Iseminger wants to promote achievements in schools

October 24, 2002|by TARA REILLY

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of profiles of the 10 candidates seeking election to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners. Friday: James F. Kercheval.

Bert L. Iseminger doesn't hesitate to say there are some issues the Washington County Commissioners could have handled differently over the last four years.

He said one of those was the decision to keep the retirement compensation given to former Economic Development Director John Howard a secret, a topic of controversy since summer.

Iseminger, who has been a commissioner for the last four years, also said the board should have found a way early in the term to increase citizen involvement in county government.


"From a decision standpoint, we've probably made some mistakes along the way," Iseminger, 53, said.

He said, however, the accomplishments of the commissioners outnumber the mistakes.

Achievements he cited as noteworthy were lowering the county's debt, creating a Comprehensive Plan to control growth and increasing funding for education.

He said the Comprehensive Plan, which encourages development in designated growth areas, came at a time when the county is seeing more development proposals, which could be spilling over from Frederick County.

"That's why the timing of this new comp plan was so critical," Iseminger said. "We need to make sure that we are in a position to handle that and direct it to areas that can handle it."

He also said he'd like to promote the achievements of Washington County Public Schools more. He said teachers are mostly responsible for the school system's success.

"That's where the quality of our system comes through - because of the teachers that we have and the job that they're doing," Iseminger said. "Our job is to be an advocate for education, and I don't think we do a good job of informing our citizens of how good our schools are doing."

He said the school system ranks sixth in the state on the MSPAP tests, and the county's eight-graders ranked first in the state on the math portion of those tests last year.

Iseminger is running as a Democrat, after switching from being an Independent. Before that, he had been a Republican.

Ten candidates - five Democrats and five Republicans - are running for a spot on the five-member board. The election is Nov. 5. The commissioners will make $30,000 next year, up from $20,000 this year.

Iseminger switched his affiliation to Democrat because he decided he could have more influence aligned with one of the two major political parties, he said. Party affiliation also will help him get more attention from some state lawmakers, he said.

He switched his affiliation from Republican to Independent before the 1998 election because he had never been involved in party politics and did not think party affiliation had anything to do with the job of a County Commissioner, he said.

"I don't think any of the decisions we made dealt with party affiliation," Iseminger said.

In addition to running for the County Commission, Iseminger made bids for a House of Delegates seat in 1990 and 1994 but lost.

He is an insurance agent for J. Edward Cochran & Co.

He said he became interested in county government after being appointed to the Washington County Planning Commission 16 years ago. He continues to serve as an ex-officio member of the commission. He said he enjoys holding public office because he's understanding and likes listening to the concerns of citizens, he said.

"I enjoy helping people and enjoy working on issues that can make a difference in people's lives," Iseminger said. "I honestly believe there is still work to be done on many issues."

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