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St. Mary's Commissioner Candidates Go Head-to-Head

The St. Mary's County Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum for County Commissioner Candidates Friday, Oct.8 at Olde Breton Inn in Leonardtown. The lunch was attended by Delegate John Wood, Jr., current commissioners Dan Raley and Tommy Mattingly, who are serving their final terms, and Superintendent of SMCPS Dr. Michael J. Martirano. 

All ten candidates were present to participate in the structured debate and according to Bill Scarfia, the Chamber's President/CEO approximately 110 attended. The event was sponsored by SMECO and Cedar Point Credit Union.

In opening remarks, Commissioner President candidates, Republican Tommy McKay and Democrat Jack Russell stated their cases. McKay said, he hoped to "restore confidence in government" by making it "part of the solution, not the problem."

Russell, the current Commissioner President, stated, "I've been a good steward of tax payer dollars," adding, "This election will be about promises made and promises kept." In his closing remarks, Russell stated, "I've been carefully leading St. Mary's County through this tough economy...with no furloughs and no cuts to services. You are what your record says you are and I'm proud of mine. I led, he left."

McKay said, "Our country and our county needs you to change the hand of government. If you want to do me a favor, vote for my opponent," referring to his job as President and Chief Operating Officer of McKay's Food Stores, "but if you want to do yourself a favor, vote for me."

Competitors for the District 1 Commissioner seat Republican Cindy Jones and Democrat Elfreda Talbert Mathis summed up their campaigns. Jones said the county needs "accountability for how every tax dollar is spent," later, without prepared remarks, she said, "I pledge to do my best by you in every way, every day," and emphasized the importance of strategic and long-term planning.

Mathis said her 35 year experience in education and being a life-long member of this community allows her to have a really good sense of what's necessary or important to citizens. She commented on the need for balance between business growth and environmental protection, stating the County must prioritize and generate new revenue. "If you don't raise the bottom, you'll never raise the top," Mathis said.

District 2 Commissioner Candidates Republican Dan Morris and Democrat Arthur Shepherd squared off. Morris stated he has a plan to "hold the line on taxes," considers public safety and education top priorities and wants to make St. Mary's senior-friendly. Morris said he feels, "What is good for the entire county is how it should be developed." He closed by saying, "I'm not a career politician," explaining he views the position, "not so much as leadership, but more of a representative...meaning I listen to you and represent you."

Shepherd said his lengthy experience managing in the Recreation and Parks Department has given him strong leadership skills and having grown up in St. Mary's, "I have a deep understanding of the community." Shepherd indicated his priorities are law enforcement and education, and said if the economy continues to lag he would, "look for effeciencies and make sure cuts are not on the backs of county employees." He commented on the need for affordable workforce housing and enhanced infrastructure as the County continues to grow.

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