The Baltimore County Council elected its first African-American chairman last night. The new chairman, Julian Jones, said he wished the day would come when there would be no more “firsts.”
Jones talked about “firsts” as he was chosen unanimously in a ceremonial vote to lead the council; “firsts” when it comes to race, religion or gender. But he said when a “first” does happen, you should make a big deal of it.
“It’s important to encourage others, especially our young people to say, ‘Here is an example of what you can do, too,’" Jones said.
And Jones, the only African American on the council, made it a big deal, inviting dozens of relatives and friends to the chamber in Towson. They gave him a standing ovation after he was elected chairman.
Before the vote, Councilman David Marks, a Republican, noted that since the Council’s inception in 1956, there have been 61 chairmen and chairwomen. All were white.
“Tonight’s vote is certainly a reflection of the continued political evolution of Baltimore County," Marks said. "Julian, it’s also a testament to your hard work, your leadership, your work ethic.”
The county has a growing African-American population.
It was estimated at 20 percent in the 2000 census, and has grown to about 29 percent since then. Meanwhile, about 23 percent of the county’s state legislators are African American.
Like Jones, they represent the west side of the county.
At the same time, the five people who’ve announced they’re running for county executive this year are white. But Jones is optimistic that African-American candidates can win throughout the county.
"If there is a candidate out there that can come forward right now, today, in another district, I think he or she would have a fair shake, and if they're the best candidate, they will win," Jones said.
Jones will serve a one-year term as chairman. The Democrats control the Council and they generally take turns being chair. Jones is in his first term on the Council. He represents the fourth district.