Two weeks after the sudden overnight death of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County lawmakers have appointed his chief of staff to serve out his term.
In a 7-0 vote Thursday, the Baltimore County Council appointed Don Mohler to be Baltimore County executive for the next five months leading up to the November election.
Councilman Tom Quirk made the motion to appoint Mohler as Kamenetz’s replacement after an hour and a half of discussing the fiscal 2019 budget and various resolutions and bills.
Quirk and others showered praise on Mohler, who served as an adviser for Kamenetz and his predecessor, Jim Smith, and previously worked as a principal and teacher at various Baltimore County public schools before becoming an area superintendent for the county school system.
“He’s a problem solver, and he has a lot of bipartisan support on this council and in the county, and I think right now we need stability,” Quirk, a Democrat, said. He later added, “I think if Kevin Kamenetz was still alive, he would want to continue his agenda, of course, and who better to do that than his own chief of staff and one of his closest advisers?”
Councilmen David Marks, Wade Kach and Todd Crandell, all Republicans, also voiced their support. Marks recounted having “spirited debates” with Mohler about policy, but noted Kamenetz’s former chief of staff “brings administrative skills and a breadth of experience that will be a key asset in the next six months.”
“Mr. Mohler spends much of his time trying to resolve issues, and party affiliation does not ever get in his way. It’s always the issue,” Kach said.
Council Chairman Julian Jones acknowledged he had said in after Kamenetz’s passing that he wanted a current or former elected official to step in to serve out Kamenetz’s term. “It was never personal,” he said while also giving his support for Mohler. “I wish I was right all the time, and I recognize that I’m not.”
Following the unanimous vote, which spurred a standing ovation and round of applause for Mohler, the new appointee stepped up to a microphone near the front of the chamber.
“It was not supposed to be this way,” he began. “My friend, and your county executive, Kevin Kamenetz, was supposed to complete his term in about five months.”
Kamenetz, who was also running for the Democratic nomination for governor, passed away suddenly on May 10 after going into cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife, Jill, and their two sons.
Kamenetz’s chief administrative officer, Fred Homan, had stepped in as acting county executive, but council members still had to vote for their own interim replacement.
Mohler and council members referenced the on-duty killing of Officer Amy Caprio on Monday, nothing her passing on top of Kamenetz’s death has left many grieving and craving stability in Baltimore County.
“This has been an incredibly difficult two weeks for our county… It’s a time to heal,” Mohler said.
He closed by paraphrasing remarks from Jill Kamenetz at her husband’s May 11 funeral.
“She looked at her boys and said, ‘We’re gonna be OK,'” Mohler said. “I would say to you that my goal is, for the next five months, ‘We’re gonna be OK.'”
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