New faces could bring new energy, ideas to HdG council

March 28, 2012|BY ERIKA BUTLER | Record staff

For many years, Havre de Grace elected officials have lamented that no one from "up on the hill" has gotten involved in the city's politics or sought public office.

Well, this year, they can stop lamenting. Four of the seven candidates for the three seats up for election on the Havre de Grace City Council are new to the world of politics and three of them come from one community.

Robert Sawyer, Barry Scarborough and Joseph Smith all live in the Bulle Rock community, in the overall scheme of things, a new development in Havre de Grace. They're seeking to represent an area of the city that typically has gone unrepresented by anyone who lives there.

Smith, 48, was active in the Bulle Rock Civic League. He said last week he hopes the presence of candidates from the large, new community will shake up the race and the established network in the city.

"A lot of residents in Bulle Rock are new to Harford County, new to Havre de Grace. One of the goals of Civic League was to bridge the gap and get the vote out," Smith said. "There's been a history of incumbency, I guess, and people have decided that sometimes it's good to shake things up a little bit, add new blood."

Also on the ballot for the first time, though not new to Havre de Grace, is Dave Glenn.

The three incumbents, Fred Cullum, Bill Martin and Jim Miller, are seeking their ninth, third and fourth two-year terms on the city council.

New blood can bring a lot of things to a governing body – new ideas, a fresh set of eyes and ears, new relationships and new perspectives.

Without realizing it, incumbents can fall into the trap of "that's how we've always done things" and while government operations may not falter and get worse, they may not get any better either. Status quo. Ho hum.

Different people with different backgrounds – be it professionally, racially, spiritually, whatever – from different neighborhoods can only broaden the reach of what a governing body is trying to do. They can bring a new energy to a board that has fallen lifeless.

Whereas incumbents would tend to rubber stamp and pass an item along because it's routine, newcomers hopefully will question processes, procedures and policies, if only so they're better informed, not necessarily to make changes.

Besides bringing a new council member up to speed, it generates a discussion among the newcomer(s) and veterans, hopefully in a public forum that residents can witness. The more residents can witness how their government and its representatives operate, the better informed they're going to be. That's one of the reasons it's so important to have an open government.

It will be interesting to watch how the Havre de Grace election plays out over the next several weeks. Are city residents satisfied with how things have been for the last few years, which means re-electing all three incumbents? Or do they want a drastic change, in which all three incumbents would be unseated? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

Regardless, new faces are making their way into the city politics. Even if they're not elected, let's hope they stay involved in their city – that can only be a good thing for everyone.

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