There hasn't been a Republican chairman of the Baltimore County Council in nearly 20 years but that would change tonight if Todd Huff has his way.
Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat is expected to succeed Vicki Almond as chairman when the council meets tonight in its first legislative session of the year. Huff has expressed interest in bumping his colleague from the predetermined rotation.
"I would like the opportunity," Huff said in an interview late last year.
"I enjoyed working with all my colleagues," Huff said. "I feel like I could be a strong leader and it would show true bipartisanship on the council."
The largely administrative job pays $6,000 more than the council salary of $54,000. That temporary salary bump does affect the pensions of councilmembers, which are based on the highest annual salary earned.
Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, was slated to lead the council this year but was moved up to 2012 after the five freshman members raised questions about Councilman Ken Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, after it was reported he held a state job in violation of the County Charter.
Control of the chairmanship typically goes to the majority party. In 1990, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 4-3 on the council. Councilman Doug Riley, a Towson Republican, became the first Republican to lead the council that year. Don Mason, a Dundalk Democrat who won his seat on an anti-property tax campaign and frequently voted with Republicans, was the difference in that vote.
Democrats outnumber Republicans on the council 5-2. To successfully challenge Quirk, Huff will need the help of his Democratic colleagues. Almond and Bevins have pledged their votes to Quirk, in keeping with the pre-ordained rotation.
Huff said he's been speaking to members about the vote including Oliver and John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat.
Olszewski was unavailable for comment. Oliver declined to say how he would vote but said he would consider Huff.
Quirk was among a number of freshman councilmembers who opposed a proposed pension change sought by County Administrative Fred Homan. That opposition later caused councilmembers to claim Kamenetz cut budgets for road repairs in their districts in retaliation. Quirk and Councilman David Marks also raised questions about plans for the county Employees Retirement System to loan the county $25 million for a new recycling facility.
Huff, Oliver and Olszewski supported the pension change and received extra money for road projects in their districts when their colleagues received cuts.
The fact that Huff is expressing a public interest highlights some divisions on the council between freshman and veteran members of the council as well as those within the two parties themselves.
If Huff could get Oliver and Olszewski to back him, that would put Republican Councilman David Marks in the position of deciding the next leader of the council.
Marks closest colleagues on the council are Almond and Quirk and he has a working relationship with Bevins, who is expected to back Quirk. On the other hand, Marks' relationship with Huff has been strained at times even though the Perry Hall Republican said it has improved over the last six months or so.
"I would hope my fellow Republican would support me," Huff said.