Downey won't seek re-election

April 08, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Washington County Commissioner R. Lee Downey announced Tuesday that he won't seek a record sixth term.

Downey, 56, has served five four-year terms, from 1974 to 1990, and from 1994 to 1998.

Downey, a Republican, said he decided not to seek re-election because he doesn't see anything major that he still wants to accomplish.

"I think 20 years is a pretty long time to serve in politics," he said.

He said it was his intention in 1994 to serve one more term.

He left open the possibility that he might run for office in the future, and said he would stay involved in charitable work.

Downey said there have been a lot of changes since he first became a County Commissioner. Back then, the county didn't have a county administrator or a finance director and the commissioners ran the day-to-day operations, he said.


The county jail on Jonathan Street typically housed about 50 prisoners, compared to about 420 at the Washington County Detention Center today, he said.

Downey said some of his proudest accomplishments during his tenure include the construction of Eastern Boulevard, development of the Washington County Regional Airport, the creation and development of numerous county parks, and the purchase of the Lund landfill property.

Downey said transportation will be a key issue facing the next board of commissioners. New roads such as a Funkstown bypass and improvements to Eastern Boulevard are needed to help improve traffic flow.

Downey's father, Charles Downey, served in the House of Delegates and as a county commissioner in the 1950s.

Downey, who lives near Williamsport, is a real estate broker and farms a 6 1/2 acre stand of sweet corn.

He advised future commissioners to keep their eyes on the big picture and not get bogged down in details. A successful candidate should be prepared to spend a lot of time on the job.

"If you think it's just a Tuesday job, don't run," Downey said.

With a comprehensive rezoning of the county planned, the next board will play an important role in planning the county's future, Downey said.

The current board continues to work on a long-term plan for fire and rescue, bringing in new industry and getting customers for the Conococheague Industrial Pretreatment Facility, he said.

"He shocked me when he said he would not seek re-election," said County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers, a Democrat.

"I served with him for 20 years. And in the 20 years there was never a cross word between us," Bowers said.

"He was a mediator when things got testy, someone who would bring you back to an issue when you strayed."

Bowers has filed for re-election to a record sixth consecutive four-year term. The other three incumbents haven't announced their intentions.

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