Wearing a pin given to him by the widow of the late county executive Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County’s new executive took the oath of office Monday before a crowd of hundreds in Towson.
John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. (D) was sworn in around 11:15 a.m., after the oaths had been administered to members of the county council, board of education and judicial offices.
County Executive Donald I. Mohler III (D), who was appointed to the office in the spring after the unexpected death of Kamenetz, served as the master of ceremony. He recalled Olszewski’s career of public service, including his time as a student member of the Baltimore County Board of Education.
“I can remember meeting after meeting where we would be talking about Johnny and his leadership at 16 years old. You could see the commitment to public service. He was wise beyond his years,” said Mohler, who was a member of the superintendent’s cabinet at the time. “He had a vision and a way of analyzing issues that’s just gotten stronger and stronger and stronger over the years. When he was 16 years old, he could envision a better Baltimore County.”
Mohler also recalled Olszewski’s career as a school teacher and his time in the Maryland General Assembly, where he was elected to the House of Delegates at the age of 23, going on to become chairman of the county delegation, an advocate for working families and a key vote for marriage equality.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you have elected, and we are swearing in, a principled leader,” Mohler said.
For his part, Olszewski thanked Mohler for being a “steady hand” the county needed and “a leader who pushed us forward in the right direction who has left your own very positive mark on county government.”
Olszewski took the oath of office with his wife, Marisa, and young daughter, Daria, by his side.
In his inaugural speech, Olszewski promised to expand access to prekindergarten and community college and to rebuild the county’s aging schools.
“Every family in Baltimore County deserves the opportunity to achieve economic stability and security. A robust and dynamic education system is the foundation to that stability, but it’s only the beginning,” said Olszewski, noting that he is the first public school teacher sworn to the office.
Olszewski said his administration would face “head-on” economic challenges, including the recently announced closure of the General Motors plant in White Marsh.
“In Baltimore County, we to rise to these challenges. When the steel mills closed, our communities didn’t give up; we went to work,” Olszewski said.
The newly minted county executive also said he would issue his first executive order Monday, creating a commission to examine the county’s budget process and make recommendations based on national best practices. He also said he will work with budget officers and the county’s information technology office to release the information for his first budget as executive online to allow more public input.
Olszewski is a lifelong Baltimore County resident who graduated Sparrows Point High School and Goucher College, before receiving a master’s degree from George Washington University. Last year, he received a doctorate degree in public policy from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Also Monday, the seven members of the Baltimore County Council were sworn in. Newcomer Izzy Patoka (D) joined incumbents Cathy Bevins (D), Todd Crandell (R), Julian E. Jones Jr. (D), A. Wade Kach (R), David Marks (R) and Tom Quirk (D). The new council’s first meeting was scheduled for this afternoon.
A number of state and local officials were on hand for Monday’s ceremony, including former county executives James T. Smith Jr. (D), U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger III (D), Roger B. Hayden (R), Dennis F. Rasmussen (D), Donald P. Hutchinson (D) and Theodore G. “Ted” Venetoulis (D).
Olszewski’s campaign is holding an inaugural celebration Saturday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Tickets must be purchased in advance at http://baltimorecountyinauguration.com.