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Time to make county more efficient

August 25, 2006|by Lloyd "Pete" Waters

I began my 34-year career in the Maryland Division of Corrections as a new correctional officer in December 1969. For the last 15 years of that career, I served as prison warden, while managing a prison of almost 2,200 inmates, more than 600 staff and a budget in excess of $48 million dollars.

This job is similar to being the mayor of a small town. I am most proud of the staff I encountered throughout my career, and especially the team which reaped such good results at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown in the aftermath of a serious prison riot in 1991. In 2003, I elected to retire.

Today, I find myself as a candidate for Washington County Commissioner. I have elected to run for this position out of deep concern for our community, its citizens and its future. I find politics generally displeasing, however the future and well-being of Washington County is the driving force behind my decision to run for this position. Thus my campaign theme is, "Working for your future."

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John F. Kennedy once commented that change is the law of life. And those who only live for the past or present are certain to miss the future. I believe Washington County is at the crossroads of change and we are holding on to the past and present and are apt to miss the future.

Growth and development have arrived far too quickly, without enough deliberation on all the related issues. Tax assessments have been directly impacted by this growth, while our citizens are also coping with increases in their budgets (i.e. flush fees, increase in tag renewals, rising gasoline prices, higher medical insurances and prescriptions and a looming increase in electric bills).

As transients from other counties arrive in our home county, the many issues of immigration will not be far behind. As the population increases, public safety issues including increased gang activity, drug addiction and distribution will also increase. How this growth will further impact our schools, roads, sewer and water, other social programs and future taxes is anyone's guess.

For probably 40 years or longer, our County Commissioners have held their weekly meetings on Tuesdays. They are entrusted with your money to make the best decisions possible. The 2006-2007 budget stands at about $305 million dollars. Do you believe our County Commissioners today can be effective while meeting one day a week to manage a $305-million-dollar budget?

When is there time to provide supervision to county staff to debate, discuss and make those decisions necessary for your future and the future of your children and grandchildren? I believe the answers to these questions are obvious.

Giving property owners a $150 check at a total cost of $5 million dollars while the county still borrowed $12 million dollars and has other significant debt seems a little confusing from where I sit.

Although it is an election year, I suspect that further down the path the $5 million dollar gift and the $12 million dollar loan will deliver a brief dose of euphoria followed by sustained misery for the taxpayer. Paying down the sewer debt or paving some roads might have been a more responsible use of the $5 million dollars. When electric bills increase in 2008, as they have in other parts of the state and fees continue to climb, I suspect there might be a tax revolt like this county has never seen in 2008.

Our citizens are more and more concerned about their budgets - even the ones who don't vote, but often complain. I believe Washington County should be equally concerned about its budget and responsibilities as well.

Can we afford the problems of the future or should we begin now to "reinvent" government and search for more efficient ways to do business? The taxpayer and our citizens - young, middle class and seniors - would benefit from a government that plans better, works better and produces better results. We can no longer afford to do business as usual and get the results we are looking to achieve.It is another election year and many candidates will tell you how they plan to spend your money and lower your taxes.

If you want a "part-time" County Commissioner who meets one day a week to administer your $305-million budget and more of the same form of government, I am not your candidate.

If, however, you want someone to look after your tax dollars in the most efficient way possible, provoke debate, encourage team building and work for a more efficient way of doing business for "your future" then give the man from Dargan a look in this year's County Commissioner's race. I would like to be the "voice" of the people who feel they have no voice in county government

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Democratic candidate for Washington County Commissioner.

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