The following was printed in response to a column by Don DeArmon in the May 27 edition of the Frederick News-Post).
Letter to the Editor
Our next Frederick County executive, and the benefits of experience
In his recent column (May 27 edition of the Frederick News-Post), Don DeArmon said he “read the News-Post’s articles about the three Democratic candidates,” and “noticed that Kai [Hagen] and Daryl [Boffman’s] resumes included a number of ‘formers,’ that is, that they each seem to be past or near the end of their professional careers.”
With all due respect to Don, that’s a novel way to encapsulate years of relevant and valuable experience a candidate for Frederick County Executive may bring to this important office.
Mr. DeArmon is not wrong, that there’s a long list of experiences and roles I’ve had in our community that could be described as “formers.” But it seems like a creative way to avoid considering, and even dismissing outright, exactly the sort of things voters might like to see in the “resume” of our next executive.
On his terms, but expanding a bit, I’ll admit that I’m a former Frederick County Commissioner. I formerly served for four years, alongside our current county executive, Jan Gardner, as one-fifth of a Board of County Commissioners that was responsible for all the functions now split, under our still-new charter government, between the county executive and the council.
Still using his framing, I also formerly served four years on the Frederick County Planning Commission, eight years on the Parks and Recreation Commission, four years on the Affordable Housing Council and the Tourism Council, and more than a dozen other county boards and commissions then and since then.
And I formerly served a year and a half on the Citizens Zoning and Review Commission, and on the Solid Waste Steering Committee, and as a member of the Energy and Environment working group of the Livable Frederick Master Plan.
Not too long ago, I also became the former Director of Envision Frederick County, after 10 years of leading a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that was “founded on the principle that informed public discourse and active engagement of individuals and groups in our civic life are essential to our mutual well-being and prosperity,” and focused on good government, responsible land use, planning and development and protecting our environment.
Those are a few key items from a longer list of examples of former experiences that have helped prepare me for the role.
Mr. DeArmon also wondered if I could “work collaboratively with various county stakeholders or the County Council, especially one that might very well have a Republican majority.”
I’ll note that as county commissioner, as a member of many diverse boards and commissions, as the director of Envision Frederick County (which had a founding board of eight members, including four Republicans) and as an at-large member of the current county council, I have done exactly that. Over and over again, working effectively to get important things done well.
When Jan Gardner and I were county commissioners, we served with three Republicans, and yet I’d wager that we were on the winning side of perhaps 80% to 90% of the votes, if not more, because we and our colleagues were both more focused on solving problems and getting things done than we were on any partisan politics.
Like Mr. DeArmon, I was pleased that, in 2020, Frederick County voted for a “Democratic presidential candidate” for the first time “since 1964,” and former President Trump lost here by roughly 14,000 votes (and since then Democrats have netted another eight or nine thousand registered voters).
That reflects a long-term trend that will almost certainly continue as the county grows … and grows more diverse (something to genuinely celebrate). But we’re still a purple county, and there are only two Democrats who have won a countywide election for commissioner, executive or council in the last 20 years: Jan Gardner (three times) and me (twice). In Frederick County’s general election this year, there truly is a great deal at stake, and I hope county Democrats will appreciate and value my former experiences, and give me the opportunity to face and defeat Michael Hough in November.
Hagen is an at-large member of the Frederick County Council, and he is running for Frederick County executive.