On Friday, June 4 the Young Professionals Initiative of St. Mary's County hosted a town hall discussion with Congressman Steny Hoyer. The House Democratic Majority Leader and Delegate John Bohanan joined YPI members from St. Mary's and Charles Counties at the JT Daugherty Center in Lexington Park to hear what's on the mind of young professionals in southern Md.
Hoyer told the group, "I used to be young and I used to be a young professional." The congressman attributed his political success to his participation in Young Democrats groups and called YPI a "great group". He praised the opportunities afforded by such a network, saying, "Personal interface still matters."
The young, working attendees voiced concerns about affordable housing, telling Hoyer good rentals are often in undesirable neighborhoods. The congressman agreed and said, "Affordable housing is a huge problem… not just for poor people, but for teachers, police officers and young professionals."
Hoyer said government had previously been part of the problem by subsidizing real estate and told the group, "The Feds are still working on programs, still working on making homeownership available." Hoyer recommended roommates to share living expenses with and encouraged them to "keep yelling about it."
Hoyer called Pax River "the core economic driver in our county," hiring 1100 new people a year and supporting the contractors as well as local businesses in the area. Young professionals called attention to the need to attract and retain young professionals in St. Mary's, saying people want to come for the jobs but want to know what else the County has to offer.
Attendees expressed frustration about the limited entertainment and transportation and many commented that they hope for continued, but controlled growth, whether originally from the area or transplanted from Los Angeles as YPI Member Chair Kelly Williams was.
One speaker said the young professionals' demographic is often one overlooked by local government. YPI Vice President Lauren Klatt said, "This is what our group is here for…to listen and be that unified voice."
St. Mary's Dept. of Economic and Community Development Director Bob Schaller encouraged participation in local boards and commissions, and said, "getting involved makes democracy work."
Hoyer also urged the group to take action, pointing to a need to do a lot of work with the county commissioners. He said, "I'm not talking about partisan politics here, but getting your voice heard and getting things done."
Congressman Hoyer, who lives in Mechanicsville when not in D.C. said, "I love St. Mary's County," calling himself lucky to live in an environment where people know each other.
For more information on Hoyer's office click here and for details on YPI of St. Mary's membership and events click here