Just four months after he was re-elected as a Bel Air Town Commissioner, Robert Preston filed to run for the county’s Register of Wills position on Wednesday, joining a crowded GOP primary field.
Preston has served as a Bel Air Town Commissioner since 2002, and said he first mulled a candidacy for the position in 2006, when longtime Democratic incumbent Harry Hopkins initially decided not to run again. But then Hopkins changed his mind—and his political party affiliation—to win a sixth term, and Preston decided to wait.
“I decided to do this probably six years ago,” Preston told The Dagger. “I think that was when I went up and talked to Harry, that was when he had decided not to run. Then he decided to run again, and change parties.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and decided it was time to step up and run for the office,” he said. “I think I’m a good fit, I’ve been involved in communities all over the county.”
Also on the GOP ballot for Register of Wills is Derek Hopkins, who last month earned the endorsement of the incumbent Hopkins (no relation), and Merrie Street, former communications head for County Executive Jim Harkins. A fourth candidate, real estate agent Bill Schilling of Forest Hill, also filed for the position the same day as Preston (see below).
Preston has long been rumored as a potential candidate for Register of Wills, and his plans for this election year were one topic of discussion at a Bel Air Town Commissioners Candidates Forum moderated by The Dagger in October. Responding to a question at that event, Preston left the door open for a run at a higher post, saying he was “leaving his options open.”
Preston said Thursday that he believes he would leave Bel Air in good hands, calling the town “one of the best run [towns] in the state of Maryland.”
“Bel Air is certainly well-represented on the town board,” he said. “There’s a lot of good talent in Bel Air to step up and take care of the town, there’s a lot of citizens willing to take on that challenge.”
If Preston is elected, the remaining town commissioners would select a replacement to serve out the remainder of his term, according to Town Clerk Joyce Oliver. The board would likely issue a request for information from interested parties before making its selection, she said.
One possible candidate for a vacancy could be Gregory Adolph, who fell eight votes short of defeating Preston and seven votes short of defeating fellow incumbent David Carey in November’s election.
“He would be a very good candidate,” Preston said. “I think the commissioners would seriously entertain that idea.”
In other Election 2010 news…
—Schilling said his interest in the Register of Wills position comes from personal experience with the office and incumbent Hopkins.
Schilling’s father passed away in December 2007, he said, and Hopkins met with him and his family on Christmas Eve to discuss their situation, including arrangements to recognize Schilling’s father’s service in World War II.
“I was just impressed that he [Hopkins] was ready to go,” Schilling said. “I learned more about my father’s experience in World War II from meeting with him than I did from my dad in his whole life.”
Schilling currently works as a Realtor for Long and Foster in Bel Air, and previously spent 25 years with the Maryland State Police in various capacities, and 18 years as a part- and full-time employee of the United States Postal Service.
Both latter jobs also fueled his desire to be Register of Wills, he said.
“Taking care of people at a time like that interests me,” he said. “In the police field, you had a lot of people in bad situations, and as you get older you start feeling differently about things.”
“[As a postal employee] you watch kids grow up, move away, start families of their own,” he said. “You feel like part of the family.”
The Jarrettsville native said he has no major political connections, and has not run for public office before.
—Sheryl Davis Kohl officially filed her candidacy for the County Council District F seat, representing Havre de Grace and Aberdeen Proving Ground, on Wednesday. Davis Kohl announced her candidacy at a meeting of the Republican Club on Feb. 24.
—Rovall Washington has withdrawn his candidacy for the House of Delegates and will instead campaign for the District 34 campaign seat.
–U.S. House of Representatives Candidate Andy Harris will hold a “Breakfast with Andy” fundraiser event this Saturday, March 13 at Silver Spring Mining Company in Bel Air from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.