Souders wants to be fresh voice on City Council

October 12, 2004|BY GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Donald L. Souders Jr. is new to local politics, but he said he thinks his background in business will add a fresh voice to the Hagerstown City Council.

Souders, 31, a Democrat, has filed to run for a seat on the council in next spring's election. It is his first try at elected office.

Souders, of Georgia Avenue, is a regional tobacco salesman for Swedish Match, which has its U.S. headquarters in Richmond, Va. He is not married, is a graduate of South Hagerstown High School and attended Hagerstown Community College from 1991 to 1993.


After 11 years in retail, sales and marketing positions, Souders says he's ready for elected office.

"At 31, it's time to see what we can do with a fresh difference of opinions," Souders said in an interview last week.

Souders said he has some experience with political campaigns. He is volunteering in Hagerstown for the Kerry-Edwards campaign by helping with mailings and phone calls, and said he did similar work during previous presidential campaigns.

He said he officiates for the Washington County Basketball Officials Association, which provides officials for local high school games. He also is a member of the Jaycees of Hagerstown.

Souders said he decided to run for office after following the current council's development of city policies and listening to small business owners he met through his work.

While he said he believes the city is heading in the right direction, he thinks it has been slow to reinvigorate downtown areas, and small businesses have been overlooked by the revitalization efforts.

Although he said he favors projects such as the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown and a project on South Potomac Street, Souders said the city has not focused enough on small business.

"I think we're losing that small-town community sense," Souders said.

Souders criticized the focus of development toward the edges of the city.

"It looks like Hagerstown has started to build from the outside in. ... My first priority would be to try to get business downtown."

Souders said he hasn't made a final decision on where he stands on the proposed relocation of Washington County Hospital, which would move from East Antietam Street to a site of Robinwood Drive according to plans being pushed by hospital officials. He said he is concerned that an empty hospital building could have a negative impact on the city.

Souders said he favors continued checks on landlords in the city; returning the city to a ward system for council members; and the creation of an adequate public facilities ordinance, or similar regulations that would require developers to provide money or land for schools.

Souders admits that he starts the campaign with a handicap because he is not an incumbent, but he said he will be open to new ideas.

"That's what good leadership is about: being able to absorb," Souders said.

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