County Commissioners sworn in

December 02, 1998

Commissioners sworn inBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

After being sworn into office Tuesday, the new Washington County Commissioners voted to have Commissioner Gregory I. Snook continue as commissioners president.

Paul L. Swartz was elected vice president.

The commissioners unanimously voted to reappoint Rodney Shoop as county administrator, Joni Bittner as county clerk, and Debra Bastian as budget and finance director.

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Snook, a Republican, is the only returning county commissioner and was the highest vote-getter in the Nov. 3 general election. This is his third term.


He is joined by Republican William J. Wivell, Independent Bert Iseminger Jr., and Democrats Swartz and John L. Schnebly.

Traditionally, the commissioners president is a member of the political party that has the majority on the board, but in this case, no party has the majority.

"There is no political majority but there is a voting majority. Not only do you have the experience, you have the vote count," Schnebly told Snook.

Schnebly nominated Snook for president, and Swartz seconded the motion.

"I appreciate that, fellows," Snook said.

Wivell nominated Swartz to be vice president, noting that he received the second-highest number of votes.

The nominations - a Democrat nominated a Republican for president, and a Republican nominated a Democrat for vice president - are an indication of the unity for which the new commissioners are striving, Iseminger said.

Not everyone was happy that Snook will remain County Commissioners president.

Moments after being sworn in for another two-year term on the Clear Spring Town Council on Tuesday morning, William Albowicz took the floor as a citizen and asked town officials for a "no confidence" vote on Snook's retaining the commissioners presidency.

He didn't get it.

"What has he ever done for this town?" Albowicz asked.

Mayor Dave Hose Jr. said he disagreed with Albowicz's position.

"It's not our place to make an opinion," said Councilman Gary Grove. "You don't pit one government against another."

Vice Mayor Julie Albowicz said she was concerned about Clear Spring's future dealings with the County Commissioners.

"We always depended on Ron Bowers, and he is gone," Julie Albowicz said.

Councilman Mason Mundey said he knew Snook was from a local family with Clear Spring roots. Beyond that, Mundey didn't express an opinion on Albowicz's call for a no confidence vote.

Reached for comment, Snook said he will do his best as president of the County Commissioners. He said he was not aware of any animosity between him and Albowicz.

Bowers and John S. Shank both lost re-election bids in the Nov. 3 election. Two other commissioners, James R. Wade and R. Lee Downey, did not seek re-election.

Bowers and Downey attended the one-hour ceremony at the Washington County Courthouse.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III presided over the ceremony. Clerk of Circuit Court Dennis J. Weaver swore in each commissioner separately.

Each commissioner spoke to the standing-room-only crowd.

"It is an honor to represent the people of Washington County," Iseminger said.

With the help of county employees and the advice of residents, the commissioners hope to make Washington County a better place to live and work, he said.

"I will do my very best to make you proud," he said.

Schnebly said all 29 commissioner candidates, not just the five who were elected, deserve congratulations. He credited his family with his interest in politics and history.

Together the new commissioners are ready and able to face the challenges of the next four years, Snook said. He said he will keep his campaign promise to point out positive developments in Washington County, he said.

Snook was so overcome by emotion that he stopped speaking twice, once during the swearing-in and once during his speech. He later said that he had to abandon half of his speech because he became emotional.

Swartz also was emotional as he said he is excited about getting reacquainted with Iseminger and Schnebly. He was their basketball coach at South Hagerstown High School.

"It's nice to see there's another commissioner as emotional as I am. I thought I would be the only one," Swartz said.

Wivell, the last to speak, said the commissioners need criticism and feedback from the community if they are to do a good job.

"Now let's work to make Washington County Maryland's best-kept secret," he said.

Staff Writer Marlo Barnhart contributed to this story.

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