Not­ing 2016 ac­com­plish­ments, com­mis­sion­ers look to next year

Cite comp plan, AAA bond rat­ing as big wins

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Gov­ern­ment is largely judged off of ac­com­plish- ments and money kept in its tax­payer’s pock­ets. This year, the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers feels it man­aged to do well in both.

The com­mis­sion­ers suc­ceeded in craft­ing an over­ar­ch­ing land use guide in the county’s new­est com­pre­hen­sive plan up­date for the first time since 2006. They man­aged to gain the first AAA bond rat­ing credit score, and they did it with­out hav­ing to raise taxes.

Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D)

said those were the coun- ty’s two big­gest ac­com- plish­ments this year.

“We are do­ing a re­ally good job in the way we man­age our money. Not only on a day to day, but on a long range [ba­sis]. It in­di­cates to me that those agen­cies look at Charles County as a solid, fis­cally re­spon­si­ble county,” he said.

The county’s AAA bond rat­ing is the county’s “most im­por­tant” ac­com­plish- ment this year, Mur­phy said. There are credi- tors who are buy­ing into Charles County now, he said, and that will re­sult in lower in­ter­est rates. Lower in­ter­est rates means tax lev- els can re­main where they are in the fu­ture, he said.

“We’ll save mil­lions of dol­lars in tax­payer money,” Mur­phy said.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) agreed with Mur­phy, say­ing the bond rat­ing was im­por­tant. But Robin­son said he was more ex­cited about the ac­com- plish­ment of the com­pre- hen­sive plan and the new in­fra­struc­ture it brings to the county.

“With­out a doubt,” Robin- son said, it was the No. 1 ac- com­plish­ment. The county needed di­rec­tion with its growth, he said, and now the new plan has pro­vided that. Not just for this year, he said, but for years to come.

Now, Robin­son said, the big­gest ques­tion is about what is com­ing next with the plan.

“Cit­i­zens feel it’s about time. The zon­ing that goes along with it will be some­what of a story in 2017,” he said.

An­other big thing that needs to be fo­cused on, Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres- ident De­bra Davis (D) said, is the cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion in gov­ern­ment. She felt the county did a de­cent job with it this year, but said “we can do bet­ter.”

The county is be­ing rec- og­nized on a “state and na­tional” level now and the com­mis­sion­ers must use their skills to con­tinue to “broaden Charles County’s vis­i­bil­ity.”

Davis said in­clud­ing the pub­lic in up­dates about the com­pre­hen­sive plan will be nec­es­sary for the county to grow in the right ways next year. In her sixth year as a com­mis­sioner, she said, she will fo­cus on do­ing that and dis­sem­i­nat­ing “accu- rate in­for­ma­tion” to the pub­lic so they know ex­actly what is go­ing on.

“We’ve re­ally got to in- clude more peo­ple. I am com­mit­ted to dou­bling down and broad­en­ing these same com­mit­ments,” she said. “Be­ing a bet­ter leader, build­ing coali­tions, men­tor­ing oth­ers and build­ing bridges.”

Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) said she was ex­cited about the com­pre- hen­sive plan, but was also glad the com­mis­sion­ers voices were heard when ask­ing for a re­place­ment for the Gov. Harry W. Nice Me­mo­rial Bridge. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) an­nounced in Novem­ber that the bridge would be re­placed.

“That was on the state level, but that’s some­thing we were look­ing for,” Ste­wart said. “I was sur­prised by how it hap­pened, but the bot­tom line is we have a sched­uled re­place­ment now.”

That was nec­es­sary for the county and the re­gion’s econ­omy to con­tinue to im­prove. The county hav- ing an AAA bond rat­ing and a di­rect con­nec­tion to Vir­ginia will go a long way in build­ing eco­nomic con- nec­tions that will con­tinue to help Charles County im- prove in the right ways.

The 2017 cal­en­dar year will be a big one for the com­mis­sion­ers, she said, and will bring about many changes for the bet­ter. Those in­clude the Charles County Li­brary Sys­tem book­mo­bile that she has been an ad­vo­cate for since her start as a com­mis­sion- er.

“We will have our global li­brary. Our book­mo­bile. It’s slated to hit the roads in April or May,” Ste­wart said.

Im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion around the county is some­thing that is al­ways wel- come, she said, and a book- mo­bile will go a long way into do­ing that. Ev­ery­one around the county does not have ac­cess to a li­brary, but now it can come to them.

And that can also fos­ter new re­la­tion­ships be­ing built be­tween com­mu­ni­ties, she said, which is also al­ways wel­come.

“I’m very ex­cited about this next year,” she said.

Over­all, Mur­phy said, the

county is in great shape to con­tinue to de­velop and im­prove. There are still things that need to be done and re­la­tion­ships that need to be built, but the com­mis­sion­ers will work on do­ing that over the next year.

In the path to be­com­ing the best ad­min­is­tra­tion they can be, he said, the com­mis­sion­ers have found that gov­ern­ing is about do­ing what is best for “the greater good” and not nec­es­sar­ily for one or a few in­di­vid­u­als.

And in 2017, he said, he hopes dis­cus­sion is more about so­lu­tions in­stead of what is be­ing done wrong.

“I just hope we all come to the ta­ble with more so­lu­tions and not just crit­i­cisms on how to make the county bet­ter,” he said. “Our gov­ern­ment im­proves that way for the greater good.”

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