Candidates Discuss Their Plans For Office: County Executive


In our May edition, we featured a Meet the Candidates segment with bios on the people running for office. With early voting for the primary election starting on July 7 and Election Day scheduled for July 19, we asked the candidates about their priorities and experience.

While not every candidate could respond, we hope the responses we collected will inform voters headed to the polls this month. Some responses have been edited due to space limitations.

County Executive

Fernando Berra III

What would be your three priorities upon taking office?

First, I will work on short-term solutions to address those problems immediately — focus on a long–term vision to implement real, long–lasting solutions to these issues without wasting money and resources.

My platform revolves around “We the People,” ergo, I will address what the Anne Arundel citizens consider to be the most pressing issues: crime, drugs and the economy.

For crime, and drug interdiction, I will reallocate some of the funding from the 2023 county budget to hire more police officers and increase police presence in our communities. I will ensure that our schools are secured and have police presence in every school. Lastly, l will make sure that all law enforcement agencies have the tools necessary to perform the job that they have been entrusted to do.

For the economy, I will explore the ability to provide zero–interest loans to small businesses as well as zero–interest loans to Anne Arundel students for them to complete their degree. An investment in our local small businesses and students is an investment in our community.

Parallel to addressing those, I will work to remove all laws, statues and codes that violate our constitutional rights; our Anne Arundel codes and regulations need to be revised as they are old and antiquated. I will apply engineering skill sets to reconfigure our county government to make it more efficient and more cost-effective, thereby minimizing the cost associated with a large county government — freeing budgetary money to address other county issues such as hiring more teachers, firefighters and EMS personnel.

What would be the greatest challenge you would face in this office?

The biggest challenge is going to be removing all the bureaucratic processes in our county and challenging those same processes at the state level, processes that in some cases violate our U.S. constitutional rights. However, I accept the challenge as this is the very reason as to why I am running for the county executive office.

What aspect of your background or your experience sets you apart from others running for this office?

I consider myself to be driven and innovative, a critical thinker preferring to use an “outside of the box” approach when searching for solutions to complex problems — whether technical or programmatic. In my field, problems are opportunities waiting for the right solution.

I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering (BEEE) and a master’s degree in systems engineering (MSESE). Systems engineering is the management of complex engineering projects — from cradle to grave — that includes the management of personnel, operations and budget.

I have worked for the last 27 years with many United States government agencies — including the Department of Defense — on matters of national security and military weapons systems. In that time, I have expanded my management and mitigation skills to address complex issues. I have many proven successes in managing complex projects and delivering quality products within the constraints of schedule, technical complexity, and more importantly, within budget.

Jessica Haire

What would be your three priorities upon taking office?

My top three priorities in office are lowering taxes; supporting our police, firefighters, and public safety officers; and modernizing the county government.

What would be the greatest challenge you would face in this office?

The looming recession and excessive inflation will have substantial impacts on local government over the next several years. Coupled with the current administration's circumvention of the voter-imposed property tax cap, increase in income taxes, and increase in county fees for services, the county is facing significant budgetary challenges. Breaking the cycle of the current administration's tax and spend policies will take dedication and engineered solutions.

What aspect of your background or your experience sets you apart from others running for this office?

I'm the only candidate with the unique combination of civil engineering experience, legal experience and county council experience. I'm ready to take action on day one and have the qualifications to make meaningful impacts in the county.

Chris Jahn

What would be your three priorities upon taking office?

There are quite a few priorities that my administration will have to address. More than we can discuss in this forum. I would invite you to visit my website,, for more detailed positions. Below are my top three priorities.

A Healthy Business Community

A strong business community is vital for all of us. Helping businesses to start up, come back from closing and growing existing businesses is truly a win-win for everyone. How do we ensure our business community flourishes? County government needs to remove some of the barriers that make it hard for companies to start and compete. Twenty percent of all businesses fail in the first two years. By minimizing startup fees, we will be able to help new businesses thrive during that critical time.

The County Budget

Having spent nearly 30 years in management and customer service, I am very bottom-line oriented. In this case, our customers are the taxpayers, and the bottom line is our tax dollars. We need to get the most out of those dollars every single day. I believe that those in leadership positions, those with direct budgeting accountability, can do a better job making sure that tax dollars are not spent needlessly.

Fighting Crime

I will work with the legislative branch to ensure that we have laws that make sense, work for everyone, and have penalties that fit. I will work with the judicial branch to ensure that those who break the law are held accountable. I will work with the chief of police and the sheriff to ensure that our law enforcement officers have the tools and resources they need to enforce the law. While I believe that people make mistakes and deserve a second chance, I also believe that a person needs to be held accountable for their actions.

What would be the greatest challenge you would face in this office?

I believe my greatest challenge will be winning the hearts and minds of the existing department heads. In almost three decades in management and leadership, I have been a part of change in leadership at all levels. I have seen change in leadership in levels above me, I have been the new leader taking over and I have worked with new managers as they take over in their new leadership position.

There are those leaders who will start their new position by removing all department heads and replacing them with “their” people. I do not fall into this category. While there will be a certain amount of turnover in key positions such as chief of staff and so forth, most of our department heads are simply hardworking men and women trying to do a difficult job to the best of their ability. The more turnover at the top of an organization, the more uncertain and unsteady that organization will become.

There are also leaders that will step into their new role and simply try to fit in. They do not want to rock the boat, so they keep steering the boat in the same direction. I do not fall into this category either.

What aspect of your background or your experience sets you apart from others running for this office?

I believe that my extensive background in management and leadership will separate me from my competitors. For the past 15 years, I have worked for a franchise of Valvoline Instant Oil Change. With this organization, I have managed an individual retail location for several years as well as worked as an area manager, overseeing the operations of as many as 12 locations. Supervising 12 managers taught me that what works for and motivates one person does not necessarily work for or motivate another. At that level, you need to vary your management style to fit the person you are leading.

This is a critical difference between my leadership experience and the leadership experience of my competitors. The county executive office is a management and leadership position. While most of the competition has more legislative experience, I have almost three decades of real-world management and leadership experience.

Eight years as an area manager has led me to where I am today as the corporate recruiter. I have learned countless lessons from the company that I currently work for. Live your value system and you will prosper, for one. Train and develop your team. Doing so will ingrain loyalty and the team will gladly follow.

Herb McMillan

What would be your three priorities upon taking office?

My first three priorities will focus on activities and efforts that instill great confidence among the voters, business community and agencies throughout the county, showing them that they will have a great government, with an open door to their needs, over the next four years. My priorities when I become county executive will demonstrate that I mean what I say and I say what I mean, and that my campaign commitments were not just empty election-year talk.

My first priority is to ensure that not only do we have a strong county executive but also that those who work for the county are the right people and doing the right things. Therefore, I would ask those who have been wasting government funds to resign their positions while I recruit and hire the most qualified people for the job. With them in place, we would do an assessment of departments to understand where there is waste, where we can improve, where we can upgrade technology or processes to streamline government services. I would work closely with the Republicans on the county council, including Nathan Volke and Amanda Fiedler, with whom I already have good relationships.

My second priority would be to closely scrutinize the budget and make any necessary changes to ensure that we can roll back property and rain taxes, while offering the income tax cut of 12% I have committed to.

My third priority would be to improve public safety. I would meet immediately with law enforcement and first responders to collaborate on activities that would increase respect for them within the community and ensure that we can provide for their budgetary and equipment needs.

What would be the greatest challenge you would face in this office?

Poor economic policies at the national and state levels could adversely impact what we do in the county. While we can’t elect a new president for another few years, I hope that voters will put a Republican back in the governor’s mansion, a Republican who will collaborate on strong economic policies that will be good for Anne Arundel County.

While I have successfully worked with Democrats, and even got my legislation to cut property taxes passed when I was on a Democrat-majority council, and I helped get other taxes and fees cut when I was in the Democrat-majority House of Delegates, I know that inflation and other economic challenges will need to be properly addressed at the county level.

What aspect of your background or your experience sets you apart from others running for this office?

I think voters should consider two things when voting in the upcoming primary election: the electability of a candidate in the general election, and what the candidate will do upon victory. I am the Republican with the strongest chance of electability in the November election. I have a proven record of winning over Democrats and independents in hard elections, without compromising my values.

It is not just about who can get through a Republican primary, but who can beat Steuart Pittman in November. My record shows that in addition to the Republican voters, I can attract enough Democrats and Independents to win, and polling shows that I could be a formidable challenge to Pittman, and I can beat him.

My experience in government, military and the private sector also set me apart from my Republican challengers. The military helped build my character and integrity, developed my leadership skills, and enabled me to demonstrate my commitment to serving the people and government of the United States; it is not about my own interests, but about public service.

I have the most experience in creating and passing legislation, have zero charges or allegations of illegal activity and ethics violations in office (unlike my key opponent), and have not resorted to the low level of lying about an opponent’s record. I offer voters a refreshing choice of having strong conservative values while also being independent of the political machine that puts politics over people.

John Grasso and Steuart Pittman could not be reached.


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