The heart of Harford County is the battleground for two Bel Air locals, one a former Town Commissioner and one who currently serves on the board, who seek the County Council’s central District C seat.
Incumbent Jim McMahan and challenger Terry Hanley seek leadership of one of the county’s most developed and rapidly-changing districts, a place where business interests and community life collide.
The winner of the two Republican candidates vying for the GOP nomination will advance to face Democrat Jack Feldman in November’s General Election.
The Dagger caught up with the Republican candidates – Terry Hanley and Jim McMahan – and posed to them the same set of questions.
In one paragraph, please give a brief biographical sketch of yourself.
I have been married to Debra Travis Hanley for 20 years. We have three wonderful children. Connor is a 10th grader at Bel Air High School. Gavin is in the 8th grade at Bel Air Middle. And Garrett is in the 4th grade at Bel Air Elementary. All three are active participants in Harford County Parks and Recreation. Debra is the Community Relations Director at Brightview Assisted Living in Bel Air and active as a volunteer for Bel Air Parks and Recreation. We are active members of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. I am employed with Presidential Bank of Bethesda in their residential and commercial lending division. I am the President of the Harford County Public Library Foundation and have been a volunteer board member for over 6 years. I have had the honor of serving two terms as Mayor of Bel Air in my seven years of service as Commissioner.
I am a lifelong resident of Harford County, a retired Harford County business owner and Life Member Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company. I also served as a sworn Police Officer in the Town of Bel Air. A former Bel Air Town Commissioner and current member of the Harford County Council, I believe in small government, low taxes, and growth policies the protect our Harford County families and neighborhoods.
Commissioned a 2d Lt in the US Army on 6 June 1960, I am a veteran of 36 years combined military service, active duty, Army Reserves and the State Guard, retiring with the rank of Colonel.
As owner of Mackk Broadcasting, Inc., I operated WAMD Radio – Aberdeen for 26 years. I am one of the founders, and former President, of the Ripken Museum. After serving on the Bel Air Board of Commissioners, I was elected to the Harford County Council in 2006. During my 4-year term, I have voted to reduce taxes five times.
After being educated in the Harford County School System, I earned a BA Degree from Western Maryland College (Now McDaniel). I attended the University of Baltimore Law School, and fulfilled certification requirements from the University Of Maryland’s Academy Of Excellence for Elected Officials in Public Policy.
What is at stake for District C (Bel Air) in this race?
It is time for a change in leadership. What we need, is one that will cherish Harford’s past but prepare and plan for this county’s future. Uncontrolled growth and lack of infrastructure is a concern. Despite the enormous economic downturn, Harford County is positioned better than most areas for a positive economic comeback. Within the next 24 months there will be one of the largest influxes of people relocating to our area. This will alleviate some of the housing issues, but the downside is that our infrastructure is already stressed. Schools in District C will likely see the impact in their enrollment. Property values have dropped and in the next three years, revenue will drop as well. The county will collect less tax revenue which makes up just over 60% of the operating budget. I will see to it that the county lives within it’s means like families have to do with their own budgets. We need a fiscal conservative in office that will be able to balance the needs of the county without cutting services to its citizens.
The people don’t want more government and more taxes, and neither do I. We have to make sure government delivers critical services – roads, schools and public safety, without growing government spending. We have to fight against the pressure to raise taxes. Harford County will also be pressured by the influx of new residents from BRAC – we have to control growth and protect our neighborhoods.
What is the biggest NON-BUSINESS problem in the district right now, and what would you do to improve the situation?
As in any community, there is more than just one problem. We have a diverse constituency, each having their own concerns and needs. District C is the smallest geographically, but is the most densely populated. We need to get a handle on regulating rental properties that house illegal aliens and half-way houses in some of our residential neighborhoods. I have been successful in shutting down two in the Town of Bel Air both of which were in violation of livability codes. Traffic is another issue that needs to be addressed. We need to explore ways of diverting traffic around the county seat rather than through it.
GROWTH. BRAC is great for our local economy, but with the jobs come new residents, and more pressure on our infrastructure. We must preserve and protect our quality of life, especially our great parks and rec programs, our schools, and our public safety system. On the County Council I have the opportunity to fight for County families, and to make sure the people’s money is targeted to the people’s priorities, and not wasted in the beaurocratic jumble. We don’t need more taxes. We need to listen to citizens.
The economic face of the district continues to change, with several competing forces in play: the revival of the Main Street business district in Bel Air; the continued vacancies in several of the major storefronts in the Route 1/Route 24 shopping centers; and major new development projects such as Wegmann’s and the Box Hill business park. How would you balance the needs of these areas, and approach business and economic development in the district in general?
This is easy. Cut taxes. Harford County is currently ranked as the third highest for business and real property tax rates. By cutting taxes this allows consumers and business owners to have more of their own money to spend and to create jobs. Main Street revitalization was $8.5 million and currently today we have a much more pedestrian friendly Main Street. More of this type of redevelopment is vital to the county. Businesses, entrepreneurs and even the possibility of high end residential projects would be welcomed. As this county continues to grow not only with residential properties but major governmental and private business entities there is no reason why the county would not look for positive redevelopment. There are numerous areas throughout the country that have tried to emulate the feel of the Main Street community. The Avenue at White Marsh is a perfect example. I am very hopeful that Harford County will be fortunate enough to have Harford Community College expand into a 4 year college. This in itself will stimulate our local economy. There is nothing more pressing throughout this entire country than job creation. And I believe that Harford County is a sleeping giant.
Harford County needs to take a serious stance on the lack of adequate roads and look for other means to alleviate the traffic in the greater Bel Air area. We will need to collaborate with our state elected officials as this is an issue that cannot continue to be put on the back burner.
Minimize government intervention. We do not need any more government intervention in the private sector. Stop taxing our businesses to death. Let the market place seek its own level and keep government out of it.