This story was updated at 4:25 p.m. Dec. 3, 2022, to correct Smith’s position in the primary earlier this year.
A candidate that finished out of the winning spots this year in the Democratic primary for District 14 in the House of Delegates is now vying for an open seat.
The seat in the District — which covers part of Damascus, Laytonsville, Olney, Sandy Spring, Burtonsville and other eastern parts of the county — will open up on Jan. 2, when Del. Eric Luedtke, the House Majority Leader, will resign to take a seat in Gov.-elect Wes Moore’s cabinet.
Tom Smith — an Air Force veteran and Burtonsville resident who finished fourth in the Democratic primary in July — has said he will apply for the open seat. The county’s Democratic Central Committee will select a candidate for Gov. Larry Hogan’s consideration.
Smith finished behind Luedtke and Anne Kaiser and Pamela Queen, the other two incumbent delegates in District 14, in the primary election. Luedtke, Kaiser, and Queen were all re-elected.
Smith said in an interview that improving the state’s foster care system is at the top of his legislative priorities. There are amazing social workers across the county and state, but they are “getting swamped” by the amount of work, he added.
Retaining those social workers is imperative, Smith said. That includes more pay, but also lessening the caseload for each social worker so that they don’t burn out from doing the job, he added. There also is a lot of bureaucracy within the state’s foster care system, he said.
“Where is the best practice across the other states, as well as at the individual county level? … I’m on the county commission for juvenile justice, and I think empowering them to coordinate a lot at the county level, and share some of these best practices. Who is doing the best to get these new foster parents qualified, security screened, and then are able to retain them the longest?”
The caseload for social workers also needs to be viewed similarly for class sizes in public schools, Smith said. It’s important not to overburden them with dozens of cases.
Smith also said that he would hold regular town halls throughout District 14, if he is chosen for the seat. While knocking on doors throughout the district, he’s heard from residents who want engagement from their elected officials.
It’s important for elected officials to quickly respond to constituents’ questions, and then get them an answer, even if that means directing them to a state and federal agency that would have it, Smith said.
Applicants must submit their application for the vacancy no later than 5 p.m. Dec. 16.
There will also be a public forum with the candidates held on Zoom at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21.
MCDCC will then hold a special meeting on Jan. 3 to interview applicants and vote on a recommendation to the governor.
Arthur Edmunds, chair of the committee, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.