By Jacob Stolzenbach and G. Synade Beason
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writers
Baltimore County voters have a clear choice in November’s midterm election: select a leader with tons of experience who maintains tradition or one with progressive new ideas to embrace future opportunities.
That was the message of Republican Al Redmer, Jr., of Middle River, and former state Del. John “Johnny O” Olszewski, Jr., a Democrat from Dundalk, during a forum on Tuesday that was sponsored by the Towson Chamber of Commerce.
“I know how to run large and small organizations, create culture, and set expectations and accountability with results,” Redmer told a group of about 80 who gathered for breakfast at the Sheraton Baltimore North in Towson. “I can manage multimillion dollar budgets.”
Redmer, 62, is serving his second term as Maryland’s insurance commissioner. He spent 13 years in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1990-2003, including two terms as House minority leader. Early in his career, he served on the Republican Central Committee.
“I plan to continue to talk about how to work with people to get things done in the coming weeks,” said Olszewski who favors the nickname Johnny O. “I am innovative and not constrained by the way things have always been done.”
Johnny O, 36, was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates at age 23. In the eight years he spent in that seat, he was selected to head the Baltimore County House Delegation. He taught seven years in Baltimore County schools and said his experience enlightened him in ways to change education in Baltimore County.
The Baltimore Business Journal moderated the forum. Editor Joanna Sullivan asked questions that allowed the candidates to outline their experience in politics and government, as well as plans for the county.
“My top three priorities are to address increased crime and public safety, education, and a long term plan for Baltimore County,” said Redmer, who as insurance commissioner served under former Gov. Robert Ehrlich and now closely aligns himself with Gov. Larry Hogan in the campaign.
He added, “There’s no long-term budget for Baltimore. We need a multiyear budget working with chambers, legislators, and interested parties by quantifying and prioritizing unmet needs while addressing short term solutions.”
Redmer said the bond rating should be used to keep taxes down.
“The budget is maxed out,” he said. “We are at risk of losing the Triple-A bond rating”
Johnny O described his desire to meet basic needs of Baltimore County through leadership that forges partnerships with private sectors and communities alike. In fact, he offered to work with the Chamber of Commerce to capitalize on investments that would put the “county on the map and eventually be able to compete with Howard County for jobs and new residents.”
“I plan to do this through the use of Job Connector,” said Johnny O, explaining that he would work “with neighborhoods on redevelopment, and facilitating better use of anchor institutions.”
He also stressed that county schools should be provided such basic needs as air conditioning, food for hungry children and clean water.
“There are approximately 2,000 homeless students in the county,” said Johnny O.
Chamber of Commerce members stressed the importance of sponsoring such a discussion.
“The candidates have different viewpoints and I hope that people take the time to do their research,” said Susanne Forno, director of Finance and Communications. “I am glad chambers brought them together for the business community, so that we can make educated decisions on who will be in office.”