By Aaron Lighter
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Johnny Olszewski Jr. was sworn in as Baltimore County’s next executive on Dec. 3 with the hope that he will work well with the County Council, make good on his promise to improve schools and perhaps position himself for a gubernatorial run in the not too distant future, political analysts said in a series of interviews over the past week.
The 36-year-old Democrat’s victory over Republican Al Redmer also increased the confidence of his party’s leadership.
“Democrats have won most of the county executive seats but overall Democrats have not been winning in Baltimore County over the last decade the way they once did,” said Tara Ebersole, who is the chair of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee. “(Olszewski’s) victory was solid and it was significant as we try to win back voters in this county.”
Olszewski, who did not respond to requests for an interview for this story, also brought a different energy to the election, which County Council Chair Julian Jones Jr., a Democrat, said helped him win.
“His excitement brought a certain air of enthusiasm,” Jones said. “He presented himself very well with fresh new ideas and people gravitated to him.”
Councilman Tom Quirk, D-District 1, echoed those thoughts.
“(Olszewski) appeals to lots of different voters,” Quirk said. “He comes across as genuine and transparent.”
The top area of focus for Olszewski is education, which comes as no surprise to many given his background.
Olszewski attended Sparrows Point High School, where he got his foot in the door in politics by serving as the student member of the Baltimore County Board of Education.
During his campaign, he considered education to be “the cornerstone of my campaign” and deemed it “the reason I’m running.”
School infrastructure will be a focal point for Olszewski and the council as schools are in need of new buildings and renovations.
Councilman David Marks, R-District 5, said he is hopeful that Olszewski and the council will be able to “advance the three new high schools needed in Baltimore County.”
Olszewski also campaigned for smaller class sizes with hopes to improve the quality of education, along with a higher pay for teachers.
“You hear it over and over again, what the citizens want is to receive a good education,” Jones said.
But the costs required for new schools, more teachers and higher teacher salary could result higher taxes, some suggested.
“I am hopeful that we can address our budget problems without a major tax increase,” Marks said.
Olszewski also aims to have good government in place, which he hopes to make more transparent and more accessible. One way of doing this was by giving citizens a way to send thoughts and ideas in with email@example.com.
“I think people will be happy with his leadership and openness,” Jones said. “He’s reaching out to communities and embracing the ideas people have talked about.”
Along with his promise to be open with the public, Olszewski set out to have a good working relationship with the council members. He reinforced this after his inauguration by paying the council a visit immediately after.
“He has a reputation for collegiality,” Marks said. “I am looking forward to a constructive, bipartisan relationship that solves problems.”
While his tenure in its infant stages, there is the possibility of greater things to come for Olszewski. One of the possibilities, local officials said, is a run at governor in either four or eight years.
“I believe Johnny has a lot of momentum right now,” Ebersole said. “I also believe he has the capacity to spread his deep knowledge of our county into that for the entire state. Therefore, I feel he could make a strong gubernatorial candidate. But we do need to first see how successful he is in his current role and try not to jump ahead. A lot can change in 4-8 years.”
“Johnny has a very bright future,” Jones said. “If that’s something he wants to do, he’ll do well at it.”