Peter I. Smith

New Anne Arundel County Councilmember Peter I. Smith, pictured with his 1-month-old son, Tristan. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / The Baltimore Sun / February 23, 2012)

Anne Arundel County Council members on Monday night appointed Marine Reservist Peter I. Smith to a vacant seat on the council, ending a weeks-long impasse that drew fierce criticism from residents.

Councilman Richard B. "Dick" Ladd, a Severna Park Republican, broke the deadlock, switching to pick Smith in the 108th round of voting. The council voted 4 to 2 for Smith.

"It is with some trepidation that I will change my vote for Mr. Smith," said Ladd, before casting his vote. Many in the audience clapped upon hearing his announcement.

Council Chairman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican, said Smith would be sworn in at the council's next meeting April 2.

"Wow," said Smith, 31, a Severn Democrat. "I'm just grateful the council came to a conclusion. I think we got a lot of work going forward, and I'm just happy to be a part of that process."

His competitor, former State Sen. Michael J. Wagner, 70, a Ferndale business owner, shook hands with Smith and left after the announcement.

Wagner, a Democrat, said he was "relieved" it was over.

"I certainly wish him well," Wagner said of Smith. "He's probably got some catching up to do, but I'm sure he'll do well."

The council voted to vacate the District 1 seat formerly held by Daryl D. Jones, who began serving a five-month federal prison term in January. Ten people applied for the seat and the council whittled the contenders down to Wagner and Smith, but were deadlocked 3-3 over who to appoint.

Ladd left the meeting quickly after it adjourned and did not comment. Council members Fink and John J. Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, voted for Wagner.

Councilmen Jerry Walker, a Gambrills Republican, and Democrats Jamie Benoit of Crownsville and Chris Trumbauer of Annapolis voted for Smith.

Trumbauer applauded Ladd. "I think the county owes Dick Ladd a debt of gratitude. He showed some leadership and rescued us from this standoff."

Grasso called the end to the impasse "bittersweet," saying he wished Ladd "had held out a little longer."

Grasso added that despite the council's apparent division, Smith would be welcomed.

Jones, who was first elected to the council in 2006, has sued the county, saying it acted illegally when it vacated his seat. The county maintains that because Jones is living for five months outside his district, he has violated rules calling for council members to live within their district. Jones says he's permanently "domiciled" within his district.

The case is pending in county circuit court.

The county's top attorney said in a recent letter to the council that it's inability to appoint a replacement for Jones "seriously undermines" the county's case.

Nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts