Longtime court clerk Mensh loses bid to retake seat

She had held seat for 24 years, retired briefly this year

September 15, 2010|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

After more than a half-century in elected office, including 24 years as Baltimore County clerk of the court — followed by a brief retirement that she said was forced on her — it appears that Suzanne Mensh is officially out of a job.

Although she has yet to concede, Mensh trailed Julie Ensor by more than 5,000 votes after Tuesday's Democratic primary. She came in second but won more votes than Richard D. Arnold Jr., who was appointed interim clerk in June after Mensh's retirement. He came in third, with 13 percent, in the field of five candidates

Mensh, 80, may have orchestrated her first loss at the polls by showing herself as indecisive earlier this year. She announced in March that she would retire in May, six months before the end of her sixth term as clerk.

But within weeks of her announcement, Mensh reneged on the decision, claiming that she was being pushed out of office. By then, it was too late. The judges were interviewing a dozen candidates for the job, which pays $98,500 annually, and ultimately appointed Arnold, then supervisor of the court's juvenile division.

Mensh then decided to run again in the Democratic primary against Ensor, Arnold and two other candidates.

"I enjoy serving the public in a job that is interesting and challenging," she said in an interview about leaving office and her next steps. "After all these years, I am still excited about coming to work."

She did not respond to an interview request Wednesday.

Mensh, who has sworn in every county executive and council member elected during her tenure as clerk, was well known in political circles but said she never played politics on the job. A longtime Pikesville resident, Mensh declined to endorse her local councilman, Kevin Kamenetz, for county executive. Instead, she supported Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder for the job and made a point of introducing him to community leaders in the area. Kamenetz won the Democratic primary.

When she became the first woman on the Baltimore County Orphans Court nearly 50 years ago, Mensh called herself a trailblazer in a career traditionally reserved for men.

"I really took to the work, did a good job and was re-elected the same as I have been here," she said in the interview. "The public has so many complaints about government that it has been rewarding and enlightening to address those."

From the clerk's office, she supervised about 125 employees, who process criminal and civil filings, land records and all manner of licensing requirements. Her staff called her a good listener, mediator and problem solver.

"A lot of things have changed for the better with Ms. Mensh," said Carol H. Miller, manager of civil and family law since 1980. "She is good at meeting challenges and well organized."

She has left the job, but Mensh said earlier this year she will probably not retire anytime soon. She plans to take classes in mediation, a field in which she has long been interested.

"I have spent my life overcoming obstacles, and I will overcome this one," she said in the previous interview, in which she discussed the prospect of losing an election. "That is what elections are for — to push you out."

Ensor, who was not available for comment Wednesday, will face Republican Richard J. Reinhardt II in November.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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