Two men are expected to speak at City Hall Jan. 4 in a showdown to claim the Baltimore City Council’s empty 9th District seat.

William “Pete” Welch and Michael Eugene Johnson will vie for the position vacated by councilwoman veteran Agnes Welch after her recent retirement. The chosen candidate will serve the remainder of her term, which runs through 2011.

During the hearing, scheduled for 6 p.m., members of the Council’s vacancy nominating committee will interview the men. The event will be televised live on TV25.

The council will likely choose a successor within a week, city sources say. Further details about the public hearing were not immediately available by AFRO deadline.

Welch, the son and longtime aid of the retired councilwoman, merely hinted at his desire to run for office during a recent interview with the AFRO. “You always consider those things because you want to help the largest amount of people and if you have been helping people all of your life, it presents a great opportunity to help even more people,” he said during the interview.

The certified public accountant has worked as a part-time aide to his mother throughout her 27-year career in the Council.

If selected to represent the Ninth District, his main concerns would be housing, education and employment, he said.

Johnson, a human rights activist and community organizer, is also eyeing the district’s top spot—for a second time. He challenged Welch in the 2007 election, coming in second.

His first priority if selected, he said, would be to reorganize the district’s defunct community associations and push their agenda at City Hall.

He says it is “unfortunate” that the Council is considering Pete Welch for his mother’s seat. “If you look at the district and know that he was grandfathered in, you would think: ‘What was he doing as her aide for all these years?’” he said.

“Not going down there (to vie for the vacancy) is disrespecting the people who thought I was a good choice…those people’s votes mattered,” he added.

Councilwoman Welch said she would like her son to assume her post in an interview with the AFRO prior to her retirement.

“I’ve had a son that’s been my aide for 20-something years, who knows…the process and who’s been there, she said. “So, I would want him to take my place.”

Towson University professor John T. Bullock, an active campaigner for the seat, has apparently chosen not to apply for the vacancy but will run in the 2011 city elections.

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO