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October 27, 2005

Down To The Wire!

John W. Ashbury

It's your turn now. The candidates have been barking for more than a year and it's time to settle a few issues and elect a mayor and five aldermen in The City of Frederick.

It is certain that there will be a new mayor. The incumbent squandered a promising career in local - or perhaps state - government with a personal style that trampled on just about everything in her path. Her replacement most certainly will not follow in those footsteps.

Ron Young, the Democrat, has been there before. He has a pleasant style. He gets along in public and gets his way in private by quiet manipulation - most of the time. He must get a firm hold on his ego, though, or - if he is elected next Tuesday - he'll face the same pack of critics the current mayor has.

Mr. Young did a formidable job through his first 12 years in office in the ' 70s and early '80s. It was his last four years that did him in and paved the way for Paul Gordon to defeat him in the 1989 election.

Ron has proven accomplishments to which he can point. And no one will ever fault him for continuing his education in how to govern since he left the mayor's office in 1990.

But there are those in the crowd who wonder why he is even bothering to seek public office again. He is 65 now and has mellowed some. But the fire still seems to burn in his gut to do what he thinks is right and needed in his hometown.

His opponent, Jeff Holtzinger, is quite the newcomer. He left his position as city engineer when it became obvious to him that working for Jennifer Dougherty was going to be an arduous task. And he had better things to do with his time than battle for what was right with a person who only saw what she wanted to see and not necessarily what was right.

In a telephone conversation early in this campaign Jeff said that Mayor Dougherty was the first and only person for whom he had worked who twisted what he said so badly that he felt compelled to put everything he said to her in writing; in that way she would be less inclined to misconstrue or misstate what he said. (This is my take on what Jeff said, not a verbatim quotation.)

There are few people who come to the electorate as well qualified as Jeff Holtzinger. He is not only a board certified engineer, but he is also a practicing attorney. Juggling those two careers makes him well suited for the mayor's office. That experience is invaluable.

A friend in the construction business said that when Jeff was the city engineer he worked hard to accommodate applicants within the confines of the city's rules and regulations.

For example, when a plan was submitted for review, Jeff would look it over and realize that it wasn't going to work as detailed. Instead of sending the applicant back to his office to figure out what to do, Jeff sat down with the applicant and together they worked out a solution.

That's what citizens want from the people working for them in government. Here was a bureaucrat who understood that his job was to serve the citizen, not put roadblocks in their path.

And that seems to be the dilemma facing city voters next week.

On the one hand you have the person whose "vision" for the city is well recognized. The downtown has been revitalized due in large measure to his hard work and connections at both the state and federal level. The Carroll Creek Project would never have gotten off the ground without Ron Young.

On the other hand, there's Jeff Holtzinger whose training would greatly benefit all the citizens of Frederick in finding solutions to all the myriad infrastructure problems now facing the city: water, sewer, streets, Monocacy Boulevard's realignment, etc.

So, the choice is between a man with proven visionary power and a man who reputation for solving problems that every citizen faces is as unparallel as that of his opponent in mapping the future.

Makes me glad I live outside Frederick.

Then there is the campaign to fill the five seats on The Board of Aldermen. We have 11 candidates this year and most are well qualified to serve. A couple of them should have saved their time and money.

Marcia Hall is likely to retain her seat. She, of all the incumbents, has contributed the least to the fractious atmosphere in City Hall over the last three plus years. Her learning curve when she stepped into office was tremendous. But she seems to have coped well with that challenge.

Donna Kuzemchak-Ramsburg, on the other hand, seems to have run her course in just eight years. It isn't clear what has happened to her base supporters, but they aren't as numerous as in her earlier campaigns.

Perhaps her insistence since early this year that unless the aldermen got a substantial pay raise, she wasn't going to "be able" to run again. On four different occasions she has brought forth this increase in salary and four times it has been defeated.

When retiring Alderman Dave Lenhart proposed an alternative slate of city positions to eliminate instead of those suggested by the mayor, Ms. Kuzemchak-Ramsburg said in anger that she would now have to run again to protect her husband's job, which was among those on Mr. Lenhart's list. That 's a conflict-of-interest whether she sees it or not.

There are a lot of voters in the City of Frederick who are still angry with the way Mayor Dougherty has conducted her job. Ms. Kuzemchak-Ramsburg was the mayor's staunchest ally among the alderman, so that may well be a reason for her loss of support.

David 'Kip' Koontz, who contributed to The Tentacle on a regular basis for most of its existence, and Alan Imhoff, also a Tentacle columnist, seem to be the most qualified among the rest of the candidates. Both have been involved in city and county business on a volunteer basis for many, many years, and it has paid off in a comprehensive knowledge of issues facing city residents. Their commitment to the City of Frederick is well-known.

Randy McClement is a downtown business owner and resident. That perspective has been missed on the Board of Aldermen for far too long.

C. Paul Smith, a Rockville attorney who has lived in Frederick for many years, could be a welcomed addition as well. He has 12 children and most of his sons have attained Eagle Scout status, a reflection on how important Mr. Smith thinks family is.

His experience in dealing with legal matters could be of great assistance in resolving the numerous law suits now pending against the city.

Attorney Tom Slater has served the Democratic State Central Committee for more than 20 years, but his previous attempts at seeking a paid political position have failed. His work with the Department of Social Services has benefited numerous Frederick families over the years. He, too, could help resolve all those law suits.

Newcomer Ken Berlin garnered a positive response from citizens early in this campaign, but his star seems to be sinking at present. Maybe that is a result of his telling all groups and individuals what he thinks they want to hear. On the other hand, he has proffered some good ideas that should be examined by the next Board of Aldermen even if he is not among them.

Samie Conyers, who came to Frederick as a soldier at Ft. Detrick and stayed to offer his service as a minister, doesn't seem to know what he wants to do. He has volunteered at both the city and county level and has run for office previously.

Perhaps his greatest service would be to the members of his church. If elected, his time will most certainly be divided and that could detract from both the citizens of Frederick and his parishioners.

James Joyce who started off like a house afire must have run into a fire hydrant. His campaign, which got a real boost from the controversy over an apartment complex at Old Farm off Rosemont Avenue, seems to have been dampened. Unlike the rest of the candidates for aldermen, Mr. Joyce seems truly uncomfortable on the campaign trail. Perhaps it is the newness of it all.

The Green Party candidate, Joanne Ivancic, is also new to the process and it shows in her appearances at the forums. She seems all too often to be uninformed on the issues. But that could also come from being uncomfortable in the role of candidate. That is an affliction that strikes many well-qualified candidates.

So there you have it. Thirteen people who are seeking your vote next week. Vote - and choose wisely. It is your neighborhood and your city that will prosper - or not.

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