Lexington Park often on lists of wealthiest cities
Online data is actually using entire county as financial benchmark
Every now and then, another website includes Lexington Park on another list of richest cities in the United States, which raises questions in many local people’s minds.
Some people think of blight or crime or public housing when they think of Lexington Park, not an affluent city.
“We do have some wealthy people” living in the Lexington Park ZIP code, said Chris Kaselemis, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic Development, but there are also people living there in need or in poverty.
St. Mary’s County has a U.S. Census Bureau designation called the Lexington Park Metropolitan Statistical Area — an urbanized area of at least 50,000 people.
But that metropolitan area includes the Lexington Park and California area, and includes median income data for the entirety of St. Mary’s County, said
Adam Mawyer, economic development specialist.
Based on Census Bureau data from 2011 to 2015, the median income in St. Mary’s County was $86,987 — higher than averages in the state ($74,551) and the nation ($53,889).
So when various websites make lists citing the wealth of American cities that include Lexington Park, they are really citing the wealth of St. Mary’s County, economic development staff said.
“They’re not really being done at the lower level. It’s usually being done at the metropolitan area,” Mawyer said.
There is only one incorporated town in St. Mary’s County, and that is Leonardtown. Lexington Park is a geographic area, not a town or a city.
But despite the misleading online lists, the median income data is still good news for St. Mary’s, staff say.
“Having high-paying jobs is great,” Kaselemis said. “Here you get the scenic beauty in a rural area and get high-paying jobs. It’s the best of both worlds.”
“While there is a great deal of wealth, there is a great deal of poverty as well” in Lexington Park, Mawyer said, “and that needs to be addressed.”
In Lexington Park, 13 percent of households are below the poverty rate, according to the Census Bureau, compared to 6 percent in St. Mary’s County overall, 7 percent in Maryland and 11 percent in the United States.
Naval Air Station Patux- ent River and its engineering jobs drive up the median income in St. Mary’s, Kaselemis said. The county needs to see more manufacturing jobs to benefit other segments of the local population though. There are private firms in those areas that are expanding such as J.F. Taylor, CTSI, Engility and Platform Aerospace, Kaselemis said.
The College of Southern Maryland also has a new trades center in Hughesville to offer vocational opportunities, Mawyer said. Jobs in heating and air conditioning, nursing and other specialized trades can be lucrative, he said.
While some incomes are high in St. Mary’s County, so is the cost of living and housing prices.
The cost of living in St. Mary’s is only 1.3 percent cheaper than the national average, data shows, but it is 16.3 percent higher than the national average to rent here. A one-bedroom apartment in Abberly Crest in Lexington Park, for example, costs $1,300 a month to rent.
“If a lot of that money is going to rent, you’re not becoming more wealthy, so that’s becoming an issue,” Kaselemis said.
Government can only do so much to provide affordable housing stock. “It’s really market-driven,” he said.
Developers are going to build homes that they can sell and in St. Mary’s, they can sell more expensive homes.
“They build what the market demand is. Homes sell here,” Kaselemis said.
Again, NAS Pax River incomes affect the St. Mary’s County housing market, as does the Washington, D.C., market, which is also expensive.
Lexington Park often shows up on online lists as one of the nation’s wealthiest cities, but the data these websites use is typically describing the median income of all of St. Mary’s County. Lexington Park is not an incorporated town.