Baltimore County Councilman Izzy Patoka was elected to lead the council this year, becoming the first new chairman since 2021.

The second-term Democrat was the 6-0 choice at a Tuesday evening legislative session to lead meetings and set the agenda of the seven-member council; Councilman Todd Crandell was absent.

Patoka is “a veteran of this body,” Republican 5th District Councilman David Marks, the longest-serving council member, said shortly after nominating Patoka. First-term 1st District Councilman Patrick “Pat” Young quickly seconded Marks’ nomination.

Patoka’s background as an environmental and community planner “would be very helpful as we work on several key initiatives,” Marks continued. His experience as deputy director of the Baltimore County Department of Planning makes him an especially prudent choice to lead the council as it prepares to adopt the county’s 10-year master plan, revise its ordinance designed to ensure the county’s infrastructure is adequate for future development, and to tackle the county’s ongoing need to renovate and build new schools, Marks said.

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Council members described Patoka, who represents the 2nd District that includes Pikesville, Owings Mills and Reisterstown, as a collegial and bipartisan legislator. Republican 3rd District Councilman Wade Kach lauded Patoka as an environmentalist who is committed to open government.

“Councilman Patoka and I, and others on the council, share our desire for openness and transparency in this governmental body,” Kach said.

Patoka, who was first elected in 2018, was previously passed over for the chairmanship, which is typically rotated among the council’s majority party members, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 4-3. But the council broke that tradition by electing 4th District Democratic Councilman Julian Jones as its chair for three consecutive years, starting in 2021. Jones also served as chair in 2018, followed by former council members Tom Quirk in 2019, and Cathy Bevins in 2020.

Patoka thanked Jones and other council members for their support and began his meeting by lauding each of them individually.

“It’s a thoughtful governing body,” Patoka said. “Each council member adds a level of experience and expertise that allows us to see the issues that come before us through a variety of lenses.”

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Patoka last year sponsored the county’s ban on landfill-clogging single-use plastic bags. It was debated by fellow council Democrats for its potential impact on certain businesses, including liquor stores, which Patoka and council members later voted to exempt — overriding a veto by County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. to do so. Patoka sponsored the bill after serving on the county’s 2020 solid waste work group, which studied sustainable waste disposal because officials say the county’s landfill is reaching capacity.

Patoka was also the lead co-sponsor on a resolution in October 2023 establishing a work group to consider restructuring the council, possibly by expanding the number of elected representatives by four. The council restructuring work group is expected to issue a report to the council March 24.

Patoka has also been a vocal supporter of Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan. In his first term, Patoka broke with former council Democrats, including Jones, to back Madigan when his fellow Democrats criticized her. Most recently, Patoka and Jones butted heads when Patoka said he would not support Jones’ proposal to restrict the IG’s subpoena power and establish an oversight board.

“I look forward to Councilman Patoka being chair,” Jones said before the vote. “Everyone comes to this job trying to do the best they can.”

“It’s been pleasure working with everyone; I’m not going anywhere,” Jones added.

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Patoka, who has held various positions in Baltimore County, city, and Maryland governments between 1981 and 2015, will earn $77,000 as its chairman; other council members make $69,000.

Patoka most recently worked as the director of community development for LifeBridge Health before departing to focus full-time on his council office. He owns rental property in Dickeysville, according to financial disclosure forms, and lives in Pikesville with his wife and son. He and his family are members of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Taylor DeVille covered Baltimore County government for The Baltimore Banner with a focus on the County Executive, County Council, accountability and quality of life issues affecting suburban residents. Before joining The Banner, Taylor covered Baltimore County government and breaking news for The Baltimore Sun.

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