Baltimore Examiner - Benoit continues to push his concerns with education and county growth - Jamie Benoit spent the first few months as the newly elected District 4 county councilman becoming a “student of the budget” — in particular, its effect on schools.
“I felt my primary role was to make sure we put in all we could that would help the kids,” he said.
The Crownsville Democrat pushed for more money in the school budget that was slashed because of fiscal restraints on the county.
Those same financial concerns are expected to resurface this year.
“If last year was an indicator, preparing the budget will be my biggest fight,” he said.
Although freshman legislators might be tentative, Benoit sponsored bills that brought him attention — good and bad.
As a former Army officer, he pushed a bill giving military veterans seeking county jobs a hiring preference. The bill did not sit well with County Executive John R. Leopold, but the two reached a compromise in which veterans will get an automatic interview for most positions, and public-safety positions will give veterans credit for their military service.
Benoit and Leopold also won control of the former U.S. Naval Academy Dairy Farm, a large piece of preserved agricultural land that they consider one of their best accomplishments last year.
Not all of Benoit’s legislative efforts won praise. A bill curbing electronic billboards was soundly defeated, drawing regional opposition.
Benoit also joined two other councilmen in support of a storm-water fee on property that failed and is languishing in debate over the fee’s mechanics. Heading into 2008, Benoit said he will merge his advocacy for education and military service by pushing community college scholarships for veterans.
His district will arguably have the biggest issues facing the county this year, among the influx from the Base Realignment and Closure process at Fort Meade, the future of the dairy farm and the possibility of slot machines at Laurel Park.
“There will be no place in the state that will change like Odenton,” Benoit said.
“We can’t ask the community to embrace this economic opportunity with growth that it is not comfortable with.”
Opinions on Benoit’s year
“We’re pleased with his efforts, but we are skeptical and watching his reaction to [Base Realignment and Closure process] and its impact on the community. He’s generally off to a decent start — far more responsive than the past two council members. But the proof of the pudding is in eating it. We’ll see how his earlier efforts come into being.”
— Joan Berry, vice president of the Four Seasons Community Association
“He seems to have taken a leadership position, and is consistent in the position he takes. He was able to work with the county executive to find compromises and common ground. That’s something you don’t see from a first-year councilman.”
— Kory Blake, chairman of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee
“He’s been a very good councilman, and that’s coming from someone who ran for the job. He has paid attention to the needs of the district.”
— David Tibbetts, president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association