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Mayor Bruchey praised by political friends and foes

December 07, 1997

Mayor Bruchey praised by political friends and foes

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Despite skepticism about how well a political newcomer could do following in the footsteps of a 12-year veteran, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II is earning praise after only six months in office.

"I'm seeing a maturation taking place ... He seems to be grasping readily all of the different things that can come his way just by holding that position," said Vikki Nelson, a member of the Washington County Republican Central Committee.

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Initially concerned with Bruchey's union leanings, Nelson said the Republican mayor has been equitable and fair with union matters so far.

"I'm proud of him," she said.

Councilman William M. Breichner said Bruchey is doing well overall.

"To be truthful, I think he's doing much better than what a lot of people expected and a lot better than what I expected," Breichner said.

Bruchey has handled well several projects inherited from the previous administration, whether he favored them or not, including the Public Square renovation, he said.

Even Washington County Commissioner and Democrat Ronald L. Bowers gave Bruchey good marks so far.

Bowers said it's refreshing to have a mayor who will listen to new ideas and study issues before making a decision.

So far, so good

"Every time I run across somebody, they say I haven't heard anything bad yet," said Bruchey, 39, of 905 Woodland Way.

"There's a lot of things left to do, but I think some of my major goals have been accomplished in the first year."

"We're winning the war on drugs with little battles at a time," Bruchey said.

Drug arrests have increased significantly this year, officials have said.

Hagerstown City Police also have cracked down on prostitution with three stings in the downtown area since Bruchey took office on June 2.

A plan to change traffic patterns in the Sumans Avenue area to deter illegal drug traffic is expected to go into effect in January.

"I really feel it will help," despite being inconvenient to neighbors at first, Bruchey said.

He thinks more traffic pattern changes might be needed in the future.

While Bruchey supports the traffic changes, they are a perfect example of his key frustration as mayor.

"I've learned one thing - nothing happens fast around here," Bruchey said as he sat in his office at City Hall. "That's probably what drives me the most crazy."

Even when the Council agrees on a plan, projects don't always swing into action immediately, he said. In October, the Council approved the traffic changes, which city and law enforcement officials began discussing four months ago, he said.

Breichner agrees the slow pace at which the wheels of government turn can be frustrating.

But, it can be beneficial not to rush, Breichner said. Elected officials need time to reflect on issues rather than rush to spend taxpayer money, he said.

He's listening

Perhaps Bruchey's greatest accomplishment so far has been his accessibility.

"I want to make sure the people know they have a mayor that's accessible to them," Bruchey said.

That includes after regular business hours, since many people cannot leave work to come to City Hall, he said.

Bruchey began holding late hours at City Hall on Dec. 1 so citizens could come talk to him about concerns or solutions.

Despite only one person attending that night, Bruchey holds out hope word will spread so more people will come visit him.

He plans to be available from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month. Those hours could be expanded if he gets a good response.

"Bob listens to you," said Joe Imes, 45, president of a West End neighborhood watch group. If he's not there when you call, he'll call you back, Imes said.

Neighbors have spotted Bruchey in the West End around 2 or 3 in the morning as he tries to help defuse problems the neighborhood has had with noisy youths, Imes said.

Downtown merchant Tom Newcomer said Bruchey has provided a good open ear for residents and business people in the community by listening to their needs.

While the mayor would prefer a return to the ward system, Bruchey concedes that could only happen if the voters call for a referendum.

So Bruchey wants to create a Citizens Advisory Board with two citizens from each quadrant of the city, downtown, the North Jonathan Street area and Westview, as well as youths from each of the city's four high schools.

Busy Bruchey

The father of three still plans to give away the $4,000 raise in his annual salary that was approved by the last City Council. His annual salary is $28,000 with the raise.

He said $1,040 of the raise will be given to the United Way of Washington County and the rest to college scholarships for city high school graduates.

"I have to admit. It's tougher because I had planned on working and I'm not working yet."

Bruchey said he spends between 50 and 60 hours a week at his job as mayor, including nights and weekends.

But, he's making good on several campaign promises.

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