As word of Maureen Steinecke's resignation from the Prince George's County Board of Education spread in her district in the Laurel area a few weeks ago, the rustlings from potential candidates began.
As many as 10 candidates for the post are expected to present their credentials to a panel of elected officials at a public hearing tonight at Chestnut Hills Elementary School in Beltsville.
The choice of the person to fill the vacancy until 1980 will be made by County Executive Winfield M. Kelly. After all the interested candidates have appeared at the hearing, the panel with recommend three names to Kelly. Those names will then be discussed at a meeting Monday of the Democratic Advisory Board, familiarily known as the Breakfast Club.
Kelly's choice will be made in the wake of much discussion and bruhaha created by a report in a local paper that the local elected officials were supporting one candidate, and the county executive another.
Last week the Prince George's Journal reported that a few members of the Prince George's delegation to the General Assembly were supporting Doris Eugene, president of the county Council of Parent-Teachers Association and an active and vocal supporter of the school system. The story also said Kelly was supporting Craig Horn, a member of the Laurel City Council, a "person outside the educational community" and an active member in the Democratic party.
This week some of those same elected officials who wil be on the panel tonight said the story was distorted.
Del. Kay Bienan said, "We need to hear the view points of all the members of the district" before a decision is made.
There is "no battle between the elected officials of this district and Kelly," said state Sen. Arthur Dorman. "We are all looking to get the best possible candidates."
Kelly aide John Lally said this week that Kelly will "sit back and see who surfaces" from the public hearings and "not take a position on anyone."
Or, as Lally said, now "nobody's for anybody publically."
Politicians in Prince George's are sensitive to suggestions of favoritism in making appointments. Leaders of the local Democratic Party deny there is "bossism." At the same time, the leadership meets each week and advises top elected officials of the its preference on county and state appointments, preferences with usually are followed.
So the elected officials of the Laurel area - state senators, delegates and County Council members - expressed concern when it was implied that they has already made up their minds before the public hearing.
Kelly recently told elected officials in the Laurel area that his criteria for a school board member are three-fold: Fiscal conservatism, a strong interest in education and a person who can be reelected. "When you come down to it," said Lally, "it's cold hard politics. Can the person win?"
Only one of the potential candidates has been elected to public office, but most of those who have expressed interest in the job have worked with the school system, as teacher, PTA president or volunteer.
Craig Horn, a 33-year-old foodbroker with Food Services Inc., is undoubtedly a vote-getter. A third-term Laurel City Council member. Horn said his four children also give him a "vested interest in the school system." He said he would "provide a perspective outside the educational community," and as far as the budget, "I don't like to spend other people's money."
Doris Eugene, a 40-year-old "full-time volunteer for education," calls herself "fiscally responsible. I can't see being penny-wise and pound foolish." Her four children have kept her "active in PTAs for 15 years. Who has more concern for education than a parent? The school system belongs to the taxpayers and the parents. We should have a say and be involved."
Several other names have been mentioned in the Beltsville-Laurel-College Park area, and eight to 10 potential candidates are expected to testify at the hearing tonight. Citizen turnout at the hearing is expected to be a key factor in determining if any candidate had enough grassroots support to win the post in 1980.
Kelly's recommendation, expected early next week, must by approved by the County Council.