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For council: Breichner, Brubaker, Easton, Haywood, Metzner

May 14, 2009

Voters in the Hagerstown primary elections did most of the heavy lifting in March, by removing three incumbents whose presence on the council was doing the city's reputation no favors, especially in business circles.

In fact, it was these incumbents' behavior in public meetings and/or reluctance to embrace progressive ideas that encouraged some who were new to politics to enter the race, on the grounds of returning a little decorum and flexible thinking to public office.

The net result has been a good, and reasonably deep, pool of candidates from which to choose when voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

From this field, The Herald-Mail endorses William Breichner (D), Martin Brubaker (D), Forrest Easton (R), Ashley Haywood (Unaffiliated) and Lewis Metzner (D).

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Incumbents Brubaker and Metzner are capable in their own rights, but they deserve particular credit for keeping this particular council from flaming out altogether.

While there may be some temptation to clean house and elect an entirely new council, it would be wrong to allow Brubaker and Metzner to become collateral damage in the name of a fresh start.

Needless to say, some incumbent representation is desirable in the name of continuity. But more importantly, Brubaker and Metzner are skilled at policy and planning, and have been key to what progress (against all odds, perhaps, considering the council in total) the city has achieved in the past four years.

This steadiness would obviously be buttressed by Breichner, whose multiple positions in city offices over the years gives him as much institutional knowledge of the city as anyone.

More of a work horse than show horse, Breichner never seemed entirely comfortable as mayor, but his nuts-and-bolts approach is well suited to a council seat.

With an experienced majority in place, there is room to inject some new blood and ideas into a council in need of both. Easton, who entered the race based on the "unprofessional" behavior of the current council, might have lost some of his reason for being with the primary defeat of three incumbents.

But his experience in state-agency work and sensible views on business development and controlled growth are encouraging. He would not sell the city's soul for another big-box store, and says he would not have prolonged - as a past council so infamously did - a fight to keep the local hospital in town.

At 34, Easton brings a much-needed, younger perspective to the council, but he is still 10 years the senior of Haywood, whose résumé suggests that we should not let her age fool us: Magna cum laude at Dickinson College, research stints in London and New York and now owner of Skyline Coffee Co. on Public Square, Haywood is no stranger to tackling big chores.

It is her latest pursuit that might make her the most qualified for a seat on the council. She understands first-hand, or has heard through downtown merchant circles, the difficulty of dealing with landlords and the tar pits of permitting processes.

Hagerstown businesses have been making slow and steady progress of late, but particularly with the economic downturn, future sailing could be rough. A council member who knows the needs of store owners would be a considerable asset. And, with an experienced council base, there would be ample time to learn the ropes.

As always, The Herald-Mail encourages readers to learn all they can about the candidates (to start, click here) and take advantage of your right to vote on Tuesday, May 19.

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