Since he was 16 years old, Joseph Woods intended to one day be a member of the Harford County Council. That vision was fulfilled Tuesday night when the Harford County Council voted unanimously to install Woods, now 30 and chief of the Fallston Volunter Fire and Ambulance Company, as its newest member.
It was a bittersweet moment for Woods – who intended on running for the District B Fallston-Abingdon seat in 2010 with the help of councilwoman Veronica Chenowith, but instead ended up being selected to fill the seat on the county council vacated by her death.
“I have been planning for this since I was about 16. My goal was to run in 2010 with help from Miss Roni and Miss Joanne. I never imagined and did not want to think about a potential appointment possibility. Now that I’m appointed I need to learn a lot in a very short time. I’m ready for the challenge, I look forward to meeting as many member of my District as possible. Once I get pass this admin process I plan to hit the streets and meet with everyone I can,” Wood said in an email interview.
Woods was selected over Fallston attorney Tim Braue and Abingdon attorney Derek Howell. All three had been nominated by the Republican Central Committee for the position.
Woods and Howell were in attendance with their wives Tuesday night. They sat in the front, Howell in one row and Woods behind him.
After county council president Billy Boniface called for a nomination, there was a pause for discussion and just when it seemed no one would go first and there would be none, councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti started.
Lisanti commended the Republican Central Committee several times for its choices, said they were great candidates, and that it was a good sign for Harford. She said she had looked carefully at what it took to be a good council member, that she had to look in the mirror to be sure she had what it took, and that these three did have what it takes.
Councilman Chad Shrodes went second and said he was lucky to be a part of both the RCC and council selection processes and that there were great candidates and that he will be happy to welcome Woods and to mentor him on the council.
Councilman Dick Slutzky said the good news is that they had 3 great nominees, but the bad news was the had to choose one. They all showed they would bring something to the council and it was a good group.
Boniface was unique; he said he was glad to vote for Woods and that he intended to work with him, and that he chose Woods for 3 reasons. He then named 4 reasons: (1) Business person, which is important (2) Fire Chief with Fallston, and anyone who knows or those of you who may not know, there is a lot of politics there, perhaps more than with the council, and it shows he can work with people (3) was that he has great support from his spouse, and that he couldn’t do it without everything his wife does at the business and at home (3) (again) was his gut, not that anything was bad with the other two but he liked Woods.
The vote was unanimous, as it had to be. Woods will meet with the council administrator today and be sworn in Thursday. When asked to comment he said he would save it for today, other than to say that he was pleased and grateful, and he thanked Joe Chenowith for his help and that Miss Roni meant the world to him, and he hopes to meet her expectations. He said he had a lot to learn very quickly, and that his district would be seeing him soon.
With the selection process now behind him, Woods stuck to his promise and supplied his cover letter and answers to the Republican Central Committee questionnaire submitted during the application for the position. Woods had previously said he was uncomfortable supplying that information until after the county council selection was announced.
Here is Woods’ cover letter (with addresses and phone number redacted) sent upon application to the Republican Central Committee:
April 13, 2009
Republican Central Committee of Harford County
P. O. Box 289
Bel Air, Maryland 21014
Attn: Bob Thomas
Dear Mr. Bob Thomas:
Please accept this letter and the enclosed information as my application for the appointment to Harford County Council District B. I currently live at XXX in Fallston. I have lived at this address for at least 20 years. My wife and I own the properties at XXX and XXX Old Fallston Road. I have been a registered Republican Voter in Harford County since November 1996.
I consider myself to be a very conservative Republican. I believe in the traditional Republican values. I believe that Government should be held accountable and be consistent. Government also needs to operate with full transparency; full disclosure; cost-effective spending; fair and reasonable taxation; and respect for all life, the environment; and in the basic citizen rights guaranteed by the constitution.
I have been an active member of the Fallston Community and Harford County for the past 14 years. I’m currently the Chief of the Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company, Inc and an active member of the Harford County Volunteer Fire and Emergency Medical Services Association. I’m the Chairperson of the Harford County Training Committee and Command Staff of the Harford County Technical Rescue Team. I’m also the Chief Operations Officer / Vice President and part owner of Paramedical Personnel of Maryland a small business located in Bel Air which incorporated in 1990.
I have had the desire to be a member of the Harford County Council Since I was 16 years old. I have every intention of running for this office in 2010. I have already started preparing for the campaign. I will officially start this campaign soon after the appointment process is completed. My years of service and dedication to Harford County; my conservative and respectable nature will be a benefit to the Council and the citizens of Harford County. I appreciate your time and the consideration you have given me for this position. You may reach me by phone at XXX at any time.
Joseph Michael Woods
Here are some highlights from Woods’ RCC application:
What do you see as the biggest issue facing the County Council in the next two years and why?
In the next two years the biggest issue will be by far the economy. Budget cuts, furloughs, and complete government shut downs are only the beginning of the times ahead for our county employees. The unemployment rate on the rise and very few county employers hiring shows a continuing worsening of our economy. The affects of this worsening economy will continue to change how our County Government and essential services operate. A reduction in essential services and decreases in jobs and income will cause an increase in crime and the greater need for welfare. The decreases in available capital for future budgets like paid Fire and EMS Services, new schools, and new county employees will force the County Council to look harder at the budget and look for alternative conservative ways of balancing the budget. This issue affects every citizen of our county and it is past time for us to take action and insist on conservative means to protect our county. We need to focus on securing our future without compromising our values.
What is your philosophy on land use and property rights in Harford County?
I have lived in Harford County all my life and I am a property owner and a business owner. It is the right of every citizen to be secure in their property. Every person has the right to acquire, own, use, possess, enjoy, and dispose of private property. I feel that if you own property you should have the right to use it to benefit you and your family. I also believe that you must abide by the laws and zoning that are in place. The county’s responsibility is to protect and conserve our open and agricultural areas. We need to work with property owners and assist them with making smart decisions that will help make their property benefit them and our county. A coordinated approach needs to be used which maximizes the use of community resources, offers adequate incentives to the property owners, and minimizes red tape.
What is your experience and philosophy on budgeting at the county level?
The bottom line is that I am a conservative. I have worked on the budgeting and planning of future cost savings for approximately 10 years. I have taken a simple approach to planning the budget for my life, my business, my Fire Company, and for being on the county Fire Service Budget Committee. Plan and budget for the line items you must have to operate first. These items are called Committed Line Items. These items include pay roll and benefits; taxes and utilities; rent / mortgage; and other unavoidable items. Then we focus on the items that help us operate. These line items are Requested Line Items. Fuel, office equipment, services and contracts are some items in this group. These items are where we have the ability to plan ahead. I prefer to pre-bid and negotiate for better pricing with this type of line item. This year I have had overwhelming success working with other fire companies across this county and the state to reduce our cost by pre-biding and buying in bulk. This, I am sad to say, is a new concept in our County Fire Service. Finally we have the capital expense line items. These also are items we pre-bid and include vehicles and buildings. We can only spend this money if it is available. It may take several fiscal years to save enough money for a capital project to start.
Being a member of the County Fire Service Budget Committee, I have had an active role in county budgeting for approximately 6 years. I have attended county budget meetings and hearings with both the County Executive and County Council. I have spoken in front of the Council on behalf of public safety budgets.
Budgeting works for planning, however to make your budget successful you must hold the people responsible for working and maintaining the budget accountable. Failures to maintain or properly plan the budget must not be allowed to happen. My first year as Chief of the Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company I needed to take money from our capital budget to fix our operational budget. I needed over $20,000.00 to continue to operate and we still had 6 month remaining in the year. I stopped all excess spending and limited who could spend company money. The Board of Directors and I held the member responsible for the budget problems accountable. I then reallocated line items to keep our department running. This year I was able to cut our operational budget by 30% and will be giving back over $20,000.00 to the capital budget at the end of the 2009 budget year. I am very proud of these savings and my conservative actions made it possible.