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As Long as We Remember...

December 27, 2010

Top New Year's Resolutions

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

Well, it's that time of year again, when the topic of establishing resolutions is rolling off of the tongues of many – and it seems that the same eight to 12 timeless resolutions dominate the discussion.


So, without reinventing the traditional list, I thought it'd be fun to twist it up a bit and propose our county government consider the following for the New Year ahead:


Spend More Time with Family and Friends – Back in the day, the role of a county commissioner was, in fact, a part-time job! By recognizing that county staff should only have one boss, this board has made it clear that they will not engage in the practice of micromanagement, as has been the tendency of previous boards. Putting the operations in the hands of a capable county manager will be a good first step! The second step is to continue down the path toward the pursuit of a charter form of government – and, who knows, maybe we can return to that time in yesteryear when our elected officials serving in Winchester Hall are part-time public servants!


Get into Shape – With a single executive (be it a county manager or an eventual county executive) in place that is the first step to make a government run Lean. The next is to look at a standard of processing known as Six Sigma Operations Strategy. Many businesses beyond manufacturers are learning that tremendous opportunities abound by developing extremely cost-effective processing techniques. A great start has begun with the review of permit processing.


Lose Weight/Trim the Fat – I'm not picking on any one commissioner here, but if I were – No, let's focus on trimming the fat out of government spending, not only at Winchester Hall, but also over at the Board of Education. Why stop there. The county now has an opportunity to work with one or more of the county's municipalities to share or merge together government services – or even privatize some!


Quit Smoking – No more blowing smoke by blaming others – including fellow commissioners. The buck stops with them as a body of one. In addition, dissolve the culture of mistrust that evolved during the last 12 years of the Thompson Era (more appropriately known as the Thompson Error).


Quit Drinking – Stop drinking the Kool-Aid that the business community cannot be trusted. The Welcome Banner was hoisted above the door at Winchester Hall on December 1. Now it's time to prove to the public that our county commissioners mean it.


Get Out of Debt – Now, it is probably unrealistic to expect the county to ever get out of debt, but with seriously large deficits facing the county in coming years, be sure to plan for dealing with the continuing pension and other such obligations – some of which may be unsustainable unless dissected and renegotiated.


Learn Something New – Speaking of "learning” – with a demanding 60% of the burden of county tax revenues going to Frederick County Public Schools, work with the Board of Education to find operational and cost savings efficiencies. At the same time cooperate to improve public education so as to serve the diverse needs of the community by giving the charter school movement the same land use flexibility that other forms of public education enjoy.


Build Better Relationships – As public servants, remember that the Board of County Commissioners represents all the people of the county. Reach out to the municipalities as peers. Work with the non-profit community to assist them in finding new ways to address their funding needs through collaboration with each other, other government agencies and municipalities. This will be hard for many to grasp with serious budget and programs cuts looming ahead.


Get Organized – Many believe that it is time for Frederick County to take the steps to reorganize the form of government it has operated under for the last century and a half (plus nine years). Last week the board took the first steps to move in that direction by voting to authorize a committee to research and draft a proposal for a charter form of government.


According to a study conducted at the University of Scranton in 2002 for its Journal of Clinical Psychology (, 40% to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. Of that group 75% have maintained them after one week, 71% after two weeks, 64% after one month and 46% after six months.


Statistically that means that less than 20 percent of Americans stick with a resolution by mid-year. I looked hard to find the success ratios for government officials, but my guess is that it is even lower!


In the case of our county government, it seems that they are committed, and the media and public at large will be looking over their shoulders. So, if I were to bet on this one, I think we have a good chance that they will beat the odds for 2011!


Rocky Mackintosh is President of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for


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