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Farewell to Greg Snook, a leader and gentleman

November 30, 2006

On Tuesday, Gregory I. Snook attended his last meeting as a Washington County Commissioner. After 16 years in the office, he is stepping down to return to private life.

He will be missed, but not because he was a showboat or a colorful character. Instead, he was a humble consensus-builder who was always approachable and ready to lend an ear to what citizens had to say.

There certainly must have been frustrations during his four terms in office, but a search of The Herald-Mail archives turned up no mentions of angry outbursts or ill-considered rants.

Instead, Snook reined in whatever unpleasant emotions he must have been feeling during difficult times and carried out his duties in a quiet, professional manner.

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His time in office is a study in contrasts. He came in a time when local builders were fighting hard against impact fees, yet ended up backing a rural rezoning plan that will curb growth more than any one fee ever would.

The boards Snook led also worked through the problems that arose when the now-defunct Sanitary Commission built a new treatment plant on the Conococheague Creek, but didn't aggressively market the plant to bring in income or seek incremental rate increases that would have kept the system from going so deeply into debt.

During that era, Snook and his fellow commissioners faced hundreds of residents at a public hearing at North Hagerstown High School, where tempers flared to the point where officials had to turn on the lights to identify those using foul language.

Since then, a system has been put in place to pay down the debt. And the Cono-cocheague plant, with its available capacity, is an asset that, through new flow-transfer pacts with Hagerstown, will prevent growth from grinding to a halt.

Snook also promoted open dialogue with the City of Hagerstown. And while the result of those joint meetings might not always have been to city officials' liking, the fact that they took place at all provides a starting point for more in-depth discussions of revenue sharing and other topics.

He might not have been the first to use such words, but blues guitarist Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins wrote a song, one line of which says, "Never miss your water, until your well runs dry."

We suspect that Washington County residents will miss Greg Snook a great deal more when they realize that the well of experience and concern that they have dipped into for so long is no longer available.

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