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Spinnler: Education the key to county's fiscal and physical health

September 06, 2006|by Mike Spinnler

"You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant." - The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

I view the position of Washington County Commissioner as that of a public servant. To all of those who have served as local elected officials, I respect and appreciate you. To the community-minded individuals now running for commissioner, I admire you. And I'm honored to be one of you.

My parents installed in me the importance of "serving mankind" and "striving to make the world a better place." John F. Kennedy's challenge ("Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.") has always been more than just a sound-bite to me. I was taught the necessity, in a well-functioning and compassionate society, of concerned contributors. I've tried to be one of those contributors.


One of those roles has been as director of the Washington County-based annual JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon for the last 14 years. The event, inspired by JFK's "Call To Fitness" in the early 1960s, has brought millions of dollars in tourism revenue to the county, helped fund deserving local charities and has portrayed Washington County in an incredibly-positive fashion worldwide. Washington County is a prime location to host more similar family-friendly special events that could help the area financially and culturally while enhancing the area's image.

My admiration for JFK's ideals and vision have always run deep. They have only grown deeper during my tenure as the administrator of the 50-mile race.

During Kennedy's presidency, the surgeon general told him that the number of adults in the U.S. considered overweight had grown to 25 percent. Kennedy quickly tried to counteract the unhealthy trend through his national "Call To Fitness" program.

The program was temporarily "successful" for a period of time in the 1960s and early 70s. But sadly, four decades later, the figure of American adults considered overweight has grown past 60 percent.

The byproduct of this slide is the rise to near-epidemic proportions of obesity related diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etc.) that have negatively affected the quality of life in the U.S. in a major way and unnecessarily overburdened our health-care system.

The solution to this national crisis is not a quick-fix, but changes need to occur. I believe we can affect Washington County profoundly through education.

Through physical education classes, yes, but even more important, through the more traditional academic avenues. Statistics show that the better educated an individual is, the more likely he or she is to have a healthy lifestyle (i.e. not smoke, exercise regularly, etc.) The more education one has, the more information he or she has. To motivate someone to pursue a difficult task, tell them how "things work." Then they will understand the logic and rational behind their struggle. INFORMATION IS INSPIRATION!

My strong feelings on education's positive effects is why I support Paul Swartz in his proposal to make post-secondary education available to every Washington County high-school graduate.

Some of details of his proposal need to be refined, but this can only enhance local citizens' lives and make the area more attractive to potential business enterprises. The is not some kind of "impossible dream." A similar program has already begun in Garrett County, Md.

On tax relief, I believe there are two groups that are especially hard-hit financially and could use a little help. The first: Senior-citizen home owners hard-hit by skyrocketing property assessments and the subsequent rise in real estate taxes.

The second group is the young people who have taken on large college loans. The county should thoroughly investigate the options of assisting these two groups, who shouldn't be "punished" for their longevity or for their honorable desire to gain post-secondary educations.

For those of you who are wondering where my campaign signs are, I have made the decision not to spend any of my own money on my "campaign" and I haven't accepted any offered contributions - although I am greatly appreciative of those who offered my campaign financial assistance.

I'm not criticizing those who have raised and spent money on campaign signs, etc., I just personally would feel better if those dollars went to worthwhile charitable organizations and civic causes.

For anyone interested in donating to any of the charitable organizations that I donate to, feel free to call 301-739-7004 or e-mail and I'll provide you with a list of them.

If the voters decide on Sept. 12 and/or Nov. 7 to choose five of the other very able candidates instead of me, I will accept their decision and continue to serve the area in other capacities.

Mike Spinnler is a Democratic candidate for Washington County Commissioner.

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