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Winners ready to go to work

New county commissioners to be sworn in Dec. 5

New county commissioners to be sworn in Dec. 5

November 09, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The newly elected Washington County Commissioners were a little tired Wednesday from a late election night and little sleep, but they said they were ready to go to work.

The new group will have that chance in less than a month, after a swearing-in ceremony Dec. 5.

Voters elected incumbents William J. Wivell and James F. Kercheval, Terry Baker, John F. Barr and Kristin B. Aleshire in Tuesday's general election.

Incumbent Commissioner John C. Munson, a Republican, lost Tuesday, and Republican Commissioner Doris J. Nipps was defeated in the September primary. Longtime Commissioner Gregory I. Snook, a Republican who has been on the board for 16 years, decided not to seek re-election.

Aleshire, a Hagerstown city councilman, said he was being cautious about declaring victory until the absentee ballots are counted. He grabbed the fifth spot on the five-member board, according to complete but unofficial results.

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Aleshire received 1,605 more votes than sixth-place finisher Donna Brightman, according to the results.

The Washington County Board of Elections issued 4,037 absentee ballots. As of Tuesday night, 3,550 had been returned. The election board plans to count the absentee ballots today.

Aleshire, apparently the lone Democrat on the new board, said he thought the commissioners elected Tuesday were a good group.

"I think it's five fully competent and capable individuals," Aleshire said.

Aleshire said there are several issues he wants to tackle right away, but that his first priority will be to update the county's water and sewer plan "so that we better understand how we will grow in the future."

Republicans Baker, Barr and Kercheval also said they were excited about the new board.

'Professional' group

"Absolutely wonderful," Barr said. "I think the voters obviously watched the forums. I think we've got a great and very professional, very cross-sectioned group. I think we got a group that's going to be able to work together well."

"I think the personalities are more relaxed, professional ..." Kercheval said. "It'll be a good group."

Shortly after they take office, Kercheval said the new board will be looking for a replacement for County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop and working on a new county budget.

The amount of learning will be intense for the newcomers, he said.

"It's really difficult to get up to speed," Kercheval said. "It took me two years before I felt comfortable."

In addition to finding a county administrator, Barr said growth issues, school-based developer fees and a new budget would be facing the new commissioners fairly quickly.

Baker said he would like get to know the other commissioners and county staff to build a foundation from which to work.

"I want the staff and the citizens to know that I work for them," Baker said. "They don't work for me."

He said he was looking forward to getting started as a new commissioner and was pleased with whom the voters elected.

Like Barr, Wivell said a developer "mitigation" plan dealing with school fees and capacity will be a priority, as well as working on landfill capacity and budget issues.

With a slowing housing market, Wivell said he didn't think the next board of commissioners will have an easy budget ride, as the current board did.

A slowdown will almost certainly lead to lower tax revenues for county government, he said.

"I think there's going to be some budget challenges," said Wivell, a Republican.

He also said it was too early to give an opinion of the new board.

"You have to give everybody a chance and see how they do," Wivell said.

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