In his 20 years of service to the citizens of Harford County, life-long resident Barry Glassman spent two terms on the Harford County Council and became a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 2000, serving as Chairman of the County Delegation for seven years before being chosen by the late Senator Bob Hooper to take his seat in the Maryland Senate, where he has served as a member of the State Finance Committee. Despite his years in Annapolis, Glassman’s heart is in Harford County, where he resides in Darlington with wife Debi and son Jordan, raising a small flock of registered Suffolk and Southdown Sheep in addition to serving as a Claims Investigative Specialist in the property and casualty insurance field.
Following the legislative session, Harford’s Heart Magazine asked Senator Glassman to reflect on his view of Harford County. An excerpt from that exclusive interview appears in the June/July 2013 issue of Harford’s Heart. This complete text can also be seen at harfordsheart.com.
Q. What do you think are the 3 greatest assets of Harford County? What perception do “outsiders” have of Harford County and what is the single biggest (pleasant) surprise that newcomers discover about our community?
Our biggest assets are our relationship with Aberdeen Proving Ground, our location relative to I-95 and the northeast rail corridor, and finally of course, the natural and historic places Harford has – from our shorelines to land conservancies to the north with rural villages in between which are surrounded by our agricultural community.
I find new residents to Harford County are amazed by the selfless service of our volunteer citizens; the fact that most citizens are willing to volunteer and give to nonprofits and to their local community organizations.
Q. What are your greatest concerns for Harford County over the next 10 or 20 years?
My greatest concerns for Harford County over the next ten or twenty years really revolve around how the State government has handicapped local counties. Recent changes to pension obligations, state planning, environmental regulations and a change in taxation policy will have a long-term impact on Maryland Counties and their ability to prosper and compete in the future. It impacts our ability to create jobs and communities for our next generation. So, in essence, maintaining the health of our local economy, protecting our agricultural community and maintaining APG will be paramount among my concerns.
Q. Coming from a farming background, what challenges do you see in striking the balance between economic growth and preserving our agricultural heritage? What about the balance between environmental stewardship and private property rights?
My concentration over the past few years has been to promote the Farm-to-Table concept here in Harford County and the State of Maryland. I think for agriculture to be successful in a growing suburban county, we must find a way to have local products marketed directly to local citizens and continue to promote agri-tourism. I would also have the County law department take a more active role in challenging the legal basis for many of the new State mandates and regulations that burden our farmers, local businesses and average homeowners.
Q. What about the challenges between Harford County interests and those of the State government? For instance, what do you think has been the impact of SMART Growth initiatives for Harford County?
As I mentioned earlier, the recent new regulatory obligations of the State regarding storm water management, septic systems, and the reduction of development rights in rural and suburban counties will have a long-term impact on Harford County. The State’s effort to transfer teacher pension costs and a reduction in local education funding will also have a long-term impact on Harford County. The test for local counties will be finding innovative and fiscally prudent ways to compete and grow their local economies.
I was on the County Council as we became one of the first suburban counties to adopt a Development envelope and a local land preservation program in the early 1990’s. We have to continue to combine citizen and business input to find the right balance.
Q. You’ve been a County councilman, a State delegate and now a State senator, serving in a number of different administrations with people of varying different viewpoints and agendas. What have you found is the key to effective consensus and progressive direction?
First and foremost, I believe the Golden Rule goes a long way in working out public policy with views of varying interests; that treating others the way that you would like to be treated while taking a professional businesslike approach to public policy can effect workable solutions. In addition to my private industry experience, I have had the opportunity to develop many friendships throughout Maryland State government, local governments and municipalities.
Q. What can state and county government do differently to support excellence in public education and to foster quality of life through recreation, the arts, etc.?
As a product of the Harford County School System, I can attest to its excellence. We have always had a system which continually achieves high marks while spending well below our surrounding neighbors. Going forward, I think to offset declining revenues the County and Board will need to partner in those areas where we can use shared responsibilities to save funds and continue to reward our teachers and staff appropriately.
Q. Is there a more active role that citizens can play in shaping the future of Harford County, for example through some of the recently revived community councils? The fastest growing segment of our population is citizens 45 and older, representing a considerable resource of experience, expertise and community involvement. What opportunities exist (or should exist) for that resource to be fostered and channeled?
I was born into Harford County’s long tradition of volunteer and community service. I joined the local volunteer fire department in my home village of Level as soon as I turned sixteen and was active in the local 4H club. Carrying on that tradition, I still serve as co-chair of the Fire/EMS Caucus in Annapolis and help out at the Mason Dixon and Harford Farm fair. We have so many great religious organizations, non-profits and youth organizations that citizens of different ages and talents can give back to the community. By working together, the County has always been strong because of this spirit of service.
Q. As Harford County continues to evolve, what can we learn from other jurisdictions? And what might other jurisdictions learn from us?
As Harford County evolves, I like to compare our challenges to those of the smart phone manufacturers. We must become smaller and more efficient while at the same time using technology to provide better service.
Q. Circling back to an earlier question, what are you most optimistic about for the future of Harford County?
Despite our challenges, I am optimistic that through community input and service, support of local agriculture and business along with an efficient local government, we can move Harford County into a leader of counties in Maryland. We also will focus on taking the knowledge base and technology from APG to foster new business and commercial applications to grow jobs in the private sector for our next generation.