Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Me and Chris Merdon

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, September 1, 2006

I first met Chris Merdon in 2001 at a Bob Ehrlich campaign organizing event.  Chris was standing in the corner of a packed room.  The discussion was about the Howard County door-to-door campaign and we were talking about which doors we needed to knock on.  This was the primary and we were close to deciding that we would stick to registered Republican households who voted in the previous primary.  Chris raised his hand and said, “Ehrlich doesn’t face any real competition in a primary.  Why  wouldn’t we knock on Democrat’s doors, after all they vote too?”

Chris’ question was put to us quietly and simply but it silenced the room.  I looked at this guy and I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I say that?”  He cut to the simple conclusion that we needed to forget about the primary and start campaigning in the general election now.  Why didn’t I see the issue with such simple clarity?  Well, end of discussion.  Next topic.  Thanks to that clarity that is what we did and it probably helped the campaign a lot.

I next met Chris Merdon at his home in 2001.  My next door neighbor, Kay Hartleb (Howard County Register of Wills), asked me and my wife to help Chris prepare a mailer for his re-election campaign.  Kay knew I was interested in getting more involved in local politics and thought an introduction to Chris would help a lot.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Kay had mentioned to Chris that I was interested in running for local office.  At the time Chris thought that this might be his last race for political office.  He was going to concentrate on his career and his family.  Chris asked me if I would be interested in running for his seat in 2006 and if so he would be glad to talk to me about it.  I thought it was generous of him to offer his time when he was in the middle of a re-election campaign.  I told him, I thought I was interested and I would be in touch after the election.

We spoke again briefly the night of the 2002 General Election when Chris won over 60% of the vote in District 1.  He came up and said something to this effect.

“This is bitter sweet.  I like serving on the council.  I think I help a lot of people and I contribute to the process, but it takes a lot of time away from my wife and kids.  If you are going to run you need to think about that.”  I told him congratulations and said I would call him.

I did call him.  We probably met about 10 times to discuss a possible run.  After a while I was committed to it.

Well, life has a funny way of changing things.  My wife and I were trying to start a family.  We decided to adopt two children.  My anxiety level was rising.  I wondered if I could make the commitment to elected office and balance that out with the needs of a new family.  Our family was going to be unique.  Two children from Russia adapting to a new culture and language and two parents adjusting as well.  Was I being fair to them.

So, one day at a Republican Club Happy Hour I cornered Chris’ wife Michelle.  I peppered her with questions about how she coped with Chris’s multiple roles.  Husband, father, employee, and member of County Council.  She said to me, and I remember this almost word for word.  “David, in the end it comes down to this.  Chris is the type of person I want to serve in elected office.  To me it is worth it.”  End of conversation.  To date that is the best endorsement Chris’ has ever gotten.

On another occasion, with the adoption right around the corner, I got a call from Chris.  He said, he’d been thinking about my situation and he was concerned for me and my wife.  He said, I will support your decision 100%, but I want you to really think hard about what you are about to do.  He told me that the first thing that I should be concerned about is the kids and my wife.  In my situation that was more important than any other consideration.  There are other elections and other opportunities for community service.  The time will come.

You won’t hear it from Chris, but I am not ashamed to tell you.  He was speaking from first hand knowledge.  His brother adopted from Russia and he isn’t going to interject his family into a political campaign.  My point being, Chris understood more about what I was going to be facing before I fully understood.

At this time I was the only presumed candidate of Council District 1.  Chris wasn’t backing another candidate.  He was interested in the well being of me and my family.  His comments were sincere and I took them to heart.

When my wife and I came home from Russia with the kids Chris and Michelle were among the first people to offer congratulations, introduce their kids to our kids, and be so generous with their attention on our new family I am still grateful.  I had already made the decision not to run – which Chris fully supported.  I told him that if he were to run for County Executive I would be there to help him.  He said, their is time for that.  Take care of your family.

I look at how Chris and Michelle interact with their two children and try to emulate them in some areas.  They are great with them.  I see them at our Church, Republican picnics and other events that are kid friendly and they are all about those two kids.

So now after more than a year our family is doing great.  The kids don’t remember any Russian words, they do very well in school, and they have adjusted (and continue to adjust) very well.  I give my wife most of the credit.  She has been wonderful.  Her firm hand and loving heart has really help our kids.  All mothers are saints – and my wife is a perfect example as to why.

So if anyone wonders why I support Chris Merdon so adamantly it is because:

1.  People and Family come first.
2.  It isn’t Me first.  It is a commitment to public service.
3.  He is bright, intelligent, and sincere.  He gets it.
4.  He knows the issues and he has a plan to deliver on solutions.
5.  He is my friend.

I am going to take it personally when I hear Chris being attacked.  For example, when Ken Ulman said at the Harper’s Choice Forum

“I think it’s kind of interesting that 71 days before an election is the first day I hear my opponent mention Town Center.”

Ken knows full well that Chris Merdon is just as interested in the success of Town Center as he is.  Now, if you don’t live in Columbia you don’t like to hear that Columbia is the heart of Howard County.  The fact is that they are almost synonymous.  Merdon is not going to ignore or only pretend to be interested in Town Center and it is dishonest to suggest that.

Chris understands that Town Center impacts a lot of people – especially families and children.  He is not taking their well being for granted or using it for political fodder.  He understands that quality of life issues are at stake and he wants to ensure that these families are heard and respected.  To suggest otherwise is cynical.

As I pointed out in a previous post “Harper’s Choice Candidate Forum” Chris has long been interested in Town Center.  He is on the record as early as 9 months ago (not 71 days before the election) as saying “…the plan needs more scrutiny from residents.”

Chris’ positions are crystal clear.  He votes what he means.  He thought comp-lite was an affront to the residents and families that were most effected.  He feels that comp-lite completely ignored the concerns of these families and that if the County was really interested in family issues then they would have not permitted comp-lite to develop the way it did.

He recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of our senior citizens and their families, and has presented a plan to help them stay in their homes and reside in the County so they can remain near their families.

He cares about our environment and the well being of our school children.  He also knows that sometimes difficult decisions need to be made to balance out competing priorities.  He isn’t going to promise everything to everyone because he understands that to do so would be irresponsible.  If I could add anything else to Chris Merdon’s credentials as a family man, dedicated public servant, manager, and friend it would be Integrity.  Integrity with his family, friends, community, and in public service.

This man is not full of platitudes.  He is meaningful, thoughtful, deliberate, and dead serious.  He would not, for example, propose changes to zoning laws as window dressing in an attempt to appease the the families affronted by comp-lite.


13 Responses to “Me and Chris Merdon”

  1. Ann said

    I second your comments, he always makes time for family, and that determines the heart of a perso. Michelle is an all around great gal. To use a computer term they are WYSIWYG! BTW – his niece is also adopted from Russia!

  2. Mary Smith said

    Now, David. A heart-felt message like the one above would make Mother Theresa look like a beast for saying anything negative about (Saint) Chris.

    There is another side. I’ll stash it away for now and allow you the dreamy swoon, but reading the above is stirring up a thoughful and poignant response.

    Maybe after the primary…..

  3. Jim Adams said

    Mary Smith, you do add the sizzle to the steak.

    I wish everyone in the world of BLOG, a great long weekend.

  4. ed said

    Mary, have you ever said anything that is not negative about Chris Merdon?

  5. observer said

    I appreciate all of Dave’s comments about his friend Chris, as much as I know about Chris, they all ring true. With regard to Ulman’s smear during Monday’s forum. I think everyone in that room knew as Ken was saying it that his remarks wern’t true. Criticizing Chris for not being involved is just wrong. It is not true and people know it. Good luck trying to sell that one Ken. Ken should instead stand up and say how much he was involved in the Charette process and the preparation of the plans presented there. Any back room deals there with GGP?? How he thought a 23 story Plaza Tower was such a great idea he did nothing to help the neighbors who opposed it. How he thought putting a public road through the area where the “Hug” statue stands was a great idea. How he thought tearing down the former Rouse building to build another high rise condo would be a great idea. How he thought cramming an additional 5500 residential units onto the crescent property would enhance the livelihood of Merriwether Post — NOT! How he thought moving the CA headquarters to a new building in Symphony Woods would help enhance the scenery there. How he thought adding 21 intersections to the proposed urban street grid would be great for traffic flow — NOT! And lets not forget how all of the proposed construction is going to be great for the environment. Let’s put a mass transit station in the floodplain and wetlands near the library. Let’s have cars idling in traffic all hours of the day. Let’s fill Lake Kittamaqundi with construction sediment again right after it took 10 years to raise the money to dredge it now. Let’s dump hundreds of thousands of tons of nutrient pollution into the bay in the form of nitrogen and phosphorous (found in sewage after treatment). Let’s tax our water supply even further, so when we experience water main breaks or even light droughts, we have to go on water rationing more frequently. Are all of these things, items that Ken thinks contributes to our high standard of living in Howard County? It doesn’t seem that way to me. For someone who says he cares about us and issues like those mentioned above I find that his actions are very contradictory to his words. Ken should stick to improving his own record on the issue of the Master Plan for Columbia, that is all that really needs to be said.

  6. Freemarket said

    Regarding your reasons to vote for Merdon, numbers 1 through 4 are basically rhetoric, which could be said for any qualified candidate, including Ulman. Number 5 is totally irrelevant. I like Merdon because he realizes that there is more to Howard County than Columbia. I am not sure Ulman has figured that out.

  7. hocomd said

    Freemarket, yes they are rhetoric as is 5. Regardless of whether you consider them to be irrelevant or not is irrelevant in itself.

    Please allow me a moment of personal expression if it isn’t too much trouble.

    If you are looking for something more rational and reasoned then please vail yourself of the opportunity to read my other posts on Chris Merdon and you will note that I present much more relevant reasons to vote for Chris Merdon.

  8. Freemarket said

    Sorry if I offended. I read that as if you were making a persuasive argument, but you were just telling a story. Don’t take it personally.

  9. Mary Smith said

    Gosh, I just love this site. There’s always a dialogue, discussion, and disagreement. Even when you all agree!

  10. hocomd said

    That is because I take it all too personally.

  11. Mary Smith said

    David, why is there a large question mark preceding your comments?

  12. Mary Smith said


    Funny, David.

  13. hocomd said

    I wondered too Mary. Then I found out that WordPress added a new feature. I can post my picture as an avatar. If I choose not to a question mark shows up.

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