Different Race, Same Old Horses – Part One
It seems as if our whole political world is changing. The 2014 election heralds the beginning of a new phase, a new form of government for our county.
Our current form, for all of its many flaws, fits like a well-worn pair of slippers. Those familiar five people, in all their various incarnations over the years, represented stability and predictability, at least for the four years of their terms.
We’ve had wild swings in ideology, especially on the issue of residential construction, but during each four-year term, we’ve pretty much known what we were in for once the boards started taking action. The inevitable clash of will, ego and philosophy wasn’t really a big problem, but more of an expectation.
Frankly, sometimes it’s been downright entertaining to watch.
Who could forget the battles between the late Col. Mark Hoke and David Gray, or the arguments between Lennie Thompson and (insert pretty much any name here)? Jan Gardner had her run-ins with Mike Cady and John Lovell, and the 1990-1994 board featured epic donnybrooks between Gail Bowerman/David Gray and Bruce Reeder/Sue Ann Yingling.
The current version of this is the snarky exchanges between Blaine Young and David Gray. It doesn’t take a relationship expert to determine that these two guys really just can’t stand one another. All it takes is one remark, one aside, and these two are at it like hyenas on a rotting carcass. Admit it, it might be painful, but it sure is fun to watch.
A little creative tension is a perfect cure for group-think, that dangerous convergence of thought within a voting majority that can lead to terribly bad policy when it goes unchallenged.
So, it’s with a little melancholy that we contemplate the demise of our outmoded but charming gang of five. Instead we face a future with a true executive leader of the county government. We will be electing a decision-maker, one voice as the spokesman (gender neutral) for the entire government operation on a daily basis.
This new form of government represents the first real political shift opportunity we’ve had in decades. Since our process for growing our political “bench” has always been based on upward mobility to either the Board of County Commissioners or the state General Assembly, we’ve never really had to judge these people based on their ability to individually run a large and immensely complex government operation.
All of our current and past political choices have been centered on legislative skills and shared executive power. The closest we’ve come is our municipal elections. When you vote for a mayor, you’re typically voting for an executive leader in the traditional sense. You’re choosing someone to be the decider, the daily director of town operations. The truth is that our smaller towns rely on part-time mayors, so the real day-to-day leadership is delegated to a professional manager or administrator. Only the City of Frederick has a true executive leader in its mayor.
In that vein, we’re already hearing rumors and whispers about possible or likely candidates for the position of county executive. Wouldn’t it be great if – when we get to the ballot – we find a whole new crop of potential executive leaders, people who have either run corporations, non-profits or other governments with true executive experience and qualifications?
Next week, we’ll take a look at the legion of the likely. Rest assured the list of rumored candidates reads like a past history of Frederick County election battles. Instead of new faces to match the new form of government, we’ll probably be treated to a déjà vu parade of past issues, personal dislikes and familiar talking points.
Now there’s something to get worked-up over…