At least one new member of the Board of Commissioners will emerge from Tuesday's election in Charles County.
This year, candidates' management skills and support for diverse representation have shared the campaign stage with perennial growth-related issues such as how to provide the roads, schools, services -- and jobs -- needed by the county's expanding population.
Board President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large) is running unopposed for a third term as president and fifth as a commissioner. Incumbents W. Daniel Mayer (R-La Plata), Al Smith (R-Waldorf) and Robert J. Fuller (D-St. Charles) also seek reelection.
Two self-described visionaries with long ties to the county are lined up for the open District 2 seat being vacated by Commissioner Jim Jarboe (D), who is running for state delegate. Democrat Wayne Cooper and Republican John D. Rutherford both seek to represent the large western district. Each says his professional and leadership experience sets him apart.
Cooper, an environmental contractor from White Plains, prescribes a proactive, 20-year vision for the county that would include five-year incremental plans and annual accountability reports to citizens. He said his tenure as chairman of the Charles County Board of Education is evidence of his effective leadership.
"When I started on the school board six years ago, we gave our children hope," he said. "In the next six years, if we don't have jobs and a quality community for these kids to remain in, then we have given them false hope. I'm not happy with this being called a bedroom community."
Rutherford prides himself on being tapped into the Charles business community. The retired Air Force test pilot owns Classic Image Salon & Day Spa with his wife in Waldorf. He envisions economic growth that will supply more local jobs for county residents.
He also emphasizes the need to deal with what he calls "general housekeeping" issues, such as improving basic amenities for the county's impoverished families.
"If we can spend $3 million to enclose a swimming pool at a high school . . . we can come up with a little bit of money to help people get plumbing in their house," he said.
Representing all county residents has been a theme in the District 3 race, where Smith faces Reginald Kearney, a Democrat from Waldorf and the only African American candidate. Kearney said Smith has neglected his minority constituents.
Kearney said he would add diversity and a new perspective on education, affordable housing and economic development to the board. "I bring new vision," he said. "I'm going to bring energy to the board. I just don't feel like he's taken care of the total community."
Smith, a Waldorf Republican who owns a stamp and seal company and was appointed to his seat in May 2001, said he has tried to keep race out of the campaign. Since he has been in office, he said, he has tried to bring a higher quality of life to all citizens, "regardless of race, income, religion [or] education."
He said his experience as an Air Force supplies director taught him the discipline a commissioner needs to manage budgets and work with limited resources.
"I thought the race for commissioner would be decided on who was the most qualified, capable, experienced leader," he said. "I am absolutely the most qualified person to serve the county at this time."
In other races, Mayer faces Virginia Benedict, a library assistant from Newburg, as he seeks his third term representing District 1. Benedict, a Democrat, said she would bring "commitment, dedication and hard work" to the office.
Mayer said that orchestrating the county's billion-dollar budget will require "a degree of managerial skill and knowledge. . . . I bring that to the table."
Redrawn commissioner districts have pitted two former colleagues against each other in District 4. Incumbent Fuller faces Marvin C. Kisamore (R), a retired sheriff's deputy who served as a county commissioner from 1994 to 1998.
All five commissioners are elected by the voters countywide to four-year terms. Local political observers noted that an array of pressing issues will confront the elected commissioners during the next four years, including road upgrades and construction that could be hampered by the current state budget shortfall.
"I really appreciate that these people want to run for public service," said Tom Earnest, a Waldorf real estate agent who leads the Maryland Association of Realtors political action committee. "It's definitely not for the money. It's a tough job with a lot of aggravation."