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Forum offers civics lessons for prospective candidates

November 07, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Ned Harper has no plans to run for office in the immediate future, but attended Saturday's Prospective Candidate Forum at Hagerstown Community College to learn more about local government.

Harper had been complaining with friends about what he described as a "stimulus to developers," he said.

Washington County in October passed a short-term stimulus program that combines an excise tax credit, a permit fee reduction and a recordation tax break to encourage residential construction and make homes more affordable.

While complaining, Harper realized, "why don't I do something about it," he said.

The forum was informative and gave him an idea of what kind of positions are available, Harper said.

Saturday's forum was sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, HCC, the League of Women Voters, Women at the Table, the Democratic Central Committee and the Republican Central Committee.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., unaffiliated-Frederick/Washington, served as the forum's keynote speaker.

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Organizers hoped the forum would give prospective candidates an idea of what it really means to serve, said N. Sharon Leatherman, chairwoman of Women at the Table.

Another forum in January will address the details of running a campaign, she said.

Several former elected officials and current elected officials not up for re-election in the next election served on the forum's panel.

Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. Kevin Simmers also attended Saturday.

Simmers said he would like to contribute more to public service and is contemplating running for a countywide public office.

The forum was informative, he said.

"Really, on local politics, it seems like party affiliations doesn't have a lot to do with it," Simmers said.

Doris J. Nipps, a Republican who is a former Washington County commissioner and Washington County Board of Education member, said she received no assistance from the Republican Central Committee when she ran for commissioner. The committee seemed more focused on statewide races, she said.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said she doesn't even pay attention to whether someone is a Republican or Democrat when working with them.

During the question-and-answer session, the panelists were asked what they believe are the major issues facing the area.

"It all boils down to quality-of-life issues," said Bert Iseminger, a former Washington County commissioner. Development probably is the biggest issue in the area, he said.

Myers agreed.

"Development, infrastructure and everything that goes along with it," she said.

Hagerstown City Councilman Martin Brubaker reminded the prospective candidates that "at local government, you have to balance the budget. If you're going to spend $3 million to fix a problem, feel responsible for how to pay that."

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