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February 23, 2009

Incumbent Dumping

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Let me perfectly clear: my thinking on the subject of today’s column has evolved over the course of the last 30 years, and was clearly influenced by my experience in the Maryland House of Delegates over the last six years.


Paul Frey and Michael Boyd, two well-respected business and organizational development consultants, have teamed up to write a thought-provoking and timely book.


First off, a little about these co-conspirators. Both were senior managers for one of this county’s most successful hospitality businesses, The Plamondon Company. While the team at Plamondon is filled with bright and forward-thinking people, few could argue that the Boyd-Frey team had a lot to do with helping to build that company into the successful venture it is today.


Paul is very active in Rotary, a social/fraternal organization of business people who give a great deal of time and money to building a better community for all. Mr. Boyd is very successful and highly regarded Toastmaster, as great at teaching people to speak as he is himself a skilled and engaging presenter.


Following their Plamondon successes, both men ventured out on their own, launching consulting companies to help organizations, individuals, and businesses achieve their goals, develop a vision, and refine their services.


Not satisfied with organizational development consulting, they also realized they shared a political view that seemed out of step with the current climate. After feeling disillusioned with the state of their government, they began work on a collaboration that would result in a highly regarded work of non-fiction.


“Dump The Incumbents! 26 Reasons from A-Z” uses the alphabet to make the case that long-serving political incumbents are more focused on their own needs than on those of the constituents they serve.


Equal parts funny and frightening, “Dump The Incumbents” leads the reader on a journey of self-appraisal, forcing you to ask yourself whether your own expectations are being met. If not, then maybe you, too, have settled into a repeating pattern of accepting less than you really want because it’s what you think you’ll always get.


My evolution from incumbent protector to incumbent remover tracks closely with my own experience in the state legislature. There was a time, many years ago, when I believed that a multi-term incumbent was a better servant leader, that more time in government service equated to an increase in power and influence.


While arguably true, what this naïve view ignores is that while accumulating that power and influence, the incumbent politician begins to sacrifice ingenuity, innovation, and the sheer risk born of the spirit of a desire to serve. Power becomes the drug, and the craving is worse than that of any street-level heroin junkie.


Some elected officials calculate the percentage increase in their government pensions based on how many consecutive terms they serve. Others consider the larger, plusher offices and perks that come with “moving up,” something so objectionable that only the incumbents and their loyal staff ever discuss these things, and only behind closed doors.


A number of political incumbents spend twice as much energy raising campaign funds and targeting the “base” as they do their responsibility to serve all of the people. If it isn’t someone who can write a big check, they aren’t worth the effort to respond.


Still other incumbents resort to a form of political blackmail, combing the fundraising rolls of past opponents, then confronting business owners with evidence of that past support. Unless that businessman is willing to pony up some hefty campaign cash to the incumbent, then their issues get shifted to the back-burner. Does this really happen? Sure does, and right here in Frederick County!


Are there exceptions? Of course there are. Among my colleagues who serve in elective office, there are several innovative and creative thinkers. There are a number of people whose primary motivation to serve is to make our county, state, and nation a better place for all of us.


Sadly, there are also a number of political incumbents who have overstayed their welcome and outlived their usefulness. It is for these, the lackluster, self-serving, and constituent tone-deaf, that “Dump The Incumbents, 26 Reasons From A-Z” was written.


For more information, visit


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