North Harford represents the last bastion of the county’s rural roots, but that agricultural way of life is increasingly at odds with encroaching residential and commercial development.
Balancing the best interests of residents, employees, and businesses is a difficult, seemingly endless, and usually thankless job – perhaps that’s why only two candidates have expressed official interest in representing the North Harford District D on the Harford County Council.
With only two Republicans running for the office and no Democratic candidate stepping forward to be placed on the ballot, the next District D councilman will be decided in the Primary Election.
The Dagger caught up with those candidates – Todd Paterniti and Chad Shrodes – and posed to them the same set of questions.
Those questions, and the varying answers of the candidates, are listed below:
In one paragraph, please give a brief biographical sketch of yourself.
I was born on September 14, 1967, ironically the same day that I will find out if I am to become the republican candidate for Harford County Council. I have lived in Harford County since 1972, and attended Jarrettsville Elementary, North Harford Middle and North High School. As a youngster I was active in boy scouts, baseball and 4H. As an adult, I decided to settle in Harford County and raise a family. My wife Karen and I bought our first home in Harford County in 1989, and now reside in our second Harford County home. Karen and I have been married for 21 years, and we have three children. Tiffany and Tyler they graduated from North Harford High School and our youngest Courtney will be entering North Harford High School this year. When my children were younger, I was very active in the Churchville Rec. Council and North Harford Rec. Council. I began my professional career with Brocker Steel after graduating from North Harford High School. I also worked part time at Fork CITGO as night manager and mechanic. I advanced to a management position for Carroll Independent Fuel Company, and continued to work two jobs to support my young family. In 1997, I opened my own industrial supply company. Then, due to outsourcing, I diversified into lawn care and landscaping. Three years ago I went to work for Victory Steel Company. I have also recently sold the lawn care company. I have personally felt the effects of this tough economy, which prompted me to run for Harford County Council.
I was born and raised in Norrisville. My family’s home adjoins the farm where my grandmother, Jean McElwain Shrodes, was raised, and where my great-grandfather farmed. This is a great source of pride for me. In May, 2008 I married my amazing wife, Amber at Kilgore’s Falls, and in December, 2009 we welcomed our beautiful daughter Madelyn Grace to our family. I attended Norrisville Elementary, North Harford Middle, and North Harford High schools, Harford Community College, and then graduated from Towson University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Land Use and Environmental Planning. Prior to taking office as the Councilman for North Harford, I served in many capacities as a Planner for both Harford County and the State of Maryland. These positions, which involved all aspects of land preservation, historic preservation, forest conservation, and development review at the State and County level, provide me with an intimate and comprehensive background of Harford County’s communities and the Nation’s most innovative land-use policies. Further, this experience prepares me with profound insight regarding the update of the Master Plan and will help me to temper the growth of the County with the preservation of our rural heritage.
I am active in numerous community groups including the Harford County Farm Bureau, Extension Advisory Committee, the Rocks Road Improvement Committee, the Jarrettsville Lions Club, the Harford County Library Board of Trustees, the Mason-Dixon Business Association, the Harford Land Trust, the Izaack Walton Sportsman’s Chapter, and attend the Whiteford/Cardiff/Pylesville/Street, Jarrettsville/Norrisville, and Darlington/Dublin community meetings regularly. I am a resolute supporter of Harford’s volunteer fire companies, PTAs, park and recreation councils, the Harford County Library System, and the Harford County 4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts programs. Our family attends Norrisville United Methodist Church. For more information please visit my web site at www.ChadShrodes.com.
What is at stake for District D (North Harford) in this race?
I feel what is at stake for District D (North Harford) in this race is the future for our children, our families, our small businesses, our homes, our farms, our farm land , our safety and the American dream. Our economy is shrinking, unemployment is rising, our property taxes are running residents out of the county and our home values are falling. North Harford has a proud heritage of hard working people. I grew up knowing the value of working hard to achieve my goals. I have always been a hands-on, family oriented businessman, and I would be honored to represent the residents of Harford County, and help bring back the way of life that I was privileged to know growing up in this great county.
The update of the Master Plan makes the next four years critical. In 2006, I ran for County Council to meet the challenges facing our County’s rural areas and agricultural community, and felt my land-use experience would be particularly valuable in the Comprehensive Rezoning process and the Zoning Code rewrite. I was grateful to receive the support of the voters of northern Harford County, and of the farming community then, and am proud of my accomplishments and of those of the council. I am seeking re-election because there is still important work to do, and I feel strongly that my strengths, which now include experience on the County Council, will best serve my district again.
The decisions made in the next term will have lasting effects on our community for generations. North Harford’s communities, and agricultural community in particular, require a strong advocate. I hope I will have the opportunity to continue serve as North Harford’s Voice on the council for the next four years.
What is the biggest problem in District D (North Harford) and what will you do if elected to make it better?
I feel the biggest problem in District D (North Harford) is the rise of foreclosures in these economic times. Hard working families are losing their homes. Communities are losing valuable citizens. Homeowners in surrounding areas are seeing their home values fall. If elected as your county councilman, I will do everything possible to protect every citizen’s way of life. I will fight for legislation to help homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments and battle for ways to lower property taxes for all, especially our seniors. I will work to encourage growth in the small business sector and bring more jobs to our part of the county. And I will strive to be the voice of the everyday person.
The biggest problems facing the voters of District D are the same facing all of the voters of Harford County: the poor economy, rampant government spending, and the need to keep taxes as low as possible without sacrificing essential services.
I am proud of my record as an advocate for fiscal responsibility, and have supported needed tax relief for the citizens of Harford County, and acted on behalf of small businesses and of family farms in particular.
In terms of an issue of concern that is specific to North Harford, the most pressing is the degradation of our rural heritage. Preserving our rural heritage is a top priority, and I am pleased to have championed improvements to our land preservation and agriculture economic development programs, as well as played a leading role in the effort to “Save the Rocks.”
In addition I want to enhance efforts to bring the latest technologies, such as FiOS and broadband, to the citizens of North Harford. I am incessantly working with the division of Information & Communications Technology to expedite Broadband Carriers deliver high speed Fiber or Wireless access to every home and business in Harford County. Together, we are studying options for low cost, high speed connectivity to homes where private carriers cannot provide high speed service in the near future. Investing in technologies that create value, efficiency, transparency and accountability in government are key. I am proud that multiple initiatives are underway to enhance government service to citizens, including efforts to connect all Educational Institutions, Government, Health & Public Safety facilities via ultra high speed Fiber. http://ideas.harfordcountymd.gov, a platform for citizen collaboration to make your local government more accessible and engaging, is already underway.
With the slow pace of the economy the last few years, residential development in the northern end of Harford has all but come to a halt. That figures to change if and when the economy picks up and with the continued development of the county’s new Transfer of Development Right rules, which could see North Harford serve as both a major sending and receiving area for development rights. With that in mind, how will the balance of rural/agriculture and residential development look in North Harford? How is North Harford changing in that respect and how do you think North Harford should be changing? How is North Harford dealing with that change? What is North Harford’s long-range future?
Right now, the balance of rural and residential development in North Harford looks like the cart is in front of the horse. North Harford is suffering from overcrowding in our schools, lack of modern communications technologies, insufficient transportation routes, and not enough active state and local law enforcement to support the expanding residential development. North Harford should be taking advantage of the current slow growth period to catch up on all these important issues before the next growth wave occurs and it is anticipated that it will, particularly with BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure). North Harford has been slow to advance with these changes. We need to do our best to accurately estimate development envelopes in order prevent the value of northern Harford land from skyrocketing. Developing outside the envelope will cause both the value of preserved land and open acreage to rise in value. I believe Harford County needs more technical schools, and we must be proactive in addressing the expansion of our student population. We must grow the infrastructure and make improvements to unsafe roadways which are currently overpopulated with traffic. Public safety must be a priority. We need added law enforcement on state and local levels. My fellow neighbors and I feel the lack of communications technology in North Harford every day. We must work to be as equipped as the other parts of the county with modern communications.
I am optimistic that we will be able to maintain the agricultural/rural and residential balance in the North Harford area well into the future. We already have 47,000 acres of farmland that is permanently preserved, and Harford County is a model when it comes to developing the next generation of farmers to work the land. I’m very excited about the new Natural Resources and Ag Magnet program at North Harford, which will educate students on the latest technologies in agriculture and prepare them for careers in farming.
My first term in office has been incredibly fulfilling to me, as I feel that we have made progress in the mission to preserve our quality of life and to keep Harford County rural. Shortly after taking office, I sponsored legislation that made our County’s Land Preservation program more attractive to prospective landowners wishing to extinguish development rights in perpetuity, and ensured that the County’s is preserving the most productive and fertile land resources in the County. I also successfully advocated for the expansion of both the State’s Rural Legacy Program and our Priority Preservation Area (PPA) to include the “upper” Deer Creek Watershed, creating new land preservation opportunities to North Harford, specifically in the areas of Street, Pylesville, Norrisville, Jarrettsville, White Hall and Shawsville.
The County Council took on the responsibility to rewrite the Harford County Zoning Code and Development Regulations, as they hadn’t been updated for an astonishing 26 years. This allowed us the opportunity to adopt a true Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. While our creation of TDR program is not perfect, it is a vast improvement over the previous non-TDR program. Now that we have one that includes sending and receiving areas, it can be revised, expanded, and improved. My vision for a future TDR program would be led by a dynamic task force and tie residential up-zoning within the Development Envelope to the preservation of productive agricultural land outside of the Development Envelope.
Of course, there’s no point in preserving farmland if farmers aren’t given every opportunity to make a decent living. So I am a strong supporter of Harford County’s Agricultural Economic Development program — one of the best in the state — and was pleased to partner with the Harford County Farm Bureau, the County’s Ag Economic Development staff, and members of the farming community at large to form an Ag Viability Task force three years ago. This task force created a report the led to the creation of legislation allowing farmers to better market value-added and processed agricultural products directly to the consumer, encouraging residents to “Buy Local”.
Looking toward the future, my priorities over the next term to preserve Harford’s rural heritage include: 1) Creating a comprehensive TDR Program that establishes sending areas tied to up-zonings within the Development Envelope. 2) Encourage Conservation-Cluster Developments in agricultural areas. 3) Advocacy of county, state, and federal land preservation programs and land trusts. 4) Support Right-to-Farm Legislation 5) Promote Agri-tourism/direct marketing of Ag products to consumers. 6) Seek tools and creative funding solutions to meet Ag Land Preservation goals. 7) Establish architectural design standards that compliment Rural Village Centers. 8) Support Historic Preservation initiatives.