Another Contentious Try For the Tri-County Council

Gary V. Hodge, just elected a Charles County commissioner, has been renominated for the regional planning body, having been voted down last month.
Gary V. Hodge, just elected a Charles County commissioner, has been renominated for the regional planning body, having been voted down last month. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 18, 2007

One month after the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland rejected Charles County's nominee to serve on its executive board, Charles officials have resubmitted the nomination of Gary V. Hodge and are saying they have enough votes lined up for the nomination to pass next week.

The Tri-County Council's membership -- which is made up of commissioners and state lawmakers from Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties -- is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Annapolis to discuss Southern Maryland's legislative agenda as well as finalize the makeup of the council's executive board.

Hodge, a newly elected Democratic county commissioner in Charles, was nominated by fellow commissioners to represent them on the council, but his nomination was rejected in December. He previously served 18 years as the paid executive director of the council, a government-financed regional planning organization. Hodge left the council in 1998 when his contract was not renewed.

Some officials from Calvert and St. Mary's said that they voted against Hodge's nomination because they still harbor bad feelings about his tenure at the council. The vote frayed ties among the three counties on the eve of the legislative season.

Charles Commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large) said this week that Hodge has the unanimous support of Charles County's representatives to the council. Cooper said he has discussed Hodge's nomination with officials from Calvert and St. Mary's and believes Hodge will have the backing of a majority of St. Mary's representatives.

"I feel good about it," Cooper said. "I don't know about Calvert County, but if St. Mary's and Charles [support Hodge], I think he'll get the nomination with no problem."

Tri-County Council Chairman Larry Jarboe, a Republican county commissioner from St. Mary's, did not return calls seeking comment this week.

Officials said Hodge's nomination failed in December largely because scheduling conflicts kept most of Charles's representatives away from the meeting. Only two representatives were said to have supported Hodge at the meeting, Charles Commissioners Edith J. Patterson (D-Pomfret) and Reuben B. Collins II (D-Waldorf).

After the vote, Jarboe wrote Cooper asking Charles to submit an alternative nominee. In a sharply worded response, Cooper refused to withdraw Hodge's name. He said that the vote against him was "unwarranted" and that the council's rejection of Hodge would place "our relationship with the council at risk."

Officials in recent days have said they expect Hodge's nomination to pass next week.

State Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's), who acknowledged that he helped oust Hodge from the council's directorship in 1998, said his opinion of Hodge has changed. Dyson said he will support Hodge's nomination.

"That was then and this is now," Dyson said. "It's a different time. I think Gary can be a great asset on that council. More important than that, Charles had the right" to nominate him.

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