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July 3, 2008

Hail and Farewell…

Joan Marie Aquilino

What do I say? I’m done; finished, doing a Happy Dance. Nope, not at all, I want to thank this county for the honor of serving on our Planning Commission for the past 10 years.


I can’t speak for Denny Crum other than to say I know we both consider what we have just completed an honor. The two of us sat through four different Boards of County Commissioners and more Planning Commission members and county staff than we can recall.


I wish I could bottle all that I’ve learned over these years and share it with new members; but I wouldn’t want to deprive them of learning it for themselves. That’s half the fun.


Many members were strangers when we first met. But, after dealing with the many issues on the Planning Commission, you form a bond and then a true friendship. We spent enormous hours together.


A few words on the members I’ll be leaving behind.


Catherine Forrence, our newest member, is never one I would have suspected to enjoy so very much. She and I have this unexplainable sense of humor that runs between us. She brings a freshness that is good and important to these boards.


Audrey Wolfe is one of those quiet people in which the statement “still waters run deep” is so true. Audrey may not say much, but I can tell you when she does, you need to pay attention because it will be an eye opener. Audrey, hold your own and don’t let them over-talk you.


There is never a doubt, when Joe Brown speaks, about how he feels on any topic. Joe – more often than not – is the direct hit when Catherine and I felt the need to rein him in. Catherine, good luck. Remember I left you a full role of duck tape should you feel the need, and I don’t mean just for Joe. I’m sure you’re going to have your hands full with this board, but you’ve still got Audrey. Girl power is strong still.


Bob White is the grandfather of the Planning Commission. Bob, that’s not a reflection of age but, rather experience. I’m not sure of his total amount of years on and off the commission, but they are numerous. Bob and I go back the furthest of all the members (long before the Planning Commission) and he and I found early on we didn’t have to always agree with each other to be able to respect each other. Bob is a wealth of history.


My buddy and friend, Denny Crum, says more than any person I know without ever opening his mouth and uttering a word. He was the farmer’s presence. More than anything, he should have been replaced by a farmer. I wish everyone could have the kind of family and marriage this man shares. To my retiring Planning Commission mate, I wish you well, and hope you enjoy all the traveling I suspect will be coming for you and Judy.


Our Board of County Commissioners liaison to the Planning Commission is Kai Hagen. He and I very often saw eye-to-eye on many planning issues, but our personalities more often than not got in our way. I wish him well and to truly give listening a chance. The planning commissioners can share so much with you because they aren’t politicians and have nothing to gain or lose.


I do want to take a moment to thank another commissioner, Charles Jenkins, for speaking words of support about Denny and me at the commissioners’ meeting. I heard what he had to say, but I haven’t had a chance to view the meeting on tape as yet.


My gratitude, appreciation and thanks go out to the county staff. Over the years I have seen many come and go, and ultimately they all had a respect and tolerance for our Planning Commission. I’ve also seen the staff double in size; so, if I tried to thank each and every one of you, I’d far exceed my word count and would be sure to miss someone. So, thanks to you ALL!


There should be one single requirement of anyone wanting to apply for service on the Planning Commission. You can go to all the classes in the world, read all the books; but, until you actually go through the process yourself, it’s difficult to understand what it feels like on the other side of that microphone. Several years into my term I found myself on the other side, and it was one heck of an eye opening experience. It gave me the compassion and empathy I needed to understand what applicants go through on a regular basis.


Applicants are not all large developers with lawyers, engineers, traffic consultants, etc. Most are people just like you and me doing what we can with what little we have. So often you get caught up in the day-to-day workings of the Planning Commission and you forget there are real people with real problems on the other side of that table – and not just cut and dry words and appeals. It’s a very intimidating process for those not used to it.


In the first few years of my tenure I got what I considered a backhanded compliment. It was a local attorney who had many clients before us often. He was mad as a hornet because I was the deciding vote that shot down his client.


I met up with him outside Winchester Hall the following week and I stepped back a bit expecting to get an earful. What I got was appreciation. He let me know he was right and I was wrong, of course, but he appreciated the fact that I at least listened and kept an open mind until all the information was in. He continued by saying that I didn’t seem to have my mind made up before walking into the room and that I had done my homework. I’ve always appreciated and remembered those words. Some of the other words of wisdom I received can’t be printed.


I will end by putting out the challenge once again for everyone who has anything to say. Step up to the plate and offer your service, time, energy and experience. There are always openings for any of the hundreds of boards and commissions throughout the county and municipalities. Don’t just complain about things, do something.


Frederick County, thank you for the opportunity you gave me these past 10 years.


’til next time…


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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