Breichner: Most important issue facing city is attracting businesses to struggling downtown

March 09, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • William M. Breichner
William M. Breichner

Editor’s note: This is one in an series of profiles of candidates running for office in the April 3 primary election.

William M. Breichner said his knowledge and experience in municipal work — dating back to the 1950s as a draftsman in the city’s water department — make him a good choice as he seeks re-election to his fourth term on the five-member Hagerstown City Council.

Breichner, 80, a Democrat, has served three terms on the council, one term as mayor and is a former city administrator.

He is one of five Democrats running for five open council seats in the April 3 primary. All five will advance to the Nov. 6 general election, where they will face five GOP candidates and an unaffiliated candidate. 

Breichner, of 1117 Oak Hill Ave., said the most important issue facing the city is attracting businesses to the struggling downtown.

“I grew up in a time when downtown was a thriving commercial and business district,” he said. “Seeing it the way it is right now is a little disheartening. I think there needs (to be) some drastic steps taken to revitalize the downtown. As opposed to tweaking things, I think it needs to be an overall change from the way we go about things.”

The downtown is “decaying and it’s a demolition by neglect,” Breichner said.

“People can’t afford to come in and put millions of dollars into some of these buildings and then end up with the problems that downtown presents,” he said. “There has to be some major changes.”

With the development of shopping malls and plazas outside the city, retail businesses are struggling to survive in the City Center, which Breichner said makes him think the city has to look at ways to market the downtown as a “business district.”

“The future of downtown Hagerstown is in business offices and that sort of thing,” Breichner said. “I think that will require a lot of changes in the way we look at downtown .... I think it needs to be changed and upgraded.”

On the topic of the Hagerstown Suns minor league baseball team, Breichner said he’s always supported the team and Municipal Stadium improvements needed to keep the Single A affiliate of the Washington Nationals here.

Suns ownership is considering a move to Winchester, Va., unless a new stadium is built or major renovations are made to the existing stadium.

But increased support from county and state officials is needed, Breichner said.

“We need their support if we’re going to keep (the Suns) here because we certainly don’t have the resources to go in and build and finance $10 million, $15 million of improvements,” Breichner said.

The state assisted in the construction of stadiums in Frederick, Salisbury and Charles County, Md., Breichner said, noting that he “just can’t figure out why they’re neglecting (Hagerstown).”

“We’re not trying to build a stadium to attract a team to come here,” he said. “We’ve already got a team here, and we need to support it, but we need that assistance.”

Others on the Democratic ballot include incumbent councilmen Martin E. Brubaker and Lewis C. Metzner, and challengers Kristin B. Aleshire and Penny M. Nigh, both former council members.

City council members serve four-year terms, earn $8,000 annually and are eligible for city health benefits.

The terms of current council members have been abbreviated because of a decision to hold city elections at the same time as the presidential election.

William M. Breichner, incumbent

Date of Birth: Oct. 6, 1931

Address: 1117 Oak Hill Ave.

Education: Graduate of St. Mary’s High School, 1951.

Occupation: Retired

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: Elected to three terms on Hagerstown City Council, serving 1989-97, 2009-present; elected to one term as mayor of Hagerstown, 2001-05.

The Herald-Mail Articles