By Jack Hogan
May 4, 2022
Frederick County Councilman Kai Hagen said he would ramp up the county’s efforts to combat climate change, preserve more farmland and improve equity in government as county executive.
Hagen has also aligned himself in some ways with County Executive Jan Gardner, D, and said he is a candidate who will build upon her eight years in office.
“I’m the ideal person to protect what it is [that] we do well,” he said.
Hagen is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive in the July 19 primary. The other candidates are Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, who is an elementary school music teacher, and Daryl Boffman, a retired business executive, founder of Acela Technologies Inc. and former county Board of Education member.
Maryland Sen. Michael Hough, R-Frederick and Carroll counties, is running unopposed for the Republican nomination for the November general election.
Hagen aims to boost funding for Frederick County Public Schools to help the school system improve its per-pupil funding. FCPS ranks near the bottom of the state in per-pupil funding, and Hagen said he wants the system to be in the middle of the pack within four years.
To direct more money to the school system, Hagen said, he would review the county’s budget to find items to cut.
Making the county’s waste management services more cost efficient could free up funds, he said. But he did not identify any specific large budget items he would cut.
Throughout his professional and political career, Hagen has been focused on the environment and combating climate change. It is a central theme for his campaign, too.
He and Fitzwater co-sponsored a resolution in 2020 to declare a climate emergency in Frederick County and set county goals to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and eradicate them by 2050.
The resolution also established a Climate Emergency Mobilization Workgroup with the Frederick city government. The workgroup published an extensive report last summer stating that climate change should inform all policy and legislative decisions that county officials make.
Hagen said he would approach development in the county through the lens of smart growth, which includes creating walkable neighborhoods; preserving open space, farmland and environmental resources; and providing transportation options, among other strategies.
Setting global warming aside, he said, smart growth policies would improve air and water quality, protect farms and forests, improve public health and support the local economy.
Hagen said he would continue to implement the county’s Livable Frederick Master Plan, which he helped to draft before being elected to the council in 2018. The plan was adopted in 2019 as the prevailing policy document for development and preservation in the county.
He wants the plan to be implemented more quickly. Increasing the number of employees in the county’s Division of Planning and Permitting would move along smaller preservation projects within Livable Frederick, Hagen said.
Hagen wants to raise the county’s goal for preserved farmland from 100,000 acres by 2040 to 150,000 acres by updating county zoning policies and increasing funding for existing preservation programs and grants. The county has preserved roughly 70,000 acres to date.
The councilman said he wants to continue his push for equity in county government.
He sponsored a bill on Gardner’s behalf last year to establish an Office of Equity and Inclusion, which supporters at the time said was a vital step toward ensuring county government’s push for equity persists regardless of the administration heading the county.
Growing up as a “Navy brat,” Hagen lived in many parts of the country during his early years before his family settled in Washington, D.C.
His grandparents owned an old farm near Catoctin Mountain, He said his passions for nature and for Frederick County formed during visits there as a child. He was raised in a family that regularly discussed and partook in politics, so it was natural for him to pursue local office.
He and his wife settled in the county nearly 30 years ago. They raised their two boys locally — first in the city of Frederick and then in Thurmont, where he and his wife still reside.
Hagen was elected to the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners in 2006 and served through 2010.
The county transitioned to a charter form of government in 2014 and the Board of Commissioners became the County Council. Hagen was elected to the council in 2018.
Hagen encouraged people to visit his campaign website for additional information about his plans for office.
“I include more information about those things than any other candidate, by far,” Hagen said. “That may be something that people laugh at me about. I talk too much or I write too much … but it’s there for you.”
Political party: Democrat
Occupation: At-large county councilman since 2018; former executive director of the nonprofit Envision Frederick County, which focuses on local issues
Previous campaigns/offices: County commissioner from 2006 to 2010
Campaign website: kaihagen.com
Social media: www.facebook.com/friendsofkaihagen
This article was originally posted here: