Robert Wagner, the former Harford County Council President who served 16 years on the council, has entered the increasingly-crowded race for Harford County Executive.
Wagner, a Republican from Churchville, was elected to Council President in 2002 despite having to struggle against the intentions of the local GOP – which supported the Democratic incumbent Gunther Hirsch.
Wagner joins Republican Stephen Wright, a Churchville accountant and member of the Republican Central Committee, as the only filed candidates for County Executive. Incumbent County Executive David Craig has not yet filed, but is believed to be running for reelection.
The last time I saw Wagner was the night of the Gubernatorial General Election in 2006. He had just lost his council president reelection bid to newcomer Billy Boniface, but vowed to me that he “would be back.”
The last time the public likely heard about Wagner was also about four years ago, during an embarrassing drunk driving stop. He has gone largely unseen and unheard from since that incident, but recently emerged to officially file his candidacy for office.
In an e-mail interview this week, Wagner explained how he has emerged through the hard times with a renewed focus and different outlook – one he believes has prepared him to be the best candidate for County Executive.
“Though unfortunate and humiliating, the incident slapped me hard enough that I got the help and support I needed at the time to get my life back to where it should be. I didn’t make phone calls and try to weasel out of what I had done (as some do) and the Aegis made me the poster child for DWI’s for awhile (while not printing the same news about other prominent figures). All in all, it was a reprimand that got my attention and allowed me to focus more clearly and move forward with a different outlook,” Wagner wrote.
Even after a nearly unprecedented four terms on the County Council, Wagner said he still feels like he left the job with work still left to be done. He also said he saw clues of the impending economic downturn and had to watch as the council and County Executive acted with “a lack of responsibility” in spending taxpayer money.
“Now, why would I want to stick my neck out on this chopping block? Sometimes a person gets a feeling of a job not totally completed and knows that they can do a better job of the task at hand. Our current tight economic times were no surprise. I knew the outlook when I left office that things were tightening up in the third year, which was before the financial crash. Decisions have been made by both the legislative branch (council) and Executive branch that to me reflect a lack of responsibility to the taxpayers they serve. They are all charged to be the stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and trusted to make sound judgments more like a business. I strongly feel that in my total of 16 years on the Council has prepared me well to take on the task of Harford County Executive,” he wrote.
Wagner also criticized the lack of communication between the County Executive’s office, the County Council and the Board of Education and said egos need to be put aside for the benefit of the citizenry.
“There needs to be communication between the three branches, Executive, Council, and Board of Ed. Over the past term, this communication has been non-existent; there is no good reason for this. All of the elected officials need to put their personal feelings aside and do what is in the best interest of our citizens…..the ones they serve and the ones who pay the tab. Let’s look for Republican values. My own party (the core group) worked against me every step of the way. The reason is (stupid) simple, I wouldn’t play “the game”. Yet if you ask around, you will always hear, Wagner is fair or that you would always know where I was or if Wagner told you something it would be that way. I think I have a STRONG conservative yet fair record reflected by all my votes in those 16 years. I have taken these years out of the spotlight to reassemble my focus become more attuned with “real people’s” life experiences and feel that I am prepared to be the best candidate for the job of leading this county over the next four years, Wagner wrote.”
“When I told you that I would be back, I didn’t know what I would have to go through before making that attempt, but I’m glad we’re here!”