Given the significant differences between Abingdon and Fallston and the lack of a long-tenured incumbent, the race for the District B Harford County Council seat might have been something of a free-for-all.
Instead, with only two Republicans running for the office and no Democratic candidate stepping forward to be placed on the ballot, the next District B councilman will be decided in next month’s primary election.
The Dagger caught up with those candidates – Derek Howell and Joe Woods – and posed to them the same set of questions.
Those questions, and the varying answers of the candidates, are listed below:
In one paragraph, please give a brief biographical sketch of yourself.
I am a Constitutional Conservative Republican. I have been blessed to receive a good education, and I am thankful and mindful of this blessing. I earned my Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from the Johns Hopkins University (both with honors) and my Juris Doctor (cum laude) from the University of Baltimore School of Law. As a former Maryland state trooper I had the privilege of serving and protecting the citizens of Maryland. I served over ten years with the Maryland State Police in various positions and locations, including Harford County, before leaving to obtain my law degree. Presently I am a small business owner, attorney, adjunct faculty member of a local community college and consultant. I spend a good bit of time teaching and speaking on the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence and America’s founding era. I am happily married to my wonderful wife, Jenna, and we both worship at Mountain Christian Church. For more information please visit www.HarfordForHowell.com
I’m a conservative republican who believes in small government, low taxes, and conservative values. I am a Harford County small business owner of PPM – PARAMEDICAL PERSONNEL – which provides EMS and rescue services and is Maryland’s largest private First Aid, CPR, and safety-training center. I joined the Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company at age 15 and soon became the youngest certified emergency medical technician in Maryland. I was Chief of the Fire Company when I was chosen to fill the vacant District B seat on the County Council in 2009. I am also a former Harford County Sheriff’s Deputy and worked at the jail.
My family has lived in Harford County for four generations and I have lived in District B all my life. My wife Laura and I live in Fallston with our retired search and rescue dog, Katie. During my year on the Council, I have been privileged to work with citizens from communities in Abingdon and Fallston to work out road, traffic, and zoning issues and protect our neighborhoods. It was especially gratifying to vote to lower taxes and cut County spending, helping the county achieve the AAA bond rating for the first time ever.
Another high point of the year was the February blizzard. I got a front-seat view of what our county road crews do when I volunteered to drive a county snow plow for 57 ½ hours.
What is at stake for District B (Fallston/Abingdon) in this race?
The Master Plan is one issue at stake, and it will be addressed after the election (unfortunately not before this important election). Another very important issue at stake is the economy and the County budget. Voters must elect someone who is not afraid to stand up for them when it comes to economic/tax related matters. The next four years will present trying times for all of us, and it is time to remove the incumbent and elect a true conservative.
Our rural heritage and what open space / agriculture areas we have is at stake. We have the opportunity to protect and preserve not only our rural heritage but our sensitive areas in District B and in Harford County by proper planning and the almost total rewrite of the Master Plan. I have stated before being appointed to council that this topic is very important to me. I will continue to use our communities for input and support legislation that benefits the citizens of Harford County.
What is the biggest problem in District B (Fallston/Abingdon) and what will you do if elected to make it better?
The economy and how it relates to the County budget is the biggest problem. At first glance this might not appear to be the biggest problem. Indeed, a quick response to this question might be one which simply mentions BRAC or traffic related issues. However, upon closer review and with an understanding of the budget, more specifically the general fund, it becomes patently clear that the economy and how it relates to the County budget is truly the biggest problem for District B.
In addressing any problem, it is vital to discern the actual problem from its symptoms. By addressing the problem appropriate solution(s) can be implemented. However, by simply focusing on the symptoms of the problem a band-aid style approach will unfortunately be used to cover but not heal the actual problem.
With respect to the issue at hand, the general fund is the principal operating fund for County Government. General fund appropriations are used primarily to finance the administrative activities of the County Government and to provide services to the citizens of the County. Due to the housing make up of District B, the County receives a significant amount of revenue in real property taxes from the citizens of District B, which is used to finance the general fund. In other words, the hard working citizens of District B pay a considerable amount of real property taxes which are used throughout the County.
County Government’s jurisdiction is limited. We expect County Government to serve us well in its limited responsibilities and obligations. However, when County Government grows too big and loses focus by overstepping its boundaries (jurisdiction) it then simply expects the citizens (We the People) to pay more for its overspending. This is unacceptable.
Take for example last year’s threat to close the Fallston branch of the public library. Public libraries were first advanced by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. They serve an important local community function, and I find that it was unacceptable to threaten the closure of the Fallston library branch when other areas in the County budget could have been cut and/or nonessential government services privatized to local businesses.
I will work with the next county council and county executive to see that unnecessary government spending is eliminated and to ensure that legitimate government services are maintained.
Over development and bad planning. Setting aside the major issues of the County with the current economy; and issues dealing with the influx of people from BRAC, over development is the biggest problem in District B (Fallston/Abingdon). I will continue working with community groups and community Associations to slow the problem down and update the master plan.
With the continued commercial development in the area (Wal-Mart on Route 1 and the new shopping center at Route 1 and Route 152) and the new Transfer of Development Right rules that designate Fallston as a major receiving area for future residential development, how is Fallston changing? How is Fallston dealing with that change? What is Fallston’s future?
Fallston has changed over the years in its population growth. This is a result of the new housing market. After talking with residents from Fallston, it appears that many are unhappy with expanding growth. As an advocate of private property rights I do not want to take away the rights of property owners to use their land, but we must ensure that one person’s property does not destroy another’s.
Fallston citizens are dealing with the change by becoming active and voicing their thoughts to County officials. This is to be encouraged. Additionally, some citizens deal with the change by taking advantage of the resources in their community.
The future of Fallston – to continue to be an excellent community to raise a family and live free in liberty.
Fallston residents, including myself, have fought hard for years to protect the rural nature of our community. Since my appointment, I’ve worked to be a strong advocate for Fallston and Abingdon during comprehensive rezoning. I amended the transportation element plan road types for roads in the area like 152, Old Joppa, Harford Rd, and Connolly Rd from urban back to rural. I removed wording from the plan that would increase the lanes on Harford Rd from two to four and lane changes on 152. I work with the community council and other community groups all the time to prepare for the master plan updates. It’s critically important that the voice of the people is heard, and that’s why I work with community associations and groups throughout the District. If we are going to protect our neighborhoods from over-development, the voice of our people must be heard over the voices of developers.