Patoka Finding First Term Rewarding and Challenging

County Councilman Izzy Patoka represents Baltimore County’s 2nd District. (Susan C. Ingram photo)

Four months into his first term on the Baltimore County Council, Izzy Patoka is all smiles greeting a reporter at his Towson office. Serving constituents in the county’s 2nd District seems to suit the 61-year-old Sudbrook Park resident, who has been busy attending town halls, dealing with council legislation and meeting with state legislators as the county’s representative on the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) legislative committee.

As a veteran of city, county and state government jobs as well as in health care policy and community relations in the private sector, Patoka said that experience certainly counts, but being an elected official is new. Running for county council is one thing; governing is another.

Nevertheless, Patoka said his mission on the campaign trail was the same as his current mission — listening to and efficiently serving District 2 residents. As part of his duties representing the county for MACo, Patoka heads to Annapolis every Wednesday – familiar territory from eight years in the governor’s office.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. also travels to Annapolis each Wednesday, where he and Patoka represent Baltimore County at legislative committee meetings.

“The MACo staff will pull out bills they believe impact the counties across the state,” Patoka said. “It’s a good way for them to get their members to vote on a bill and counties have a say in decisions being made in Annapolis.”

For Olszewski and for Patoka, an issue that looms large is school funding, including continuing plans for new school construction and renovation.

Patoka at the opening of NextAct Cinema at the Pikes. (Susan C. Ingram)

“Bedford Elementary and Summit Park Elementary are extremely important to me and it’s something that I’m advocating for,” Patoka said. “We can’t do it without help from the state of Maryland. Any chance I get to strengthen the chance of those schools getting under construction as quickly as possible, I’m going to take advantage of that. There’s no better investment than what we can do for our children.”

While Patoka heard similar concerns from constituents while on the campaign trail, including Pikesville Armory redevelopment, pedestrian safety and new development in the Falls Road corridor, now he can take action.

“The bread and butter of being a council member is constituent services,” he said.

According to Patoka’s staff, the office had 111 requests for service in March with 94.6 percent resolved and 5.4 percent in progress. In February there were 101 requests with 83 percent resolved.

With the redevelopment of Pikesville Armory under study, area stakeholders are interested in uses for the historic property including as an arts facility, recreation facility and mixed-use development.

“Hopefully they’ll be bold ideas that come forward,” Patoka said. “And it’ll be a great destination point.”

Patoka credits Olszewski’s leadership with transparency and responsiveness of county agencies Patoka works with to resolve constituent requests.

“He’s clearly shown signs of a good leader where he’s directed his department heads to have a good relationship and good communications with the council members, because he feels that council members know their district the best,” Patoka said.

(Susan C. Ingram photo)

For his part, Olszewski, also in his first term, enjoys a good working relationship with Patoka.

“In just a few months on the job, Izzy and I have found a lot of opportunities to work together toward our shared goals for the county,” Olszewski said. “Second district residents are fortunate to have him as their advocate. We share a lot of the same values and commitments to our constituents, and I am looking forward to our continued working relationship to build a better Baltimore County.”

Legislation-wise, Patoka supported the administration’s package of ethics reforms and a bill for public financing of local campaigns. In addition, Patoka’s bill amending zoning regulations for animal boarding places, kennels and pet shops in residential zones passed and goes into effect April 15, 2019.

For Patoka, the challenges of the office include the volume of constituent issues, complexity of legislation and the numbers of contracts requiring close attention.

“It’s an elevated level of responsibility. Every decision you make is the decision made with your heart and your head. And you have to have those working in sync with your gut,” Patoka said. “We work together as a team to try to resolve these.”

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