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Swartz wants to give back to county that gave to him

October 31, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioners Vice President Paul L. Swartz said there have been times when the elected post required him to get down and dirty.

He explained that he has cut down overgrown brush and pulled weeds near the homes of residents who were concerned that the county had let the work go.

"I wouldn't be worth my salt if I didn't try in some way to answer their concerns," Swartz, 64, said. "I think a politician is good at delegation, and that's what separates me from politicians, because I'm not a politician."

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"I look at myself as a servant, and I don't mind doing these tasks," Swartz said.

Swartz, a Democrat, is seeking his second term in office. He is one of 10 candidates running for a spot on the five-member board of County Commissioners. Five Democrats and five Republicans are running in the Nov. 5 general election.

Swartz and his wife, Shirley, live in Maugansville. They have four children.

He was formerly a high school basketball and baseball coach and had 350 victories in both sports.

A native of Jefferson County, W.Va., Swartz graduated from Shepherd College with a degree in secondary education and eventually began teaching and coaching for Washington County Public Schools.

After receiving a master's degree from West Virginia University, he became a principal for the school system and then a pupil personnel worker.

After 36 years in education, Swartz retired and decided to run for a county commissioner seat four years ago because he wanted to give back to the community and because he got bored, he said.

"This county has been very, very good to my family and myself," Swartz said. "When I retired, my desire to give back was basically what prompted me to run for county commissioner. It gave me an avenue whereby I could return something to a county that has been good to me."

He's running for a second term because he's not done serving the public, he said.

"I feel that I still have a lot of offer," Swartz said. "I have leadership ability. I am competent, and I do care about people. I like to think that I'm honest, trustworthy and a man of integrity."

He said he'd like to have a hand in increasing economic development in the county, saying its railroad systems, Hagerstown Regional Airport and proximity to Interstates 70 and 81 make it a prime spot for business.

"We need to market and sell Washington County, and we need everybody stepping up to the plate," Swartz said.

Other challenges the county will face include making sure the University System of Maryland project is completed, seeing through the runway extension project at Hagerstown Regional Airport and trying to figure out a way to make salaries for county employees and educators competitive.

He said employees come to Washington County, get a few years of experience and then leave for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

"If they're not competitive, we become a training ground," Swartz said. "If we're fair, equitable and competitive, I think they will be satisfied. I know I will be."

Swartz said he knows that being an elected official comes with its share of criticism but that he doesn't mind.

"I welcome criticism, both constructive and otherwise," Swartz said. "I think that everyone that's entering the public life realizes you're not going to please everyone, but that doesn't mean I can't try to please everyone."

The commissioners will make $30,000 next year, up from $20,000 this year.

The County Commission term is four years.

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