HometownAnnapolis.com - District 4 debate focuses on BRAC - Four years from now, whoever represents District 4 on the County Council might not recognize it.
Stretching from Maryland City to Crownsville, the district is bracing for the arrival of 5,200 new faces at Fort George G. Meade as a result of the federal Base Realignment and Closure process.
Tens of thousands of private-sector jobs are expected to follow, placing added demands on housing, roads, schools, water and sewer infrastructure, even shops and restaurants.
With boundaries encompassing Russett and parts of Millersville, Jessup and Severn, the district's challenges aren't limited to Fort Meade.
The future of the former Naval Academy Dairy Farm in Gambrills, development in and around the Laurel racetrack and relieving traffic-choked Route 3 are among the issues facing District 4's next councilman.
Representing the district will be someone new. Two-term Odenton Democrat Bill D. Burlison is barred by county law from seeking a third four-year term.
The open seat has attracted the most candidates of any race for a council seat. Four Democrats and two Republicans are running in the Sept. 12 primary.
Most are relatively new to the district and all but one are making their first run at elected office.
For Jamie Benoit, going through west county is like a stroll down memory lane.
"For me, there's some real memories in some of the places in this district," he said.
Born and raised in Gambrills, Mr. Benoit now lives in Piney Orchard. He thinks his local roots give him the edge.
"It takes someone who's raised here who can appreciate what shouldn't change," said Mr. Benoit, a retired Army lieutenant.
A member of several civic groups, he said he already has the relationships needed to effectively represent District 4.
Having served at Fort Benning, Ga., Mr. Benoit said BRAC will make some people "very nervous." But the former White House intern said he'll use his connections with state and federal lawmakers to secure funding to cope with it.
"The biggest challenge is going to be getting all three levels of government to work together," he said. "I'm the only candidate with the relationships already built."
A member of the Odenton Town Center Oversight Committee, he said it's vital to get the long-awaited project rolling to provide Odenton with much-needed services.
He also supports increasing the county's role in public transportation, by running its own transit system or increasing funding for the nonprofit Corridor Transit Corp. serving west county.
You can't accuse Walter Moody of being bought off. The Severn man hasn't raised a dime for his campaign.
"I'm not doing a big campaign," he said. "It's not that I'm not campaigning."
The former Virginia resident is banking on his community involvement to help him at the polls. He volunteers coaching basketball at the Boys and Girls Club chapter at Van Bokkelen Elementary School.
Mr. Moody said he wants to improve the services in his community.
"Anytime I want to go buy clothes or go to a movie ... I pretty much have to leave the area," he said.
He also wants to improve the lines of communication between District 4 and county government and break down barriers so all people in the district prosper.
As councilman, Mr. Moody said, he'd push for a community center for his district. He said he wants jobs coming to the Fort Meade area to go to nearby residents.
While the five other candidates oppose turning the Naval Academy Dairy Farm into a state-run equestrian center, Mr. Moody said he's open to a variety of uses for the site, although he would want residents' input.
On the environmental front, he said he wants to study what's in place before improving on it. "When I find a task to do," he said, "I find out how it's been done and I always find a better way to do it."
The youngest candidate in the race, Andrew Pruski hopes voters won't be fooled by his age.
"I believe I have an old soul," the 27-year-old from Four Seasons said.
Mr. Pruski said he can be a bridge between District 4's older and newer residents. He grew up in western New York, but his dad once served at Fort Meade.
He hopes to win over voters with his enthusiasm and promises to keep them in the loop. He said he's a fan of town meetings "and bringing government to the community."
A former teacher who now supervises the testing office for Baltimore County public schools, Mr. Pruski said his background makes him the best choice for improving education, which is his top priority. He wants to reduce class sizes and use technology to help get parents involved in the schools.
On the environmental front, he said he supports the proposed annual fee on properties to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff.
Mr. Pruski also said he supports creating a people's counsel to keep an eye on development projects and inform the public about them. He also supports requiring developers to set aside units for affordable housing.
"Citizens are disgruntled with the development process," he said. "They want to be informed."
Living in the county's westernmost region, Devin Tucker of Russett said it's hard not to feel ignored.
"We're like the stepchildren of Anne Arundel County and that has to change," said the program manager for CFED, a nonprofit organization focusing on providing economic opportunity.
Mr. Tucker said running for office is an extension of his life's work. As part of the Silver Spring Interfaith Housing Coalition, he said, he helped to find homes for 11 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Mr. Tucker said he'd work to reduce the maintenance backlog in public schools, especially at Brock Bridge and Maryland City elementary schools.
Public safety is another priority for Mr. Tucker, who said he's had to chase away prostitutes from Route 198. He supports revising the guidelines for the Laurel racetrack impact fees to pay for more police officers.
Mr. Tucker said developers have not paid their fair share to improve the district, and called the impact fees they have to pay "woefully inadequate."
He supports a variety of strategies to boost affordable housing, including requiring 25 percent of new homes to be moderately priced and establishing an affordable housing trust fund for teachers, firefighters and police.
He called for a regional approach to boost public transportation, saying the framework is already in place.
A native of Lebanon who came to Maryland by way of Florida, Sid Saab doesn't mind the newcomer label. In fact, he thinks it's a strength.
"Every community I've lived in, I thought outside the box," the he said. "I always put myself in people's shoes and think about things from a different perspective."
Mr. Saab, of Crownsville, said he wants to get back to the basics of public service.
"We have a lot of moderates in this county and we need to represent them," he said.
Mr. Saab said he doesn't have a lot of set ideas for tackling the county's problems.
"All I know is I have an open mind and work with everybody," he said. "I can't go in with one strict idea. I'm open to input from the people."
As councilman, Mr. Saab said, he'd establish a network of citizens to be his eyes and ears in the district.
He also said he'd take a comprehensive approach to BRAC, one that addresses traffic, schools and public safety.
While he supports adding police officers, Mr. Saab said he wants to get the public more involved in preventing crime by increasing public awareness of public safety issues.
David Tibbetts of Seven Oaks has a simple reason for running: It's his duty.
"I believe it's the right and duty of every citizen to participate in public life," he said. "You can't do better in a democracy than helping make the laws of the people."
Having run unsuccessfully in 2002 for the House of Delegates, he hopes his involvement in west county matters, such as the Odenton Small Area Plan, will resonate with voters.
"I may not be Mr. Odenton, but I'd certainly be in the contest," said Mr. Tibbetts, a volunteer firefighter with the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company.
A self-described environmentalist, the former state agriculture official said he supports a limited moratorium on growth so it's not rushed.
To add police and firefighters, he said he would support special benefit tax districts for communities that want them.
"At a certain point, if people want additional goodies, they're going to have to pay for it," he said, adding that he supports higher impact fees on developments.
To control the cost of prescription drugs, Mr. Tibbetts said he supports using county government to buy drugs in bulk.
County Council District 4 candidates
Residence: Piney Orchard
Family: Married, two children
Organizations: Piney Orchard Community Association, Odenton Town Center Oversight Committee
Last Vacation: Last September to the U.S. Virgin Islands
Car: 2003 Ford Explorer
Of Note: Amateur carpenter and woodworker
Occupation: Office clerk for Prince George’s County District Court
Family: Married, four children, one grandchild
Organizations: Basketball coach, Boys and Girls Club at Van Bokkelen Elementary School. Runs open gym basketball for Pioneers In Action
Last Vacation: July to New Jersey
Car: 1989 Ford Econoline van
Of Note: Ten of the 14 basketball teams he’s been on have won championships
Residence: Four Seasons
Occupation: Acting supervisor of testing for Baltimore County public schools.
Family: Married, no children
Organizations: Church of the Holy Apostles in Gambrills, Four Seasons Community Association
Last Vacation: Last June to Ocean City
Car: 2006 Honda CR-V
Of Note: Became a licensed real estate agent at age 18
Occupation: Senior program manager at CFED
Family: Married, two children
Organizations: Silver Spring Interfaith Housing Coalition, Russett Homeowners Association
Last Vacation: Can’t remember
Car: 1995 Honda Civic
Of Note: Plays flag football
Occupation: Jewelry store owner
Family: Married, two children
Organizations: West County Republican Club, Maryland Farm Bureau
Last Vacation: Last year to Lebanon
Car: 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Of Note: Former airplane mechanic and hair coloring specialist
Residence: Seven Oaks
Occupation: Attorney and vice president of Accessible Lifts, an elevator company
Family: Divorced, no children
Organizations: St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Annapolis, Odenton Volunteer Fire Company
Last Vacation: Four years ago to Oklahoma
Car: 2006 Jeep Liberty
Of Note: Kung Fu student and scuba diver