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Barr files for seat on County Commissioners

April 15, 2006|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

WASHINGTON COUNTY

If elected as a Washington County Commissioner, the country-boy-turned-businessman said his greatest challenge would be balancing big business interests with protecting the county's agricultural heritage.

John F. Barr, 52, of Clear Spring, filed Thursday to run for a seat on the Washington County Commissioners.

All five seats are open this election cycle. According to the Washington County Board of Elections, Barr is the seventh person to file.

None of the incumbents have filed, county elections officials said Thursday. The deadline to file is July 3.

The primary election is Sept. 12 and the general election is Nov. 7.

Barr, a Republican, said he decided to enter the race because he felt business owners needed a stronger presence in local government.

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Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, is Barr's brother-in-law. Barr said it was Myers' political involvement that eventually rubbed off on him.

"I'm not filing as a candidate because I think things are broken," said Barr, who owns Elsworth Electric Inc. in Hagerstown. "But, as a businessman, I can bring patience and understanding, common sense to the county government."

Barr, who was one of eight children, grew up on a farm in Beaver Creek. Barr used to tag along with his grandfather, Frank Barr, selling ears of corn on the east side of Hagerstown.

When the two would load up the "dozen" bags, plucking the ears from a garden they tended on the farm, Frank Barr instructed his grandson to put 13 to 14 ears into a "dozen bag."

"His thinking was that if you always give people more than they expect, they'll always come back," Barr said.

The phrase, he said, has become his life's motto.

Barr lives in Clear Spring with his wife, Teresa. He has four grown children - Franklin, David, Jonathan and Sarah Barr.

While things have changed since his days on the Beaver Creek farm, Barr said rapid development and growth in Washington County was a major concern.

"Washington County is poised for tremendous growth, more than what we're seeing now," Barr said. "Our rural heritage is at risk with the impeding growth."

"It's difficult for lifelong residents to stay here," Barr said, referring to the region's ballooning housing costs.

He supported the county's decision last month to lower the tax cap on property assessments from 10 percent to 5 percent.

The average county property tax bill is $2,370 for a house that sells for $250,000, The Herald-Mail has reported.

State lawmakers have criticized the commissioners for not acting sooner to lower the cap.

Barr also said he would like to see a more customer-friendly system for acquiring permits.

"Large residential developments often bog down the permitting process, frustrating a longtime resident who may want to put a small addition on his house," Barr said.

"It is a tragedy when a lifelong resident walks away frustrated with our county government," he said.

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