Vicki Almond Joins County Executive Race

Screenshot of Vicki Almond’s website

When Vicki Almond contemplated a location to launch her campaign for Baltimore County executive, she sought a central gathering place. Without much hesitation, she selected Foundry Row, where she announced her candidacy on Wednesday surrounded by hundreds of family, friends and supporters.

Almond (D-District 2) touts the sprawling $140 million, 50-acre mixed-use redevelopment complex at the site of the former Solo Cup factory on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills among her biggest victories on the Baltimore County Council.

“The decision for Foundry Row to move forward was a big one for me,” Almond told the JT beforehand. “It showed my strength. It also showed that I think about things that are best for the community, not what is best for certain people.”

Although the project was met with opposition from some developers, community organizations and individuals, many residents rallied behind the Wegmans-anchored 350,000-square-foot retail center, which opened in September 2016 to great fanfare.

If elected county executive, Almond promises to push for similar development around the county to encourage more investment from businesses and to help create jobs. She said it is important that residents and people who live and work in an area have an incentive to stay.

“I talk to so many people all the time about where they want to see the county go,” said Almond, who is in her second and final term on the council. “Many people feel the county is in a good position — and I agree with that — but I also think it is time to move it forward. We have a good foundation. Let’s get going.”

For Almond, making balanced development decisions that can spawn economic growth is the key to moving the county forward, she said. She points to a county-commissioned three-phase study of the Pikesville Commercial Revitalization District and the transfer of 117 of 178 acres of the former Rosewood Center to Stevenson University in her district as prime examples.

“That’s an important piece I don’t think we talk enough about when we’re talking about communities,” Almond said of development. “It’s not community against developer. That’s what I think some people don’t realize. Having economic development in the area in the right place helps sustain the wonderful communities Baltimore County has.”

With Almond’s entrance, the 2018 race for county executive is fully underway.

Almond, 68, of Reisterstown joins what figures to be a spirited Democratic primary. Former state delegate Johnny Olszewski Jr. and state Sen. Jim Brochin (D-District 42) have already filed for the June 26 primary contest.

Two Republicans, state Del. Pat McDonough (D-District 7) and state insurance commissioner Al Redmer, are also vying to succeed incumbent Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who is term-limited and running for governor.

Almond said that, if elected, she would focus on public safety, education and programs and housing for seniors, among other initiatives. For instance, she recently formed a committee that includes representatives from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore agency CHANA and the Baltimore County Department of Aging and a Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company firefighter to tackle the issue of elder abuse.

“I think this is a conversation that really needs to be had, and I’m not sure anybody is having it at the moment. So we’re going to start it,” said Almond, who added that the committee has held one meeting and is expected to meet again this week.

Since the office of Baltimore County executive was established in 1956, no woman has ever been elected to the seat. Almond is one of only three women to have been elected to the County Council and the only to chair the County Council twice.

But Almond said her run is not so much to represent her gender, it’s more about taking her passion for the county and her experience in community advocacy and government to even greater heights.

“I’m a community advocate,” Almond said. “I always have been, and that’s where I come from. It’s where my base is.”

She understands a primary contest between herself, Brochin and Olszewski involves three very different personalities who have represented distinct swathes in the Democratic-rich county.

Nonetheless, Almond said she is up to the challenge.

A Catonsville High School attendee, Almond’s involvement in schools began as a volunteer in the 1980s. She spent time as PTA president at Franklin Middle School and Franklin High School. She also helped start Baltimore County’s School Resource Officer program, which stations uniformed police officers in Baltimore County schools. In the political arena, she cut her teeth as campaign manager for Del. Dana Stein (D-District 11) in 2006 and then as chief of staff for state Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-District 11).

Brochin, 53, of Cockeysville is Jewish and has spent four terms representing Towson and parts of northern Baltimore County in the state senate. He considers himself socially liberal, pointing to his support of same-sex marriage and decriminalizing cannabis, and fiscally conservative, noting he was the only Democrat to filibuster against Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tax increases in 2007. A Pikesville High School graduate, he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a master’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Olszewski, 34, of Dundalk is a former teacher who works for software company SAS. On his campaign website, Olszewski states improving the public school system, creating more jobs and improving government transparency are among his top initiatives. A graduate of Sparrows Point High School, he holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and American studies from Goucher College and a master’s degree in political leadership from George Washington University. He is on track to earn his doctoral
degree in public policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County this winter.

The general election is on Nov. 6, 2018.

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