Washington Co. notables share Christmas lists

December 23, 2010
  • Daniel Dwyer
Daniel Dwyer

Editor's note: With Christmas Day approaching, area educators, officers, elected officials, those who work in the legal system, and others were asked this week to name something on their professional wish lists that they'd like Santa to deliver. Following are their answers.

For at least one man, Christmas came early this year.  

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said he got his Christmas wish when the driver of a tractor-trailer, who led police on a three-state chase on Interstate 81 Monday, chose to stay on I-81 and not get off at a Hagerstown exit.

As the driver fled police on I-81, he struck several cars along the way.

Had the driver taken a different course or attempted to drive against traffic, the chase could have proved deadly, police said.

If he had come through Hagerstown, at the least, "we'd be writing accident reports for the rest of our careers," Smith said.

For Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson, the gift of hope provided to those who don't have it would be a great gift.

"It would be nice to see some of the people we deal with actually understand the meaning of the word 'hope' and start to have some hope in their lives," Wilson said.

Many of the people who go through the criminal courts system act on impulse, frustration and anxiety bred from a feeling of hopelessness in their lives, he said.

If people had a sense of hope "I think they'd be surprised how good their life can be," the prosecutor said.

On the other side in the judicial process, Assistant Public Defender Charles Bailey has a wish list that includes a U.S. Supreme Court decision "pushing back the erosion of the Bill of Rights."

Bailey, who made it clear his wish list did not reflect any official positions of the Office of the Public Defender, said he also wished for Maryland's budget to win the lottery and for Washington County juries to "gain a healthy suspicion of the statements of authority figures."

The defense attorney also wished that "noncustodial parents would all find good jobs and pay their child support obligations."

Rob Hovermale, supervisor of visual and performing arts for Washington County Public Schools, said his wish would be for "more arts programs nationwide, especially in the elementary schools."

Involvement with art programs helps young people learn collaboration and creative-thinking skills, benefiting them in the long term, Hovermale said. Students learn to think through things, connecting the creative side of the minds with the linear reasoning side, he said.

Clear Spring, like many municipalities, is feeling the pinch from a financial downturn, Town Clerk Juanita Grimm said.

Not only have town revenues fallen, residents are struggling financially as well, she said.

What Clear Spring needs for Christmas is a change in the economy.

"My wish? That the economy gets better," she said.

Clear Spring lost financial aid from Washington County and the state, including about $30,000 in highway user revenues this fiscal year, a significant hit in its $533,848 budget, the Herald-Mail reported previously.  

Clear Spring joined municipalities across Maryland to ask the state that shared revenue cuts not continue.

Debra S. Murray, Washington County budget and finance director, had a broad wish for her department: "To be able to continue to maintain fiscal stability in these current economic conditions and state budget cuts."

Fiscal 2012, which starts July 1, is going to be a tough year on both the capital and operating sides.

"The county's been pretty conservative, and we've managed to get through the past couple years, but I still think fiscal year '12's going to present some more difficult challenges than what we've faced in the past," she said.

Jeff Stouffer, principal of Washington County Technical High School, had a wish for his students.

"Every student that walks through these doors not only graduates, but gets a top-quality education and has a really good GPA (grade point average), enough to go into a trade school or a college or right into a really, really good job position that will carry them for 15, 20 years," he said.

Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer said much of the court's time is taken up with divorce and custody issues, so peace in the home would be good for the people involved and would mean less of a burden on the courts.

"I wish that people have happy families and don't get into marital disputes that cause them to separate on New Year's Day," Dwyer said.

"It would be good if people made less work" for the court system, Dwyer said on what might have been a wistful note. "I always wanted to be a forest ranger, anyway."

Boonsboro Mayor Charles "Skip" Kauffman Jr. looked to the economy as he described his wishes.

"I'd like to wish all good health, peace and prosperity, and I'd like to wish that the economy turns around, so our towns can better provide vital and nonvital services to our citizens in the coming year," he said.

"If I had a wish, I'd certainly wish all the citizens to have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," Washington County Commissioners President Terry Baker said. "I'd like to see all the kids have the best Christmas of their life."

From a county government perspective, Baker said he wished that the state would not pass on any more costs to the counties and restore the amount of highway user revenue it once passed down to the counties and municipalities.

That state funding, once the primary funding for county road maintenance projects, was cut about 95 percent in recent years.

For James F. Kercheval, a former Washington County commissioner and the new executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee, an answer came to mind immediately.

"I wish we were back at full employment, our unemployment down to 4 percent," Kercheval said.

Higher employment is a starting point that would lead to other improvements in the quality of life, he said.

"Everything works when everybody's working, so that would be one wish," he said.

Staff Writers Don Aines, Kate Alexander and Heather Keels contributed to this story.

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