Severn resident Peter Smith is seeking to fill the open seat for District 1 on the Anne Arundel County Council.
It was left vacant when .
The other six members of the council are charged with selecting the person to fill the seat, but , with three members supporting Smith and the other three favoring local businessman Mike Wagner after more than 100 rounds of votes. The council is scheduled to vote again on March 19.
Patch met with Smith to ask him about his reasons for seeking the District 1 seat, and about the important issues facing the district and the county. Patch also asked Smith his opinion on the council’s selection process.
Name: Peter Smith
Family: Married with two children, ages 6 and two months
Profession: Resource and budget manager, Marine Corps reservist
Previous political experience: None
Plans to run for reelection if selected?: Yes
Quote of Note: "It's hard to steer a ship when the captain can't be trusted."
Odenton Patch: Why are you seeking to fill the seat for District 1 on the County Council?
Peter Smith: I wanted to serve the community. For any political person, they want to get in there to speak out for those who can’t really speak for themselves. That was the initial draw to get into this race, because I thought I could be fair and reasonable when it came to policies and bills that were introduced to the council. And I just wanted to make a difference. That’s primarily why I chose to get into this race.
Patch: What qualifies you to serve on the County Council?
Smith: I think my integrity. I know we have the legal requirements, in terms of voting requirements and what party you’re affiliated with, but honestly it goes deeper than that. And anyone who’s in a public position should have trust. Citizens may not agree with everything I say and every decision I make, but I feel like if I’m doing it in the best interests of the larger group and with an open mind, that’s something that’s really valued. And that’s why I thought I’d be a pretty good person for this seat.
…I manage budgets. My degree is in information technology, and I feel like that gives me the first utility to look for efficiencies in the government, within the council and the county and how to manage the resources we have. I also have my military background. We are in District 1, which has a lot of military veterans and military active duty and reserve individuals. Being able to speak that language and to understand where they are coming from goes a long way in being able to represent them in a fair manner.
Patch: What makes you a better choice than your opponent, Mike Wagner?
Smith: I want to be held accountable. I’m not sure where he stands on the issues but I can assure you that I want to be judged on the decisions I make and I want my feet to be held to the fire if I do something constituents in District 1 are doing something that’s not suited to their best interests. So unlike some of the people on the council now who appear to be doing stuff for their own personal interests, I’m not there for that. I’m here to serve these people and if the decisions I make aren’t what the community thinks are the best decisions, then I want to be accountable. If they think I deserve another shot in 2014 then I will be judged then fairly. That’s the biggest thing that makes me different from Mr. Wagner.
Patch: What are the biggest issues facing District 1 and Anne Arundel County?
Smith: Right now it’s definitely the faith in the county government. Right now it’s hard to steer a ship when the captain can’t be trusted. So right now, that captain is the county government, and we have a lot of issues that need to be resolved as far as faith in them, their decision-making ability, their ability to not be political, and objective. So once we establish and restore the trust in them, then we can focus on some of the bigger issues, such as the growth in the county, specifically in District 1, and ensure that our kids have an education system that’s going to make them competitive on a national state.
Patch: In general, how would you characterize your political views?
Smith: I think I’m pretty moderate. My wife is Republican, and I think if I were too far to the left, she’d hit me with a stick. I think we tend to draw from each other's strengths, and it also pulls us toward the center, for the most part. I don’t think I’m some radical individual that’s going to come on the council and change the makeup of it in a drastic way. Often, when commanders or military people get to a command, they take the first few weeks to determine what the status of that unit is. I definitely intend on making that same approach and making sure what issues need to be addressed and what’s broken. And then sort of reassessing how we can improve some things and institute some efficiencies and save the county and the taxpayers' money. So I think I’m pretty moderate, for the most part.
Patch: What is your opinion of the process of selecting someone to fill the seat for District 1?
Smith: Obviously, it’s broken. It’s something that needs to be fixed and regardless of whether it’s me selected or Mr. Wagner selected, someone is going to take that dragon by the horn and fix it. I often equate it to playing sports and asking the other team to pick the players who are going to play on my team. Obviously, they are going to have some biases there, so it’s just the wrong system to have in place to select a replacement, especially if it’s in a partisan-type environment.
…The charter should be amended so that there’s language in there that forces the council to make decisions. But the charter itself does have some language that says a member should be in place within 30 days. But yet, they weren’t able to come to a consensus because there were no teeth, mechanisms or penalties if they exceeded those 30 days. And that’s the wrong way to look at it. It doesn’t matter of there are consequences. The consequences are your integrity. If you violate that or breach that, you are left with a piece of paper that doesn’t mean anything. So how can we govern when we don’t even follow the same rules that we force other people to follow?
Patch: If you are selected to fill the District 1 seat, will you seek reelection?
Smith: Right now I think yes. What I want to do over the next two years is see what kind of asset I can be for District 1. Because I may get in there and see the politics are so prevalent that it’s impossible to be effective in there. I’m not going to give up, but I think that’s a long way in ensuring it’s an environment that I want to commit my life to. But the short answer is yes, I think I’m definitely going to pursue another opportunity in 2014 if the citizens of District 1 think that I’m worthy of it.
Patch: Is there anything else people should know about you?
Smith: Honestly, just that I am here for my daughter and my son, and I want to be a good role model for them. And I think that if I take and carry those same principles to the council, I can’t go wrong. Because most people, when they get into any type of environment or business, they’re doing it to help their family and protect their community. If the council took that approach from a nuclear level, they’d probably be better off than where they are right now.