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Four file for Hagerstown mayor

January 27, 2009

HAGERSTOWN -- Robert E. Bruchey II, Jonathan R. Burrs and Ruth Ann Holtzman will face off March 10 during the Hagerstown Republican mayoral primary.

The winner will run against Democrat David S. Gysberts during the general election on May 19.

Gysberts automatically will advance to the general election because he is the only Democrat, said Dorothy Kaetzel, director of the Washington County Board of Elections.

Republicans

Robert E. Bruchey II, 50, 905 Woodland Way

Bruchey, the incumbent, also served as mayor from 1997-2001. He was defeated during the following election and appointed in 2006 to finish the term of former Mayor Richard F. Trump, who resigned from office.

"I still believe I am the person to continue to lead Hagerstown at these times," Bruchey said. "I want to continue to make Hagerstown a great place to live, work and visit."

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Bruchey said he has accomplished a lot over the last few years, including his support of the upper-floor revolving loan fund, a program that helps defray the cost of development through the issuance of low-interest loans.

He said he wants to bring higher-paying jobs to Hagerstown through marketing efforts.

Last month, Bruchey successfully pushed a proposal through the council to spend $58,000 to hire four local businesses to market the city.

Bruchey said he is proud to have led the development of the city's Arts & Entertainment District in the first block of South Potomac Street.

If elected, Bruchey would like to put a freeze on the property tax rate for senior citizens in certain income brackets, he said. The income guidelines would have to be formulated later.

"We have to find ways to protect these senior citizens," he said. "They can't afford to live here anymore."

Bruchey said he also would try to save the city money by working to change its municipal elections to coincide with the gubernatorial ones.

Last year, the Washington County Board of Elections said the city could save about $60,000 by piggybacking on the gubernatorial or presidential elections.

The council opposed the proposal.

Bruchey is a graduate of Smithsburg High School and attended Hagerstown Community College. He said he served with the military police in the Army, and retired from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in 1994 after 15 years of service.

He is the manager of Hagerstown Motors.

Jonathan R. Burrs, 38, 950 Lanvale St.

Burrs said the state of the economy inspired him to run for mayor.

He said he thinks poor decision-making on all levels of government has contributed to the problems facing Americans.

"I just think we need people with a vision for the future, viable strategies and means to build community and ... spur on new job growth in areas like Hagerstown," he said.

Burrs said he would seek to bring a fiber-optic cable high-speed Internet system to Hagerstown to help attract high-tech businesses to the city. A previous state plan to install a fiber-optic network statewide ran out of funding before it reached Western Maryland, he said.

He said he would explore better ways to use taxpayers' money, such as investing in alternative energy.

"Instead of giving a feel-good property tax decrease, why not start investing in alternative energy like windmill technology or solar technology?" he said. "I think the people of Hagerstown would rather do that."

Burrs graduated from Highland View Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding high school in Washington County, then joined the military, where he was trained in computer programming. He works as a systems analyst for JLG Industries in McConnellsburg, Pa.

He is a former columnist for The Herald-Mail.

Ruth Ann Holtzman, 65, of 1076 Holtzman Lane, who is vacationing in Florida, could not be reached for comment.

Democrat

David S. Gysberts, 31, of 795 Hamilton Blvd.

Gysberts said he chose to run for mayor because the existing administration is poorly led.

"This city needs fresh, new leadership," said Gysberts, who has served on the City Planning Commission for the past two years. "The city staff does a good job ... What we don't have is good elected leadership."

He said too many Hagerstown residents have to commute to other areas to earn a high enough wage to pay their mortgages. To solve that problem, Gysberts wants to create conditions that will attract high-paying jobs, he said.

Easing zoning restrictions in former industrial areas of the city and creating broadband by power line as a utility are a few of the things the city could do to help attract developers, Gysberts said. Tax credits could also work, he said.

"It's about bringing new ideas," he said. "We need to create conditions that will help developers, yet maintain the quality of life."

Gysberts said he works as a counselor for Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools. He holds a bachelor's degree in liberal studies and a master's degree in counseling from West Virginia University.

Gysberts said he has lived in Hagerstown most of his life.

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