Frederick County Executive Candidates Answer Important Questions

Photos | Submitted The three candidates running for county executive are incumbent Jan Gardner (D), Kathy Afzali (R) and Earl Robbins (U).

Photos | Submitted
The three candidates running for county executive are incumbent Jan Gardner (D), Kathy Afzali (R) and Earl Robbins (U).

Frederick County voters will be electing a county executive and County Council on Nov. 6. The three candidates running for county executive are incumbent Jan Gardner (D), Kathy Afzali (R) and Earl Robbins (U).

We asked the candidates to limit their answers to 50 words for each question. Their responses follow below.

If elected county executive, what will be your number one priority?

Afzali (R): Overdevelopment is a huge issue in Frederick County. Bad decisions the past 20 years have caused infrastructure problems that have been overlooked for too long. We have overcrowded schools and longer commutes, and if I am elected as your County Executive, I will roll up my sleeves and fix it.

Gardner (D): Managing residential growth is job one because of its impacts to schools, roads, and public safety. I will not approve new housing without adequate schools, roads, and services. This is the best way to manage the county budget. My goal is to ensure outstanding public education and end school overcrowding.

Robbins (U): My number one priority is to bring high paying jobs to Frederick County. I want Frederick to be the destination county for businesses. I will recruit large businesses that are socially responsible. They will pay a fair wage and offer benefits.

The Waste-to-Energy (Incinerator) approach to the disposal of solid waste was ended years ago, following voter opposition. Since then, solid waste from the near-capacity landfill is being trucked out of the county. What would be your approach to the county disposal of solid waste?

Afzali (R): I was a strong opponent of the incinerator, and my Democratic opponent was for it. After that boondoggle, we
still have not solved the issue. We have more trash than we can handle. Our Hogan team for Frederick County will work to resolve these issues once and for all.

Gardner (D): The “Solid Waste What’s Next Initiative” recommended expanded recycling, diversion, and composting to
reduce waste and achieve state recycling goals. Zoning changes to allow composting operations were recently approved. Next is a composting pilot program with restaurants, food producers, and in schools. Landfilling the remainder is our least-cost disposal option.

Robbins (U):I will continue to truck solid waste out of the county while researching the best state and county approaches to manage solid waste. Educating the public to reduce, recycle and reuse will reduce the volume of solid waste. Anaerobic digestion is a biological process that could be used in the future.

The management of growth continues to be a hot button issue. Do you support continuing using the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and impact fees on new development as a way to manage growth? If not, what do you propose?

Afzali (R): The APFO is clearly not working. It is increasing the cost of new homes, which raises everyone’s property
assessments and taxes. I will work with the building community and slow growth proponents to find better solutions. Right
now, you have high-density development caused mainly from poor county policy.

Gardner (D): I support a strong and functional Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) that effectively paces new
housing with the county’s financial ability to provide needed roads, schools and essential services. I support impact fees to make sure new development pays its fair share and to protect existing taxpayers.

Robbins (U): I support continuing using the APFO and Impact Fees as a way to manage growth. We need to review the fee
structure and use the development rights and responsibility agreement (DRRA) to negotiate outcomes that will promote
managed growth.

What will be your approach to bringing new jobs to Frederick County so residents can work where they live?

Afzali (R): We need to change Montgomery County-style bureaucracy featuring over-regulation that has permeated Frederick County the last four years. I am the #1-ranked business legislator in Maryland. County government’s role is not that of a job creator, but rather as a creator of fertile soil for entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive.

Gardner (D): Businesses are looking for location, a well-educated workforce, high quality of life, and favorable tax structure. We offer it all. My goal is more local jobs, so people can live and work here. Our economy is thriving with over 6,500 new jobs,
a new major employer, and our business innovation center.

Robbins (U): I will recruit large companies that are socially responsible. Large companies can pay higher salaries, provide benefits and are more stable than medium or small businesses. We can attract these businesses by promoting our educated
workforce, our business-friendly practices and our geographical location.

What will you propose to reduce overcrowding in schools?

Afzali (R): Overcrowded schools are generally caused by growth. See above for remedies.

Gardner (D): Every child deserves a seat inside a school. I made a record investment in school construction to reduce overcrowding and reestablished laws that limit new housing if school capacity is inadequate. We must maintain an aggressive school construction schedule, while working with FCPS to reduce costs and maximize efficiencies.

Robbins (U): We have the capacity already in place. The student population is not necessarily located where the buildings
are. We can use specialized programs like the elementary magnet, STEM or new educational initiatives to utilize space that
already exists.

What will you propose to provide more affordable housing to Frederick County residents?

Afzali (R): One thing I can promise is county government should not be in the housing business. Housing demands are
driven by free market principles. Government should make it financially feasible to build affordable housing, but should never be in the business of subsidizing. Senior housing is another issue and must be addressed.

Gardner (D): Under my leadership, the county partnered with Interfaith Housing to build affordable apartments in a former
county building; dedicated a portion of our existing recordation tax to leverage federal housing tax credits; modified laws to
encourage more housing choices in new development; and permitted accessory dwelling units (tiny houses).

Robbins (U): I will establish a task force of builders, realtors and Habitat for Humanity to determine ways to reduce the cost of
building houses. We should refurbish houses and convert vacant buildings in existing communities. Secure vacant lots and land in the county and municipalities to build affordable housing.

What would you propose to combat the added crime and personal tragedy resulting from the opioid crisis?

Afzali (R): I don’t know a family that hasn’t been affected by drug addiction. Just recently I lost my brother, who had been an
addict for years. I will work closely with local law enforcement, the Governor’s office, and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh—whose approach has become a statewide model.

Gardner (D): The opioid crisis is devastating. I have brought stakeholders together, from law enforcement to public health, to
find solutions. We have expanded peer recovery coaches to connect people to services, utilized narcan to save lives, added school curriculum, raised awareness, and offered grant money to establish a detox facility.

Robbins (U): I would provide finance and personnel to allow the sheriff to get dealers off the streets. I would support a detox center as the first step for recovery for those who are addicted. I support the bill in congress that provides funding for the major task of treating the addicted.

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