Presented at the Annual State of the County Address on February 22, 2022.

2022 State of the County Speach

Good morning. It is again my distinct honor and privilege to address all of you for the final time, as your District 1 Commissioner. For me, this is a very bittersweet moment. I have stood before you for eight years at various meetings, venues, and events with nothing but pride and deep gratitude of allowing me to represent you as an elected Carroll County official. The memories are forever engrained in my mind and this honor will not soon be forgotten. This born and raised Carroll County Francis Scott Key graduate is forever grateful. The focus for this, my final State of the County address, is on those 8 years and the incredible progress we have made moving forward as a County.

From budgets to maintaining roads to planning and zoning to working on our strong bond ratings, visiting with seniors, veterans, children in our schools, watching our incredible County workforce perform high standard work, working with two sets of colleagues, this just scratches the surface. There is little doubt I have enjoyed “almost” every minute. Let’s walk down the path of where we were, and where we are now.

It all starts with fiscal responsibility. We earned 3 triple-A credit ratings. Our revenues exceed our expenditures, and our conservative budgeting is second to none, all accomplished while we increased funding to education every year, increased funding to non-profits, made huge strides in all areas of public safety, started Not in Carroll, our aggressive drug prevention effort, realized pay increases for our valuable workforce, began long-overdue construction projects and upgrades to our buildings, and the list goes on. In the last budget, we made the decision to harden every gravel road by the end of 2023 in our County, a challenge I first spoke of in 2014. This will greatly reduce the maintenance that is required on gravel roads ultimately saving valuable taxpayer dollars. The BOE’s decision to close three schools was a polarizing community concern that we turned into a positive. North Carroll is well on its way to becoming an impressive community venue, New Windsor is actively being leased by a private school and finally Charles Carroll. The only building that was completely removed. I am thrilled to say next week on March 1st we will be breaking ground on a new community center that will serve not only the northern region but our entire County. This modern 13,000 square foot building with a full-size gymnasium, multi-purpose meeting rooms and a technology room with WIFI, which will be a unique venue to the area, and serve the County well for many years. We increased funding to education each year and are seeing the new construction at our Tech Center and a new East Middle School. Our Community College is ranked number 1 in many categories and continues to grow with their impressive programs, allowing many bright young students to achieve their goals in life. We accomplished construction of Westminster Veterans Memorial Park and Deer Park expansion and improvements to many of our parks and recreation areas, including the purchase of a large tract of land north of Taneytown for a future recreational park area.

We passed a master plan and accomplished comprehensive rezoning text and map amendments with commercial, industrial, residential and we will continue to work on agriculture rezoning.

We restructured several of our departments, focusing on efficiency, and increasing morale throughout our valuable workforce, and are now involved in a compensation and organizational study to work hand in hand with those previous decisions to improve our effectiveness.

Citizen Services was a big focus over the last 8 years. We have always been proud to help our County’s most as risk individuals, from older adults to those with disabilities, the homeless population, and our Veteran’s challenges were addressed. We increased funding and services each year and have recently purchased a building to provide more efficient care for families and children.

I have consistently said public safety must be the number one priority of an elected official. Ensuring our citizens are safe and protected is a responsibility I take very seriously and have worked hard to accomplish this goal. Over the last 8 years, we have ensured our men and women in law enforcement have the best equipment, from firearms to vehicles and personal protective equipment. We have done the best we can to ensure our aging detention center has the technology upgrades needed and we have made positive strides in compensation and benefits. Our 5-year Capital Improvement plan includes a new States Attorney building and a new public safety building for our Sheriff’s Department. Fire and Emergency Medical Services is also an area that I ensured we addressed. In 2021 our fire and emergency services personnel handled over 28,000 calls. We upgraded and actively maintain two 911 call centers. We worked on ensuring the responsibility of fire and emergency medical services is at the highest level it can be, all while ensuring complete transparency with our valuable volunteers. Our fourteen volunteer fire companies under the umbrella of the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association continues to be in step with us and our path to the best combination volunteer/career system is clear. We hired a new Director, Michael Robinson, who immediately hit the ground running with a vision of success. A strategic workgroup consisting of our volunteers have worked on and will soon deliver a plan that moves us in a positive direction. The Emergency Services Advisory Group under the leadership of seasoned veteran Ricky Baker is engaged and together we are creating an impressive new Department ensuring first-class protection of our citizens while maintaining our valuable volunteer presence.

Economic Development continued its impressive growth with an influx of a variety of successful businesses. Penguin Random House, FR Conversions, Strouse, Near Communications, Fuchs, Advanced Thermal Batteries, and Evapco, just to name a few are contributing to our success story, a story that includes a growing workforce of employees who call Carroll home. We continued and improved the work with our 8 municipalities to bring the needed resources to their successful growth.
Our 100,000-acre goal of ag land preservation is ¾’s of the way there, we upgraded wastewater treatment plants, we have focused on preventive maintenance of our water delivery systems, we created an online portal system for permits to ensure efficient customer service, we made huge strides with solid waste with the purchase of land surrounding our landfill, the airport is undergoing a safety enhancement and these are just some of the highlights of the last 8 years. And we accomplished all of this without any change to our property tax rate.

In 2014 our County’s reputation across the State was at best that of an island looked upon as separated, with insulated ideals not matching the concerns of the future. In eight years, we have successfully become a County that is leading in many areas in the State with our outreach in regional and statewide associations. From the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the Maryland and National Association of Counties, the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore the Governors Workforce Development and Emergency Management Councils to the Shock Trauma Board of Visitors we are now true leaders in our State.

Over the last two years, we have successfully navigated through a global pandemic, unlike anything we have ever seen. We were the first County in the State to provide relief funding to our small business community. Sadly, we were the first County to experience a large-scale infection in a long-term care facility. We struggled through testing, masking, positivity rates, and shutdowns all while being attacked by those who made it a political issue instead of a health crisis. But we have weathered the storm together, even as we remember those who are no longer with us. It is fitting in February to quote a history changer. Martin Luther King said “the measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in time of challenge and controversy”.

In closing, thank you to each and every one of you for your roles in this great County. Look around this room, business leaders, first responders, educators, non-profits, citizens, all of you are to be commended. We continue to build upon our solid foundation with the building blocks of fiscal responsibility, accountability, collaboration, and transparency. Even in challenging times, Carroll remains solid, preserving our heritage and serving our citizens well. Elected officials must make decisions needed, to represent the whole of our communities, not just the loudest. I leave you with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, “I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day, as each day came”. God bless this great County, State, and Nation.