Coun­cil re­views year, plans con­tin­ued re­vi­tal­iza­tion

Fiber op­tics, blight re­moval among In­dian Head tri­umphs

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIFFANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

As mem­bers of the In- dian Head town coun­cil gear up for the new year, they looked back at their first full year in of­fice which in­cluded some pit­falls and a few ac­com- plish­ments.

The town has seen the demise of lo­cal re­tail and ser­vice busi­nesses but, with the coun­cil’s new re­vi­tal­iza­tion plan and ef- forts, the de­sired growth is slowly pro­gress­ing.

In May 2015, Mayor Bran­don Paulin was elect- ed mayor at the age of 19, mak­ing him the youngest mayor of any Mary­land mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Ron Si­toula was elected as the first Nepali vice mayor to be elected in pub­lic po­si­tion out­side of Nepal, and a first non-na­tive to be elect- ed to the coun­cil. Coun­cil- man Cur­tis L. Smith is the first African-Amer­i­can man to be elected in the his­tory of the town.

Paulin said since the new coun­cil has taken of­fice, it has seen new faces around town and has got­ten peo­ple ex­cited about be­ing in In­dian Head.

“It’s been a fun, in­for­ma­tive year and I have learned more than I thought I would have,” Paulin said. “We be­came a sus­tain­able com­mu­nity, we fin­ished the In­dian Head fiber op­tic ca­ble ini­tia­tive, and we tore down three build­ings — blight re­moval. We’ve started to en­gage prop­erty own­ers like the Ely fam­ily. Al­though it is not as pro­gres­sive as we would like for it to be, we started that di­a­logue that wasn’t there be­fore. We’re giv­ing peo­ple hope for In­dian Head.”

“It has been a chal­leng- ing year but re­ward­ing to im­pact peo­ple’s lives in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion,” Smith said. “We promised in­no­va­tion, we promised try­ing to gain ef­fi­cien­cies, and I think we real- ly worked to im­ple­ment those things.”

Smith said in the last cou­ple of years the town has had banks, car dealer- ships and gro­cery stores leave In­dian Head. The coun­cil is pur­su­ing bring- ing those ameni­ties back and has de­vel­oped a po­ten­tial strat­egy to do so.

Si­toula said he re­al­ized that two years is a very short pe­riod of time to ac­com­plish long-last­ing change in the town. In the next two years, he said he hopes the coun­cil will knock out some more of the items listed on the town’s re­vi­tal­iza­tion plan and fo­cus on mov­ing them along.

“The peo­ple wanted to see new changes and new ini­tia­tives,” Si­toula said. “What the peo­ple can’t see is the changes we have also made on the in­side by mak­ing an ef­fort to stream­line pro­cesses. There are some laws we dis­agreed with and we took things like that away to save money for the town. We did a pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion of the bud­get to ex­plain the au­dit re­port and [Smith] has been bring­ing in dif- fer­ent en­ti­ties from the county to do pre­senta- tions at town meet­ings.”

Paulin said Naval Sup­port Fa­cil­ity In­dian Head is rapidly ex­pand­ing projects, the coun­cil has dig- itized the town’s records, the town is ob­tain­ing on­line bill-pay for its res­i­dents and now the town is uti­liz­ing so­cial me­dia. Paulin has also started a Mayor Youth Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee with lo­cal youth plan­ning more ac­tiv­i­ties geared to­ward youth and fam­i­lies in the town.

Paulin, Si­toula and Smith each bring some­thing dif­fer­ent to the table and the team is putting plans in mo­tion to make In­dian Head a lo­cal tourist at­trac­tion and walk­a­ble com­mu­nity. The coun­cil said with Paulin lead­ing the town, no hope is lost.

“Paulin was born and raised here and he is truly in­vested in the town,” Si­toula said.

“Mil­len­ni­als give us the in­spi­ra­tion that all hope isn’t lost and to not be sti­fled in think­ing that they can’t do things be­cause of their age,” Cur­tis said.

Paulin said he has seen how the town has pro­gressed from years ago to now.

“I re­mem­ber how dev- as­tated peo­ple were when the gro­cery store left and when con­trac­tors pulled back into the base. It’s good to be apart of re­vers­ing the trend in In­dian Head and mak­ing an im­pact,” Paulin said.

In the near fu­ture, the coun­cil hopes that there will be no va­cant build­ings — only pros­per­ous busi­nesses in town, beau­ti­ful tree scapes and no boarded up build­ings. In ad­di­tion to the town be­ing fo­cused on high­light­ing its as­sets — wa­ter, parks and his­tory — Smith said he hopes the town coun­cil will help fam­i­lies be­come stronger.

“Al­though I am an ad­vo­cate for busi­ness and en­ti­ties com­ing into the town, we need to help our fam­i­lies af­ford these things, and qual­ify for the jobs that come into town, pre­par­ing peo­ple for col­lege, ex­pos­ing them to these re­sources, be­ing good stew­ards with the town’s dol­lars, pro­vid­ing more home own­er­ship, walk­a­ble com­mu­nity and events in the com­mu­nity,” Smith said.

The coun­cil said the town is a gem with peo­ple not yet rec­og­niz­ing its value. But when all is said and done they are do­ing the best they can for its cit­i­zens.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIFFANY WAT­SON

The In­dian Head town coun­cil’s Mayor Bran­don Paulin, Coun­cil­man Cur­tis L. Smith and Vice Mayor Ron Si­toula are ready to con­tinue their ef­forts to re­vi­tal­ize In­dian Head.

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