Charles County commissioners have filled one of two vacant Planning Commission seats, offering the post to lawyer Carolyn Woodside, who lives in Newburg and practices out of a Waldorf office.

Woodside, 51, a Democrat, replaces Jean Schappet, who resigned in July, citing heavy work-related travel demands.

Woodside is to serve the remainder of Schappet's term, which runs through December, and then serve a four-year term, commissioners said in a letter last week.

"She's very bright. She's very levelheaded," said Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large).

The Planning Commission approves housing subdivisions and other projects in an advisory role and helps set growth management policies for the county of approximately 123,000 people.

Levy said commissioners set out to find a woman appointee to retain some gender balance on the board. "She was drafted--and quite surprised," Levy said.

Woodside's appointment leaves the commission with four men and two women. At full strength, the panel has seven members.

The board is also working to replace Planning Commission member Lynn Covington, who attended her last meeting in September. She is moving out of state.

Looking for Legislation in 2000

The annual legislative forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Calvert County is scheduled for 7:30 Tuesday night at the Calvert Pines Senior Center in Prince Frederick.

Members of the county's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, the county commissioners and interested citizens will have a chance to air their views on what action the county should seek in the 2000 legislative session, which begins in January. Under the commissioner form of government in all three Southern Maryland counties, many local initiatives need state authorization.

Citizens who attend will be able to suggest legislation as well as ask questions about any proposals the commissioners or state lawmakers put on the agenda.

Democrats on Parade--to the Statehouse?

Southern Maryland Democrats have been playing host to a mini-parade of potential gubernatorial candidates this fall.

First, it was Douglas M. Duncan, the Montgomery County executive with an eye toward Annapolis in 2002. He met with the Calvert County Democratic Club in September.

Duncan, who won a second term as executive in 1998, touted the virtues of local government in his remarks to the Calvert Democrats. He acknowledged last month that he is strongly considering a run for governor and has begun gathering money with that in mind, including at a fund-raiser last night in Bethesda.

Then it was C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, the Baltimore County executive. He spoke to the Democratic Club of St. Mary's County last month. Like Duncan, he was elected to a second term last year and is viewed as one of the three leading contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2002.

The third likely candidate, of course, is Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. In a Mason-Dixon poll a month ago, she led all others with a 50 percent favorable rating. Duncan drew 27 percent, and Ruppersberger was at 26 percent.

Bel Alton School Project Gets $45,000 Grant

Efforts to preserve and renovate the former Bel Alton School received a $45,000 boost last week with a grant from the Maryland Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program.

The money will pay for a survey of the condition of the property, on Crain Highway in Bel Alton. That work is expected to produce a preliminary cost estimate for rehabilitating the school and designing a multi-service center there, Charles County commissioners announced.

The Bel Alton Alumni Association, which leases the former school from the county, has proposed establishing a center there as part of an effort to revitalize southern Charles County. Under that plan, the school would be home to services--public and private--that promote self-help, housing opportunities and economic development to assist unemployed and underemployed residents of the area.

Tri-County Council Plan Gets Seal of Approval

The Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland was recognized recently with the 1999 Smart Growth Award from the Maryland Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The award was presented to the regional development agency for Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties in recognition of the "innovative regional planning efforts" that produced the Southern Maryland Regional Strategy, a long-term plan adopted by the council at the end of September.

Council Chairman John C. Smith Jr. of Calvert, former Charles County schools superintendent John Bloom and Council Executive Director David M. Jenkins accepted the award at the state planning group's annual dinner in Baltimore. Smith noted the involvement of more than 300 citizens in developing the regional strategy, and he praised the work of Gary V. Hodge, former executive director of the council, in crafting the document.

The strategy presents ways that Southern Maryland can cope with residential growth while retaining some of the area's rural characteristics that many residents value.

No Cost to Call Charles County Government

Keep those calls coming.

The Charles County commissioners recently signed up for a toll-free line for county government.

County offices can be reached at 1-877-807-8790.