The Relentless Mayoral Candidate is Back!
It seems that the Doherty Clann of County Donegal in northwestern Ireland has always been a proud and rebellious bunch. Derived from the Gaelic O'Dochartaigh, the name has evolved over the centuries into many variations including (O) Dougherty, Daugherty, Docherty, and Doharty.
The name literally means "Our Heritage."
Tradition has it that back in the 4th century a Doherty ancestor known as "Niall" was the Legendary High King of Ireland.
During his reign, it is said that Niall was responsible for raiding Britain on the coast of Wales … and during one episode he kidnapped the one and only Saint Patrick and held him captive in Ireland.
Niall set a family tradition of fighting relentlessly in the name of honor to uphold his cause. The powerful clan continued into the early 17th Century with his 21-year-old descendant Sir Cahir, who served as the alderman of Derry City. The young lord became embroiled in conspiracies and sought revenge over confiscations of clan real estate.
O'Doherty's Rebellion ended after he was slapped by the governor. Sir Chair then killed his superior and ransacked and burned his hometown to the ground.
As in the case of Niall, his numerous enemies eventually retaliated causing a fateful demise of the once powerful Doherty Clansman.
Fast forward now to the 21st Century in the City of Frederick, where resides another descendant of the Legendary High King. There you will find the proprietor of an Irish Pub known as Magoo's. Her name is Jennifer Dougherty, who proudly hails her heritage of the old country.
She too, once held high authority … not as an alderman, but as the city's mayor from 2002 to 2006. During her term, as the first female to hold Frederick's highest post, Ms. Dougherty, like her ancestors fought hard to get her way … but along that path, she made a number of enemies.
After being defeated in the primaries as the incumbent in 2005, it was just four years later that the relentless Dougherty once again unsuccessfully carried the family crest into battle to regain her rightful place in City Hall.
She met defeat again in a 2008 Congressional challenge against Republican Roscoe Bartlett. Undeterred, just months later she again raised her staff and entered the mayoral challenge a third time. Suffering another primary defeat, it appeared that she may have settled into a career of real estate agent and a pub owner.
But it was nothing more than a respite, as the Frederick entrepreneur has now risen again in 2013 as an unaffiliated candidate.
Knowing that the Democratic primary this time around will likely be a war of its own among the likes of two well-healed politicos Galen Clagett and Karen Young, Ms. Dougherty tenaciously hit the streets of the city knocking on more than 11,000 doors to garner over 1,400 signatures on a petition to earn the unprecedented right to skip the September primaries and prepare for the real battle against two competitors in November.
During her term in the power seat she accomplished several meaningful goals. Of her lasting legacies, Dougherty boasts of:
· Strengthening the city police force with the hiring of Kim Dine (who now serves as chief of the Capital Hill Police).
· Establishing a Golden Mile Tax Credit to encourage property owners to make improvements to aging infrastructure along West Patrick Street extended.
· Kick starting the final phase of Carroll Creek Linear Park by selling off several city owned sites in that area to private developers.
· Gaining approval a Hope VI grant from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to redevelop the decrepit public housing projects located along Bentz Streets.
· Creating the Neighborhood Advisory Councils as a means of establishing a greater communication link between city government and individual communities. For this she refers to herself as the "Mom of the NAC's."
· Removing of the Jefferson Street night club, known as X-Hale, which had plagued the surrounding neighborhood with late night noise and wayward drunkards who often found unwelcome refuge in nearby backyards.
· Championing an agreement with the likes of then Board of County Commissioner President "Lennie" Thompson and Lake Linganore to provide the city with an additional four million gallons of water a day once the Potomac River Water Line was completed.
As the months passed after her January 12, 2002, inauguration, many of the mayor's early supporters found reason to abandon their allegiance to her army. One writer in particular was long time Washington Post and later Frederick opiner, Roy Meachum.
Mr. Meachum, himself, has never been one to avoid an attempt to slash and burn those with whom he finds disagreement. He and others grew furious with the mayor over a number of firings and dismissals of public employees. Lawsuits that piled up from these issues and other challenges around Ms. Dougherty’s interpretation of the city's charter.
These battles among others were – more often than not – sparked from clashes with the three Republican aldermen: Bill Hall, Joe Baldi and David Lenhart.
Displaying her liberal leanings, Ms. Dougherty was unsuccessful in encouraging city worker's to unionize, and she also fought against the changes in the application of the city's Homestead Tax Credit.
While she gained a reputation of encouraging economic development through the private sector, many claimed that the controversial moratorium she imposed when the Frederick was fraught with a water shortage, was used to shut down growth.
While she campaigned for a new era of open government, her critics claimed many of her decisions were made behind closed doors and often usurped the authority of the Board of Aldermen.
She established a regular Tuesday morning press conference that was also called her time to issue her propaganda … but when her successor took office and disbanded the practice, he was lambasted for not being open with the press.
As she stepped back in for her third bid for mayor, Ms. Dougherty told The Frederick News-Post in March 2009 that she had learned from the "personality conflicts" that marked her mayoral term. And today as she heads into battle her fourth time, she acknowledges the same.
She told Pete McCarthy of the News Post last February that "… city politics are better with less partisanship “and after living it firsthand, it's better to put "focus on the issues [and] less on politics."
Unlike her other contender Galen Clagett, Jennifer openly admits that she has issues … that she believes that the city must address sooner than later.
In an interview just last week over a Guinness at Magoo's, she told me that she is very concerned about the lack of leadership in City Hall. As a self professed agent of change, she says that "tough decisions must be made" with the bulging post-employment benefit (OPEB) structure and pension obligations for current and former city employees.
"Government employees must feel the cost of government," she stated. Her goal would be to protect current employees using a vesting date to transition to a new plan. Otherwise, if not dealt with soon, the financial burden will be overwhelming within "6 to 10 years."
Ms. Dougherty also frets over the added costs that her successor (Jeff Holtzinger) left the city with the acquisition of the Hargett farm on Butterfly Lane… She would dive in to deal with this matter ASAP.
The city police: she says that the current administration has allowed vacancies in the force to grow, leaving that department "really stretched." Immediate action is necessary, she claims.
As for the late night crime and safety concerns along Carroll Creek, the Linear Park is without a doubt the "Gem of the City," and the mayoral hopeful would address the situation with the same heavy hand she used is expelling X-Hale from Jefferson Street. She believes that new chief Thomas Ledwell is up to the task … "He just needs leadership" from the second floor in City Hall.
Knowing that her leadership style may have been perceived as brazen in the earliest part of this century, Jennifer seeks to build on her creation of the NAC's and her Tuesday press conference schedule by introducing an interactive web-based concept she calls "Let's Do Lunch."
The plan grew from her experience as the president of the Carroll Creek Rotary Club, and would regularly bring together the likes of NAC representatives, state delegates and senators, business leaders and other key people in the city, including students, to discuss the pressing issues that should be addressed to continually make the city a great place to live and work.
There is no doubt that with Jennifer Dougherty now officially in the battle for the high seat in City Hall, it will be a very lively and press-worth campaign.
I can already hear the chant of the clann as they march to November:
"Who so ever asks me of my birth...I will tell them I am born of Irish Princes who ruled in Donegal a thousand years ago; that I am descended from the High Kings of Ireland, and my name is from the Clann ÓDochartaigh!"
Mr. Mackintosh is president of MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for his blog MacRo Report.