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Perhaps the art of leadership is saying no, not yes

April 03, 2011|By LLOYD WATERS

In a recent column, Art Callaham offered some fine points on leadership, and I wonder exactly who was listening.

I see the president of the Washington County Commissioners recently cast two separate votes that suggest he might be listening.

The first vote indicates that Commissioners President Terry Baker is perhaps a bit more concerned about the fiscal future of Washington County than his peers. He cast a “no” vote to borrowing $14 million dollars so that several capital budget projects can be completed.

I wonder how many families today are borrowing money to improve their homes, take a vacation or purchase a new car under the current economic conditions.

Now, I suspect these projects are necessary for the improvement of Washington County, and spending money to improve our county is not totally objectionable.  

However, while I read of borrowing money for these projects, there was another story about the county falling some $7 million short of its next budget allocation.

I suspect most people in our county are trying to pay down their debt and avoid future debt, instead of going the other way.  

While the City of Hagerstown is eliminating staff positions and Washington County is reducing its budget, one should wonder about the wisdom in borrowing money.

Unemployment, anticipated tax revenues and continued escalation of county expenses are perhaps some of the issues that Baker has considered in casting his lone vote of opposition to this borrowing dilemma.

Perhaps Baker has the “vision” of a leader.

Another vote by Baker was cast when he voted against the appointment of Sassan Shaool, a local developer, to the Washington County Planning Commission. Although the other commissioners agreed that Shaool would be a good addition to the planning commission and that he only represented one voice among seven members, Baker thought the appointment might not be in the best interest of the county.

Former County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire was a finalist for the planning commission, and I guess the majority of current county commissioners must feel that Shaool would be more vigilant in future planning commission issues than Aleshire.

Baker apparently disagreed with Shaool’s selection.  

Commissioner Bill McKinley, I presume, has read some topics on leadership.

He indicated that although he made the motion to appoint Shaool and voted to confirm his appointment, the move had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Shaool donated to McKinley’s campaign and supported him for county commissioner.

Perhaps McKinley’s objectivity is unique.

Perhaps Baker has a different understanding and appreciation of political ethics as they relate to leadership.

I knew there was something I liked about Baker, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was until reading his position on his two most recent votes.

Leadership, for sure, is an important characteristic in today’s world.

While the economic conditions continue to be sluggish at best, it certainly behooves our county political representatives to be frugal in developing and approving budgets. If our county commissioners were truly fiscally responsible, why not consider saving $14 million in some other areas and allocating that money for the projects as opposed to borrowing more money?

Maybe meeting one day a week does not afford them the opportunity for these discussions.

Ultimately, it is the taxpayer who must pay this debt. These same taxpayers also are struggling with the price of gas, property taxes, food, prescriptions, utilities and other expenses.

Maybe Baker is more mindful of the taxpayers’ situation.

Perhaps when considering leadership, it might be wise to remember the words of Tony Blair: “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.”

Baker must already have read that quote.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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