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Advertise on the Tentacle

March 12, 2014

Names on a Plaque: Notes on a Page

Patrick W. Allen

Frederick County, Maryland, has an extraordinarily rich history, spanning over 250 years, but it stands on the precipice of bankrupting its own reputation with a single election.


When the 2014 election results are tallied, taxpayer money will be spent to create a bronze plaque, with the names of the new Charter Government county executive and county council. There will be a dedication ceremony and the plaque will be permanently embedded into the side wall of a county government building, or mounted on a post and positioned in a discrete location, for all to see … for generations to come.




Somewhere along the line, the county government under which we live became tainted and soiled. It didn’t happen overnight, but rather over generations of time as an insidious virus took over the county like a slow moving sludge, one corrupt politician at a time.


The county became the private domain of a select few.


A week ago, a columnist surfaced James E. “Doc” McClellan as the political boss in Frederick County’s most recent history, a man who, with the stroke of a pen or the flick of a finger, controlled everyday life in Frederick County … political or otherwise. The fact is that Doc McClellan was not alone.


While old Doc McClellan may have been regarded as the local political boss, a handful of capos were busy carving out their own piece of the pie. Old timers and participants alike occasionally reflect on what they call “the good old days,” a time when men in prominent positions raised their sons on the streets of Frederick, which is code for ’tween and teen boys who ran betting slips up and down Market Street from a location alongside Carroll Creek.


During Frederick’s modern period, let’s say the last 40 years, the county has been rife with stories and folklore of corrupt and look-the-other-way politicians. While some of the stories have become exaggerated over the years, there is a high degree of certainty that a thread of truth is woven within the colorful fabric of Frederick daily life.




Throughout the 2014 election season, as voters make the rounds of county executive and county council candidate pot-luck dinners, bar-b-ques and debates, don’t be surprised when a candidate demonstrates his/her electability by saying, “This will be the most historic election in Frederick’s historically rich history.”


Once you hear that statement, or anything that sounds similar, stop by the contribution tent and demand a refund. Then, run; don’t walk, as far away from that candidate as you can.




As a candidate for executive or council in Frederick County’s new and sovereign form of charter government, no candidate can link their electability over any other candidate based on qualifications stipulated in Frederick’s actual Charter … because there are no qualifications stipulated in that document, other than residency.


But, you know, that might be what it takes to level the playing field. If you live here, you can govern here. You don’t need to be a part of the established political hierarchy. You don’t have to ask permission to run for office. You can be a new face and a new voice for a new government.


However, the uphill climb for most candidates will be to overcome the “name recognition” of the political retreads who look forward to being, if not expect to be, elected into the new government. The retread candidates should be put out to pasture when the commissioner form of government ceases to exist.


Voters in Frederick County, Maryland should not be electing an executive or council member who has been a part of the county's commissioner form of government. Nor, should anyone be elected to these positions who is under a direct, or indirect, cloud of suspicion, investigation or indictment for ethical or criminal conduct.


The hiccup to this strategy is that every county executive candidate is in some way connected to Frederick's commissioner form of government ... which raises the serious prospect for voters to construct a coordinated "write-in" campaign to ensure that voters say “no” to the past and “yes” to the future of Frederick County.


Decisions made at the ballot box must be made to ensure that “Charter Government” is not just a new name for business as usual.




But let’s get back to the names on the plaque. When Frederick County citizens stand in front of the plaque … where ever it winds up publicly displayed … and read the names of those who inaugurated Frederick’s new and sovereign form of government, they have to be able to identify each person as a contributor to Frederick’s success and prosperity under this new form of government, not as someone who is linked to the old guard, ethical and/or criminal investigations and/or indictments. In other words, a new way of doing business, not business as usual.


As Frederick County voters endure the 2014 election cycle, bombarded with highly polished marketing materials from a handful of executive and council candidates who have well known names, deep pockets or get preferential treatment from local radio and print media, remember that manipulating the press to a candidate’s perceived electoral advantage may not be in the best interest of Frederick County.


Search the candidate roles for candidates whose names you do not know or have never heard of. Seek them out and go to their backyard fundraising events. Ask them what they can do to not only govern Frederick County, but how their stewardship of the county’s new form of government will turn around Frederick’s reputation as a back-water, good ole boy neck-of-the-woods bedroom county into a vibrant, progressive leader for Maryland and the Washington metro area.




Frederick County is an extraordinarily diverse and beautiful county. It has some dark sides, such as the unfortunate existence of openly racist bigots, but for the most part, Frederick is a county where a family should look to purchase property and build a future.


What Frederick does not need, is to start anew, migrating from commissioner to charter form of government with the same old politicians and players. The county needs stewards who are not beholding … stewards who put the county ahead of themselves as well as their pocketbooks and political careers.


My hope is that Frederick County voters will invest themselves into the 2014 executive and council races … breaking away from the Doc McClellan-styled politics of the past and demonstrate that enough is enough.


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