McClam running for District 2 commissioner
Career civil servant sees opportunities for economic growth
Access to information is a key theme in Charles McClam’s campaign for District 2 commissioner. As an intelligence officer in the U.S. military during Operation Desert Storm, deputy chief information officer at the Department of Agriculture, and CIO of the U.S. Small Business Administration, McClam says that successful leadership means gathering and sharing information widely.
“I see a need for leadership to meet people where they live to gain an understanding of their day-to-day issues,” McClam said in a recent interview. “Without that, you’re just not doing a good service.”
McClam cites the controversy over the Watershed Conservation District as an example of what happens when communication breaks down.
“The people that I’ve talked to feel that they were not given a fair opportunity to understand what was involved with the legislation,” said McClam. “They feel that they’ve been hamstrung with respect to how they can make the best use of their land, and they want an outlet and engagement with the folks that live there that will cause them to revisit this legislation.”
Running as a Democrat, McClam was the first to file as a challenger for the seat, which is currently held by Debra M. Davis (D). McClam has been a Charles County resident for over 15 years.
McClam says that his diverse experience working with largescale federal programs in agriculture, law enforcement and small business suits him well for identifying and taking advantage of economic opportunities for the county.
“We need to start looking for smart ways to help this county grow and become the economic engine and powerhouse of Southern Maryland,” McClam said. “It’s not going to happen by itself. You need leadership that has the vision to look 10 to 15 years down the road and figure out the best approach to take to ensure smart growth, which doesn’t happen as a matter of course.”
McClam would like to see the county explore ways to better use the land along the Potomac River. He points to Myrtle Beach in his native South Carolina as an example of how thoughtful development turned the town into its county’s economic driver.
“They have transformed the place,” he said. “You name it, they have it. And that has provided a revenue stream for the county that allows them to look at other initiatives that in the past they may not have been able to.”
Improving the county’s transportation infrastructure requires leaders to think regionally, McClam argues. “We can’t afford to work in a microcosm,” he said. “We have to figure out ways to collaborate with our neighbors.” The new Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge could stimulate travel to and from King George County in Virginia, he said, while continued development around National Harbor opens up possibilities to collaborate with Prince George’s County.
McClam expressed concern about what he saw as a lack of outreach on behalf of the current commissioners to residents on important decisions. “I’ve yet to see a commissioner come out into the community and have town halls with folks to highlight major key initiatives that are coming up for a decision,” McClam said. “There is not a good touchpoint between the current leadership at the commissioner level and the people that they serve.”
“I think the county can do better bringing the people along with them to help inform the decisions they’re responsible for making,” McClam said in conclusion. “Over the last several years, I haven’t seen that. I think I can bring leadership to help bridge that divide.”
Charles County resident Charles McClam recently retired after 38 years as a career civil servant with the Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration.