Letter to the Editor: Assessing the Kent County Commissioner Race

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William Pickrum, Ron Fithian, and William Short, the current Kent County Commissioners, have laid the building blocks to boost the fortunes of Kent County while honoring the unique attributes that enhance the quality of life for residents. While those building blocks are numerous and substantial, however like Rome, Kent County cannot be fortified in a day.

Housing prices are rising and homes are staying on the market for shorter periods. Construction projects can be seen around the county, but nowhere is it more evident and concentrated than in Chestertown. The Department of Planning and Zoning supports this observation by reporting increased permitting activity for new construction and renovation. The County is taking advantage of the 1-G fiber they have installed to serve anchor institutions and build out hotspots. The Enterprise Zone, with the new Dixon Value and KRM development north on Route 213, is taking shape on the landscape and there are many other business creations and expansions that are taking place with a palpable uptick in the past year. There is more to do and the Kent County Commissioners have said as much. They are not satisfied yet with where Kent County is and can explain exactly their plan for the future.

Like so many communities, Kent County must grapple with, the opioid crisis, poverty, needs for infrastructure upgrades, and an aging population. The current Commissioners have addressed these issues as well as public school funding. The solutions are not magic or easy.

Nothing substitutes for trusted relationships forge over time to get needed assistance. The current incumbents, between the three of them, have cultivated these strong connections that gives Kent County a stronger voice in Annapolis. Advocacy in Annapolis has brought such progress as increasing the income level that allows for property tax relief, mostly affecting fixed-income seniors. Two years ago, the KCPS District received an additional $300,000 from the state through advocacy by Kent County Commissioners and Superintendent Dr. Karen Couch in conjunction with the 36th District Delegation. There are ongoing efforts, again in coordination with the state, to get more beds and money allocated for drug treatment and to increase awareness at all levels of the opioid/drug addiction crisis.

The three candidates who are challenging the incumbents reiterate the issues that the current Commissioners have already identified and implemented planning for; development of the 301 corridor, promotion of 1-G fiber, increased economic development staffing and budget, fighting for the hospital and health care, advocating at State level for changes in school funding formulas and putting in place mechanisms for growth, like the, already created, Economic Development Zone and the Arts and Entertainment District. Who among the challengers really stands out in the crowd?

There are many questions giving me pause about the challengers. Where were these candidates, who are now professing such an abundant interest, when the Kent County Planning and Zoning Commission was holding public meetings and soliciting inputs on the Comprehensive Plan? When have they participated over the past years in public forums and debate? Where have they spoken up publicly to offer constructive inputs and not just traded disparaging comments with neighbors? Have they attended commissioner meetings on a regular basis since announcing their candidacy to learn about the issues at hand? How have they been contributing and have they been involved? One candidate can point to serving on the Economic Development Commission that put forward a strategic plan, the plan that is already being implemented by the incumbents.

The Dao De Jing tells us that governing is “like cooking a very small fish” – great care must be taken. Replacing the current county governance by voting in to office untested candidates, with little experience or connections, who are unable to communicate clearly the how and what of their governance strategies, and who openly admit in public forums they are “guessing”, is a disruption that is very likely to lead to burnt fish.

Janet Christensen-Lewis
Kent County

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Letters to Editor

  1. Piers Heriz-Smith says:

    And Sun Tzu said “All warfare is based on deception.” . You must be familiar with his work “The Art of War”?

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