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As Long as We Remember...

April 3, 2013

A First Look at Frederick’s Mayoral Race

Patrick W. Allen

To take a myopic and partisan view toward the 2013 Frederick City mayoral race is a disservice to one-and-all and to The City of Frederick.


Prologue: In 2013, Frederick City residents may be facing one – if not the – most important mayoral races in its 268 year history. Not because of what is or might be taking place in 2013, but because of what will be occurring in Frederick County in 2014. Following the general election cycle in November 2014, Frederick County will implement a new and sovereign form of government based on little more than a 25-page executive summary document copied and pasted from a sister Maryland county (Cecil).


The complete absence of operational and functional specificity in the Frederick County Charter places extraordinary pressure on the citizens of Frederick City to elect a mayor who can keep the city safeguarded during probable years of chaos within the county government – a mayor who can keep and nurture City Hall and Winchester Hall relationships and keep connections intact.


Currently there are five names, filed or floating, seeking to represent Frederick City as its next mayor.


William "Jeff" Holtzinger: Jeff served as the mayor of Frederick City from 2006 to 2009. His accomplishments include improvements to the Frederick City water supply, expansion of public transportation and the addition of 148 acres of parkland to the city through acquisition. Considered by some as a poor communicator, the albatross for Jeff may lie in the resurfacing of the employee buyout plan that went awry during his previous tenure. Since leaving office, Jeff has been flying under the radar, which makes him more of an unknown than a known.


Randy McClement: Randy has been an active member of the Frederick community for many years. He has served on a number of boards and commissions that have given him a breadth of knowledge about our city. However, that experience has not necessarily translated into leadership. He is somewhat quiet and measured, something which his opponents have viewed as a liability regarding his leadership. Randy's support of Ron Young instead of Alex Mooney for the state Senate seat in 2010 was seen by some as political party treason, but such things occur at the municipal level and should not cause him too much damage, if any.


Jennifer Dougherty: Elected Frederick City's first female mayor in 2001, defeating two-term incumbent Jim Grimes, Jennifer has always been viewed as a lightening rod personality. Termed as combative and sometimes unapproachable, as a candidate in previous mayoral and congressional district races and as the sitting mayor, she seems to have softened a bit since leaving office and working as a small business owner in downtown Frederick.


Galen Clagett: On paper, Galen has an impressive resume. He currently serves in the Maryland House of Delegates, holding the position of Whip (2006 - 2007), member of the Frederick County Charter Government Writing Board (1991-1992) and a past president of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners. However, Galen has found it difficult to construct a solid and trustworthy base within Frederick City and Frederick County. His votes as a delegate, and sometimes local personality clashes, have raised more than a few eyebrows, which may prove to be significant negatives as he uses his cross-party business ties in Frederick City to run for the city's top job.


Karen Marcia Lewis Young: Karen's foray into elected political office began less than four years ago when she was elected to the Frederick Board of Alderman on the coattails of the Young dynasty brand. According to her biography on the Frederick City website, she is currently President Pro Tem and is in her first term as an elected official. Of the five presumed candidates, she appears to be the long-shot candidate with respect to experience and credentials. Elected to the post of chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments for 2013, this position, like her tenure as an alderman, has been more ceremonial than punctuated with notable achievement. Given Karen's political resume, voters will need to ask themselves, "Who would actually be running the city, Karen or her former mayor-husband, Ron Young?" A fair question and an unsettling scenario.


The Myopic View: If you only look at the 2013 Frederick mayoral race, then the ballot will likely contain the names of Randy McClement (R), Jennifer Dougherty (I) and Galen Clagett (D). Within this grouping, anything is possible. But, if you take only the myopic view, then you are overlooking the seriousness of mayoral leadership for the city as the county moves into uncharted waters in 2014.


The Long View: As a Frederick City citizen, this is the view that you must take. With this in mind, two clear choices, at this point in the campaign cycle, rise to the top ... Randy McClement and Jennifer Dougherty. This might comes as a surprise to some, but careful examination justifies the analysis.


Randy McClement: Randy is the current mayor and although considered quiet and measured, he has built relationships within City Hall and across city boundaries to county staff at Winchester Hall. This may be a fundamental requisite to keep the city intact while the county figures out what charter government means and how it's going to operate.


Jennifer Dougherty: Jennifer's past experience as Frederick City's mayor, and currently a successful small business owner, speaks well of her position to retake the reigns of the city and lead it through probable turbulent times ahead. Those who have viewed Jennifer as combative and unapproachable might be surprised to find that her perceived sharp edges no longer exist.


The content of this column is not intended, nor should it be construed, as an endorsement for any mayoral candidate. All Frederick City voters are strongly encouraged to do their homework on each of the candidates before making their voting decision. Look beyond campaign marketing literature and confront each candidate directly, but do not accept talking points as a qualified answer to your question(s).


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