A large portion of the St. Mary’s County voting public came out for the Board of Commissioners candidates’ forum Monday, Oct. 25. Several questions were submitted, so many in fact, Professor Todd Ebberly remarked they couldn’t all be answered is they stayed until Election Day. The forum was extended to an hour to the crowd’s pleasure.
Commissioner President candidates Jack Russell, the incumbent Democrat and Tommy McKay, past president of the board and Republican were given thirty minutes to debate about questions posed to them. They gave responses to pressing questions about transportation challenges in the county and about the constant yield tax rate concept.
McKay said, “Tax has gone up too much! No one in this room has had less than a 22 percent increase in the last four years.”
Russell explained there is a direct correlation between taxes paid and services rendered, adding, “We have to manage for everyone in the County.”
The opponents had two distinctly different views on the County’s Wicomico Golf Course and bar. Russell described it as the only enterprise fund “readily making money.” He said privatizing it at this time would be “senseless.”
McKay’s reply: “Why not run the numbers?” He explained with the economy down, rounds of golf have decreased and the expense of the operation needs to be looked at closely.
A question, which referred to the rapid growth of new business along Rt. 235 as “a strip mall of restaurants,” sought the candidates’ ideas for spreading business growth to other areas. McKay said using the Lexington Park Development District Master Plan his board adopted would help, as would investment in the infrastructure and public safety that are “vital for the area.” McKay said, “I understand the challenges of doing business in the area.”
Russell’s response was to continue with revitalization in the Park and ensure “Pax River has a friendly environment in which to work.” Russell stated that the Commissioner President “is but one of five votes on the board,” and said, “I can connect with people and I can get stuff done.” Russell called for a comparison of records and said, “I believe my administration has better served this community.”
McKay said, “The basis of good government is public confidence, and people don’t have that right now.” He explained that, if elected, he would ask his board to do three things immediately- lower income tax, give a guaranteed property tax refund and reduce “red tape” and regulations “to get businesses growing again.” McKay compared running the board to running his successful chain of food stores, adding, “There’s not a shortage of revenue, there’s a surplus of spending.”
The other group of eight commissioner candidates answered a variety of questions, allowing voters to assess their ability to react to the public’s concerns and share their viewpoints and strategies about tackling big problems in the Mother County. They spoke on hot topics like affordable housing, the involvement of a growing number of young professionals in their community, creating jobs and encouraging new business, and medical facilities for seniors.
Republican Cindy Jones, candidate for Dirstrict 1, told the inquisitive crowd about her “old fashioned approach to problem solving.” She stated her priorities are increasing openness and transparency within county government, adding, “If you’re aware, you can hold people accountable to doing what you’ve elected them to do.”
Her opponent, Democrat Elfreda Talbert Mathis told the young professionals, “We welcome you and we love you and will include you.” When asked about new business creation, Mathis said she thought of, “people, you know- plumbers, electricians,” and said tax incentives for small businesses are a good plan. She said her top priority is achieving economic stability by finding new revenue sources.
For District 2, Democrat Arthur Shepherd emphasized addressing affordable workforce housing, adding it to a list of things that will make young professionals “move here and stay.” He also recommended looking to that demographic for appointments to boards and committees. Shepherd said he would push for successful public-private sponsorships and investment in critical infrastructure.
Republican candidate for District 2, Dan Morris said making St. Mary’s “senior-friendly” was his top priority. He said the housing issue could be addressed by building more modest homes instead of “cookie cutter castles that people can’t afford.” Of attracting new businesses, Morris said, “God gave us a wonderful environment. Promote it, market it.” He also suggested helping businesses already here.
Democratic candidate for District 3 Bill Mattingly called attention to the need for more affordable rentals and said partnering with Pax River is instrumental to bringing in new, small businesses that support the base. He added, “Lots of people come here with the Navy and stay here.” Mattingly said, “We need to grow in a sustainable and cost-effective way, downsize government and create more jobs.”
His Republican opponent, incumbent Larry Jarboe said, “We can be the next silicon valley of the east coast,” and stated, “We have to reduce regulations and make it easier for new businesses to get started.” Jarboe commented on other candidates frequent use of his mantra: “Hold the line on taxes” and said he’s consistently “voted against closed-door meetings.” To bring more doctors to the county, he suggested, “You have to change Congress.”
District 4 Democrat Mary Washington said, “It’s difficult for newly-hired teachers to find affordable housing…and there are 4,000 people on the waiting list for Section 8. We have to make St. Mary’s County a place everyone can live.” She repeatedly emphasized the importance of a string public school system, adding, it takes $30,000 to keep someone in jail and $12,000 to educate a student. “Educate, don’t incarcerate,” she said.
Her Republican foe Todd Morgan called St. Mary’s “a great place to grow businesses and families.” He stated, “Each job on-base creates 1.5 jobs off-base.” He suggested “cutting down on the bureaucracy” and said many young professionals “have good ideas” and should be included. Morgan said, “We’re being taxed off of our properties, almost to extinction,” and said supporting seniors, education and law enforcement were among his priorities.
Each pair of candidates for the five Board of County Commissioner seats gave closing statements, which can be viewed in the video links below.
Russell, McKay on Transportation and traffic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWs289wOQW4
Russell, McKay closing remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oXIbz2GJkQ
Jones, Mathis closing remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgHAmFvQefU
Morris, Shepherd closing remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnIG__m1TxY
Jarboe, Mattingly closing remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbE3t5-1a0c
Morgan, Washington closing remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6dkTJrzNmQ