police officers.

"The police and firefighters — he's very supportive of us," said Richard Szukiewicz, a firefighter at Station 15 in Eastview.

Szukiewicz, 52, said Bartenfelder is "something different … not a white-collar person."

Besides running a family farm in Fullerton, Bartenfelder has worked as a high school teacher.

For supporter Ruth Goldstein, 58, Bartenfelder is appealing because of his accessibility. The Pikesville resident and master's degree candidate at the Johns Hopkins University said she has talked to Bartenfelder several times at the Baltimore Farmers' Market.

"I feel like I know I can see him," she said, adding that she has bought some carrots and potatoes from him. "I like that he gets his hands dirty," she said.

But besides working hard, Bartenfelder also knows how to kick back.

At the conclusion of his speech and after revealing his T-shirt, he said, "Now it's time to party."

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