Vicki Almond wants to be Baltimore County executive but doesn’t want a “political coronation.”
At the same time that Almond was removing her name from consideration, members of the public told her and the council what they did and didn’t want in a search for a replacement. Many called on the council to avoid appointing one of their own and instead tap a senior aide to Kevin Kamentez, who died unexpectedly earlier this month.
Almond, a Democratic council member from the west side of the county, announced her decision Tuesday night to several dozen county residents who came to Towson to participate in a public hearing before the Baltimore County Council. Almond, who is considered one of the top contenders in the Democratic primary for county executive, told the audience she is removing her name from a list of potential candidates to replace Kamenetz, who died of cardiac arrest.
“Kevin Kamenetz believed in fair and vigorous campaigns. So do I,” said Almond, whose voice trembled at times as she read the prepared statement. “Kevin’s successor should not be chosen as part of a political coronation by my council colleagues. This is not who Kevin was, and it’s not who I am. Choosing a person to serve as a caretaker for the remaining months of County Executive Kamenetz’s term should not be tainted by politics of a pending campaign.”
Almond, 69 and a two-term member of the council, was the first woman elected chair of the panel in more than two decades. She is looking to become the first woman to lead the county since 1956, when the office of county executive was established.
Almond called the political upheaval an extraordinary and humbling time in county history.
“This is why, despite having the support of my Democratic colleagues for this appointment, I’m taking my name out of consideration to be selected by the council to serve as county executive for the next few months,” said Almond. “We all want what’s best for Baltimore County, and while I’m honored to have the endorsement and support of my Democratic colleagues on the county council, I believe the county executive should be chosen after a strong campaign and by the people. Quite frankly, I’m confident in my ability to win this election fair and square.”
Almond is one of four vying for the Democratic primary nomination including State Sen. Jim Brochin, former Del. John Olszewski Jr. and Kevin Marron.
The Baltimore County Charter calls for the council to replace a county executive who is unable to complete the term as long as they meet the age and residency requirements. The appointee must also be a member of the same party as the elected county executive.
The charter does not set a timetable for making the decision. Many members of the council said Tuesday they wanted to deal with the issue in the near future, possibly as early as Thursday morning.
And while there is no public list of candidates who have expressed interest in running the county for the next six months, members of the public Tuesday called made a number of requests ranging from not appointing a member of the council to the position and holding a transparent public process with interested candidates.
“There needs to be a transparent process, one that is similar to the one used by central committees,” said Linda Dorsey-Walker, a five-term member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee.
Dorsey-Walker called for “a complete vetting.”
“Often times governments find themselves in the midst of a scandal of the sort that has surrounded Baltimore County in recent years and Baltimore City because they fail to ask the right questions of the candidates during the vetting process or even to have a complete vetting process,” she said.
Councilman A. Wade Kach, who represents northern Baltimore County, said he too would like a formal process modeled after one used by the Anne Arundel County Council as it searched for a replacement for then-County Executive John Leopold.
Many of those who spoke called on the council to name Donald I. Mohler, Kamenetz’s chief of staff, to succeed his former boss.
“We need more than a caretaker,” said former Del. Gerry Brewster, who was friends with Kamenetz for nearly five decades. “We need someone who cares.”
Brewster added that it was important to select someone who had nothing riding on the next election.
“Don’s not running for anything,” Brewster said.
Mohler did not respond to requests for comment.
Council Chairman Julian Jones in earlier interviews has shied away from the idea of appointing a non-elected official to the county executive’s office. He remained non-committal Tuesday night.
“This is a decision that we will deliberate on and come to the very best decision that we can,” Jones told the audience as the meeting ended. “And just as a reminder to everyone that this was not a straw poll so it’s not like everybody says one name and that’s it.I just wanted to put that out there that we’ll take everything into consideration as we deliberate.”