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League of Women Voters president seeks to educate

August 04, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

As she begins her two-year term as president of the League of Women Voters of Washington County, Donna Smith said one of her goals is to educate people about the volunteer, nonpartisan organization.

"I remember getting an e-mail once from a man who asked why the League didn't put out the voters guide anymore," Smith, 61, of Hagerstown, said. "I e-mailed him back, reminded him we were a volunteer group and would he like to join and help us put out the guide again."

Smith said she never heard from him again.

Disbanded twice because of dwindling support, the League now has 38 active members, Smith said.

"Starting with the presidential election year in 2004, we're planning candidate forums," Smith said. "And there will be a voters guide again, as well as a new 'Know Your County' guide, which is also being worked on now."

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The key issue on the League's plate will be the question of charter home rule vs. code home rule for Washington County.

Smith said the League has joined forces with the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Hagerstown Committee to study the two forms of home rule.

"Charter home rule is more complicated," Smith said. "Eight counties in Maryland have charter home rule, which gives the county's governing body the power to administer taxes and licensing."

Five counties - including Allegany County - have code home rule, which leaves the tax and licensing duties at the state level while allowing that county to enact, amend or repeal local laws. Ten counties, including Washington County, still have the commission form of government.

"The issue of home rule has gone to referendum two times here," Smith said, noting that both efforts were unsuccessful. Not giving up though, the League plans to meet with the Washington County Commissioners soon to again discuss home rule.

On the local level, home rule will be the League's biggest issue. "Our first meeting on Sept. 10 will be about home rule," Smith said. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Robinwood Retirement Center.

The League is open to men and women. Members of all political parties or no political parties are welcome as are residents from outside Washington County.

For more information, call Smith at 301-797-8761 or e-mail her at dsmith7119@aol.com, or call membership chair John Porter at 301-739-4159 or e-mail him at jonjan@myactv.net.

The League plans to resurrect the Women's Fair - now known as Women's Business Expo - on Oct. 4 at Hagerstown Community College. It will be the first such event in six years, Smith said.

Retired for six years, Smith spent 38 years at Allegheny Energy, having gone to work there right out of high school. Her husband, John Smith, still works at Allegheny.

"Now I have time to do other things and I'm enjoying it," she said.

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