Midterms are fast approaching, and Frederick County voters will elect a seven-member County Council and County Executive on Nov. 6. Two council members are elected at-large (countywide) and five by districts.
More than 100 attended a Frederick County Council breakfast forum at Dutch’s Daughter on Sept. 11. The forum, sponsored by the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and the Frederick County Building Industry Association (FCBIA), gave candidates the opportunity to highlight why they are running for office and explain where they stand on key local issues.
Joan Aquilino, Chamber administrative specialist, moderated the event that concluded with candidates given two minutes to sum up why they are running.
In response to a question about reviewing charter government enacted by Frederick County four years ago where voters elect a county executive and county council, at-large candidate Susan Reeder Jessee (D) wants the council to be a separate entity and would like to have council meetings later in the day (7 p.m.) so more people can attend. At-large candidate Phil Dacey (R) wanted the council to have more authority in the budget process, and at-large candidate Kai Hagen (D) wanted more staffing for the council and a review on the manner district maps were drawn. Hagen (D), a former one-term county commissioner, also said he favors smart growth and felt local government should not be partisan. Incumbent County Council President Bud Otis (U), who changed his party affiliation from Republican to Unaffiliated after being elected, talked about the need to end divisive politics, explaining why he is running as an Independent for an at-large position on the council.
District 1 incumbent council member Jerry Donald (D) said he wanted to reduce school overcrowding, provide funding for bike and trail plans, and find a long-term solution for the disposal of solid waste. Kevin Grubb (R), district 1 candidate, said he would like to keep county offices open after 4 p.m. for easier access to the public. Grubb said his priorities would be schools, roads and public safety.
Jimmy Trout (R), running in district 4, said, “I don’t like it and it is time to start over” when asked about the draft Livable Frederick master plan. Trout added that County Executive Jan Gardner (D) appointed the members and he would prefer to see local Republican and Democratic central committees pick members. District 4 incumbent council member Jessica Fitzwater (D) said, “I am very excited about Livable Frederick!” In closing remarks, Fitzwater said she supports fully funding public schools, a balanced approach to growth and open government.
Joe Parsley (R), candidate in district 3, also stated he was not in favor of Livable Frederick. Incumbent district 3 council member MC Ayer (D) felt there was much more transparency in government than four years ago and was pleased with the school construction that took place during her term.
Steven McKay (R), candidate for district 2, wants to make better growth decisions than were made during the 2010 to 2014 Board of County Commissioners’ term. Lisa Jarosinski (D), candidate for district 2, said builders feel maligned. She believes all businesses are important in our economy and would embrace the opportunity to work with all as a council member. Incumbent district 2 council member Tony Chmelik (R), who was defeated by Steven McKay (R) in the primary election, recently announced a write-in campaign and said he opposed an increase in the mitigation fee for builders.
Michael Blue (R), a candidate for district 5, said he supports small government, Chuck Jenkins for sheriff, and wants good schools and roads.
Candidates Danny Farrar (R) at-large and Shannon Bohrer (D) district 5 were unable to attend because of previous commitments.
Rick Weldon, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, brought the forum to a close and commended the candidates on describing their priorities. He added, “Next month, Chamber and FCBIA members will hear from our county executive candidates Kathy Afzali (R), Jan Gardner (D) and Earl Robbins (U). The format will be slightly different, since we’ll have fewer candidates. We’ll try to offer these candidates the opportunity to rebut and debate their positions.”