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As Long as We Remember...

July 16, 2013

Another Voyage for the Good Ship Frederick?

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

The difference between the winner and the loser in the 2009 mayoral race in the City of Frederick was just 281 votes.


While it was a very tight race, for the second consecutive time in the match for the top seat at City Hall, barely a shot was fired across the calm seas off the coast of campaign history.


The 2005 general election between former Mayor Ron Young and Jeff Holtzinger was so low key that many forgot that there was an election going on – very different from past city electoral wars.


The victor that evening of November 3, 2009, was Randy McClement, the man who had never campaigned for political office, and will be the first to admit that he despises the process that candidates endure to garner votes.


For Frederick's incumbent mayor it will be ‘All hands on deck!’ And ‘Batten down the hatches!’ as even he can see stormy seas ahead with two challengers (Shelly Aloi and Mr. Holtzinger) in the September Republican primary and an equal number (the winner of the Young-Clagett-Hirsch democratic battle and Jennifer Dougherty running as an independent) in the November general election.


As helmsman of the Good Ship Frederick, the last three and one-half years, Mayor McClement has used his past experience as a small business owner and a property manager to quietly steer around most storms he spied ahead.


Friend and foe alike regularly refer to the mayor as a nice guy, who has been focused on doing a good job of delivering essential services to the city's citizens.


State Senator David Brinkley has praised him as "a practical mayor who works to fix things in the city like potholes and doesn't indulge in argumentative politics."


"It's those things that people take for granted when they're done correctly" that Brinkley says Randy has done so well.


As part of his stump speech, Mr. McClement will quickly remind voters that within days of being handed his stripes he found himself in charge of clearing the streets of the 52 inches of a snow that fell on his city between December 9, 2009, and February 5, 2010. The surprise blew his budget for removal of the white stuff before it stopped falling.


Each year since then, Captain Randy has been handed a budget deficit and has always worked hard to balance it as a good manager is trained to do.


What are the critical issues that the next mayor will be facing?


Listening to County Commissioner President Blaine Young talking with his WFMD co-host Anita Stup speaking on the air a few weeks back, they seemed to agree that there are calm seas ahead as far as serious issues facing the city, and there should be no need for a change at the helm … Well, that's one perspective.


I've had the chance to talk with the Mayor McClement over the last few weeks, to find out if he agreed with the self-proclaimed good ol' boy and his gal pal … and get a deeper read on his other major achievements.


In sum for the city's captain, it's Full Steam Ahead with the caveat of ‘Steady As She Goes’ and ‘Let's Not Rock the Boat.’


The humble incumbent is not only proud of keeping the streets well maintained and his conservative budgeting, but also considers the completion of the Monocacy Boulevard extension near the airport very significant. And, speaking of the airport, he saw to it that the new airport tower was completed. He also boasts about the completion of the small area plans for the Golden Mile and finding the funding to complete the next phase of the Carroll Creek Linear Park east of Carroll Street over to East Patrick Street.


Mayor McClement acknowledges that the city police force has reached a critical low. Currently operating at 72% of its authorized capacity, he has been working with newly appointed Chief Thomas J. Ledwell to modify and accelerate recruitment measures to resolve the problem.


One does have to wonder why city officials didn't see that coming.


I asked him about some of the concerns I outlined in a March 12th MacRo Report Blog post that expressed a wish for No More Can Kicking:


Does he believe that more can be done in addressing what many see as a looming tsunami with future post-employment benefit and pension obligations?


Yes, he says, but this is not a problem that can be fixed "with the stroke of a pen." It needs to be addressed in "chunks over many years." His goal is to be 80% funded within the next 20 years.


Does he see the Land Management Code (LMC), city's 2005 zoning ordinance, as an impediment to downtown real estate development? Does it need a complete overhaul?


The mayor acknowledges that many parts of the LMC are already outdated, having been written at the top of the real estate bubble. To that end, for the last few years, Randy has been working with the Land Use Council of the Frederick County Builders Association, who have made a number of recommendations that have been modified into Code text amendments… a steady process, he says.


And what is it about McClement's leadership style that has raised criticisms?


He makes it very clear that his approach is one of a director who addresses issues in a quiet and deliberate manner. He says he knows what the problems are and speaks to each as if he has everything under control.


Often chastised for not being more vocal at the Board of Aldermen meetings (unlike his predecessors), he feels strongly that he should follow the procedures of the city charter, where he is required to act as the president and presiding officer of the body, allowing the aldermen to do their work.


One thing for sure, there is no drama in the mayor's style, whether in his role as the chief executive of the city or as one campaigning for re-election.


So, the question that will be answered in September’s primary and then – if he is fortunate enough to make it through to the general election – is: Will McClement's message of being the captain with a quiet and steady hand at the helm once again resonate with the voters?


On the good ship Fred-er-Rick, it's a nice trip, there ain't no shtick, while critics nay-say, on the good ship Fred-er-Rick


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.


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