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As Long as We Remember...

November 1, 2010

Follow Their Lead

Adam Avery

I was honored to have been asked by Frederick County Commissioner Blaine Young to take his place and speak on his behalf at the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association Forum ( The venue was originally a feed store, then broom factory, bus depot, restaurant and now its current form, the Carriage House Inn.


Redefining the role of government, job creation, Waste-to-Energy, growth, and ending “strangulation with regulation” seemed the obvious topics for a speech designed to differentiate Blaine Young and his slate from Kai Hagen and his “team.”


Instead, I chose to make leadership the theme.


After all, regardless of the issues facing our county, none will ever be resolved without the service of commissioners who can lead.


Leadership is taking responsibility for the failures of your teammates, not hiding behind them. It requires taking a firm stance based on sound principles and applying clearly defined and well articulated remedies.


It necessitates stepping on a few toes in order to act on the behalf of many.


Leadership requires measuring risk against reward with no guarantee of desired results. It is not something easily honed, nor is it static. Leadership moves us forward. Lack thereof results in standstill or worse yet, freefall.


It is what separates success from failure.


Effective leadership is not avoiding tough decisions; camouflaging procrastination by proposing to “study the issue.” It isn’t offering to work with others, yet accomplishing nothing. It isn’t characterizing your opponents as thoughtless because they disagree with your position, or have a different solution to an agreed upon problem.


It isn’t pointing fingers at others, or unforeseen impediments for fear that your reputation will be tarnished by having to admit underperformance, absence of foresight or poor preparation.


It isn’t trying to please all for fear of upsetting any.


Leadership is not allocating public funds to your favorite charity. It isn’t using taxpayer’s time and money to publicly admonish a private citizen’s letter to the editor. It isn’t broadcasting through radio conjecture aimed to question the ethics of a candidate whom you oppose.


Leadership isn’t defining a balanced budget as one whereby what was spent was all tax revenue collected plus one-time nonrecurring revenue minus any funding for long-term liabilities. Nor is it claiming to have eliminated 200+ positions from county payrolls, when only 23 of those positions were occupied; failing to mention that one of the 23 was ruled “wrongful termination,” requiring rehire and a chilling effect which allowed the position which should have been terminated to remain occupied for fear of reprisal.


It isn’t defending your record by claiming you are right and everyone else is wrong. Nor is it describing your critic’s solutions as doom and gloom, yet offering no alternative or other viable solutions of your own.


It isn’t the arrogance of believing that while still in office, you – rather than the citizens you represent – have the power to define your legacy. In fact, it isn’t even worrying about a legacy.


Nor is it taking a cue from Al Gore; claiming to have invented “governmental transparency” and then retiring to closed-from-public sessions to discuss budget cuts.


Our current Board County Commissioners lacks individual leaders. It hasn’t gelled as a team with the capacity to lead. As such, our county finds itself at the bottom of the mountain, idling in neutral, grinding its gears.


Tomorrow’s general election for our Frederick’s Board of County Commissioner is an opportunity to select the leaders from a list of well-meaning candidates. There will be an opportunity to choose one born to lead (Blaine Young), one who has learned how to lead (Michael Kurtianyk), one who has spent his life leading others (Kirby Delauter), one whose personality facilitates leadership (Billy Shreve), and one who – on and off the field- leads by example (C. Paul Smith).


The election of the aforementioned candidates will not guarantee success. It won’t assure reversal of the perception that our county lacks business friendliness. It won’t be a cure all for the economic woes facing many of our county residents. It won’t promise an end to the Waste-to-Energy debate. It won’t make certain a perfect balance of growth and quality of life.


Nor will it magically eliminate deficits and cause to overflow coffers for public distribution.


The election of leaders will, however, end the disgraceful misuse of public trust. It will allow to heal the wounds – scabbed over and picked to the point of scarring – left from the tenuous working relationship between the commissioners and elected municipal leaders and county employees.


It will rejuvenate our citizenry and invite more to participate in the process of redefining the role of our county government.


We will be treated to the truth, whether we want to hear it or not. We will have explained to us the pros and cons of remedies to our problems. We will be refreshed with outside-the-box thinking characteristic of private, for-profit business modeling.


We will have replaced the defeatist attitude demonstrated by our current leadership’s proclamations such as, “We are forced to do less with much less” with optimistic goals like, “We will work together and find ways to accomplish much more with less.”


Most importantly, we will be treated as if we matter. We won’t be thought of as too dumb to understand the complexities of life. We won’t be looked down upon. We won’t be treated as an ATM machine.


We might even get a phone call the next morning……..


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