Noting 2016 accomplishments, commissioners look to next year
Cite comp plan, AAA bond rating as big wins
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.”