Jerry Walker was appointed to the position of President and CEO of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC) by new County Executive Steuart Pittman. “We share a commitment to economic growth that benefits local communities,” Pittman wrote in a statement.
In today’s age of hyper-partisanship, you don’t get to see many members of one party appointing members of another party to serve in their government. Yet, this is exactly what happened here, as Pittman is a Democrat and Walker a Republican.
Jerry Walker served eight years as an independently-minded but generally conservative member of the County Council, representing the south county-based District 7. Even while he was in that position, there were rumors that he had ambitions to run for County Executive. Walker had not always agreed with the county’s Republican machine led by then-County Executive Steve Schuh, voting with the council’s three Democratic members more often than any other Republican on the council during that time. When former County Executive John Leopold resigned in disgrace in 2012 and Schuh applied for the vacancy, Walker and the Democrats voted for Laura Neuman instead. When the rotating chairmanship of the council was due to pass to controversial far-right councilman Michael Peroutka, Walker and the Democrats instead voted to make Walker the chairman and Democrat Pete Smith the vice-chair.
Term-limited after 2018 and with Schuh (seemingly) comfortably running for re-election as County Executive that year, Walker decided to run for the House of Delegates in District 33. The district already had a full slate of Republicans running for re-election but one of them, Tony McConkey, was considered a weak link. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the county machine immediately began attacking Walker with vicious mailers and unfair attack ads. While his campaign raised a healthy amount of money, Walker fell about 1,000 votes short of unseating McConkey.
There is almost certainly no love lost between Walker and the county’s Republican elites, and there were some people in local Democratic Party circles who mused whether Walker would be interested in switching parties and running for office in 2022. Instead, he was selected by Pittman to head the AAEDC.
Undoubtedly, Walker is extremely qualified for the job and Pittman made a smart pick that will serve the county immensely. However, what of Walker’s higher ambitions? Will he run against Pittman in 2022 as he was initially expected to? Will he try to unseat Democratic delegate Heather Bagnall, who defeated the vulnerable McConkey in the general election? Will he switch parties to Democrat or Independent and wait until 2026 to make a bid for the county’s highest office? Or will he stay involved in local, but unelected, politics?
Only time will tell, but Anne Arundel County residents should be grateful until election season rolls around that we have such a talented and capable person heading up economic development.