The next installment of The Dagger’s Q & A with candidates in the 2014 Gubernatorial Primary Election features the Republican candidates running for the Harford County Council District F seat, representing the Havre de Grace area.
With county councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti filed to run for the Maryland House of Delegates, District F is guaranteed new representation. Former Havre de Grace City Councilman Joseph Smith of Havre de Grace is the lone Democrat and will face in the General Election the victor of the race between Republican contenders Curtis Beulah of Abingdon and Monica Worrell of Havre de Grace. Their answers to The Dagger’s three questions appear below. (Note: Although initially interested in participating and despite numerous reminders, Beulah failed to return his questionnaire.)
Dagger: County council members often make decisions in areas where they may not have expertise, such approving tax increment financing proposals, expanding the development envelope, or approving multi-million dollar capital projects. Briefly describe the experience/skills you would bring to the county council and how you make decisions in areas outside your expertise.
Beulah: No response.
Worrell: Over the past 25 years, I have worked in both the private and public sector. I have worked for local government and public safety, hospitality, restaurants and tourism and now the medical field. I have owned my own business. The diversity of my experience has properly prepared me to serve as a Harford County Council person. When called to serve in my community, I say yes.
Since 1993, I have served in leadership roles for many business & civic organization to include:
· Harford Leadership Academy
· Harford County Chamber of Commerce
· Route 40 Business Association
· Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce
· Susquehanna Workforce Network
· Discover Harford County Tourism
· Havre de Grace High School Sports Booster
· Havre de Grace High School Music Boosters
· Penguin Swim Team
· Harford Sheriffs Foundation
· Harford Leadership Academy Board
· Y of Maryland
· Harford County Economic Development Advisory Board
· Harford County Tourism Advisory Board for Harford County
· State of Maryland Tourism Signage program
· Havre de Grace Tourism Commission
· Havre de Grace Economic Development Advisory Board
My professional experience includes the restaurant, hospitality and tourism industry for over 25 years. I began my career with Burger King and rose to the rank of Restaurant Manager before I was 20 years old. On the hotel side, I spent sixteen years working for Hess Hotels Group, owner and operators of the 3 hotels in Harford County, 1 in Perryville, MD and 1 in Emmitsburg, MD. During my time with Hess, I served in both operations and marketing. I was responsible for managing a 9 million dollar budget, and over 200 employees. During my time with Hess, I was involved in the building of a Conference Center and two hotels, along with several renovation projects. In partnership with the hotel owners, my husband and I owned and operated Charley’s Grilled Subs in Edgewood. I am currently the Marketing Director for Advanced Eye Care in Bel Air, MD.
During my time with the public sector, I served from 2007 to 2012 as the Public Information Officer for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. In the mid 90’s, I served as the Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator for the City of Havre de Grace’s Department of Planning. Both roles provided me with insight to the inner workings of local governmental agencies. I believe there is opportunity for governmental agencies to form partnerships, which avoid redundancies and improve efficiencies.
You can count on me to research, to investigate, to listen, to communicate, to follow and to lead. We are facing a myriad of hard decisions that need to be made in our county. The diversity of my experiences and time as an employee, employer and resident of Harford County has provided me with a broad knowledge base and subject matter knowledge in an assortment of fields. I was taught that one can’t be an expert in all things, to all people. We can’t make everyone one happy all the time, but we can use strong research skills, a knowledge of our history, good communications and an understanding of long range strategic planning to do the job. Rest assured I possess the ability to find information from the right resources so that I may critically analyze the information presented to make the most informed decision possible on behalf of the citizens of Harford County.
Dagger: Please cite a previous decision by the Harford County Council with which you either strongly agree or disagree, and why.
Beulah: No response.
Worrell: Over the past twenty years that I have followed Harford County Council actions, I have both agreed and disagreed with many of their decisions. For the purpose of this questionnaire, I will address legislation made to the Zoning Code by Harford County Council, which I agree. It involved the creation of Community Input Meetings. While additions to legislation may seem insignificant at the time, they often present a larger reach and hold more impact than anticipated.
During the review of the comprehensive master plan in 2008, Harford County Council guided conversation and added language to the zoning code for the implementation of Community Input Meetings to Harford County’s development process. The language indicated that Community Input Meetings will occur prior to submission of a concept plan, preliminary plan or site plan for any developments generating 250 or more trips per day, as determined by the most recent version of the I.T.E. Trip Generation Manual, or determined to be a non-transient non-community water system.
The purpose of a Community Input Meeting is for project developers to provide information to the community regarding the proposed development and allow citizens to ask questions and/or make comments and suggestions about the projects. It is during these meetings that the developer shall present draft plans for the site layout. Prior to the addition of the Community Input Meeting in the development process, residents felt as if they lacked the ability to hold a conversation or voice opinions about projects slated for their neighborhoods and communities. Prior to this, the chance for residents to express their concerns directly to the developer were limited, if non-existent. Today, we witness the improvement to this process through such development projects as the Walmart in Bel Air and Eva Mar. Because of the addition of Community Input Meetings to the development process, residents now have an opportunity to speak to developers and voice any concerns, thus allowing developers an opportunity to modify projects with the hope to become better neighbors in their new communities.
Speaking directly to a project that affects District F, in Perryman there is a project slated for the development of 2 million square feet of warehouse space. While the community meeting could be described as contentious, nevertheless it happened. The residents presented sound criticism with several aspects of the project to include traffic concerns and well head protection. After listening to their concerns, the developer is attempting to adjust the project to meet some of the residents’ wishes. I believe that both groups are working towards an amicable outcome with relation to this project. Prior to the implementation of the Community Input Meetings, the first time, that residents may have heard about the project would have been during the DAC process. This would have been too late for an opportunity to speak out regarding their concerns. Like any legislation, the goal should be to address look long-term issues strategically and thoughtfully to benefit the greater good.
Dagger: The Harford County Council is charged with certain responsibilities. Among them are: Enacting legislation, adopting the budget, overseeing the redistricting process, and serving as the Zoning Board of Appeals. Looking ahead, what issues within the council’s purview are of specific interest or concern to you and why? Please cite two issues.
Beulah: No response.
Worrell: Every responsibility that falls under County Council’s purview is of great interest to me. It is why I chose to run for this position of local government. I believe that public service is a calling and citizenship demands responsibility. My goal is to work for the long-term well being of the community, encompassing both economic vitality and environmental protection; a vibrant cultural life and essential infrastructure; public safety for our neighborhoods and businesses, and safety net services for those in need; jobs for our workforce, security for our seniors and a promising community for our young people.
Two issues that I feel are at the forefront of actions that will be required of the new council are the proposed Water Authority and the potential of hotel tax.
Water is our most precious resource. Our actions surrounding its protection & distribution represent a “50 Year” decision for the quality of life for our residents. According to the executive summary of the 2013 Harford County Water & Sewer Concept Plan, a regional water & sewer authority would consolidate services, aggregate water & treatment capabilities, provide economy of scales for operation & purchasing power, increase predictability of customers’ rate changes & provide consistent water & sewer policies across the county while improving customer service. That being said, the devil is in the details. Should we choose to move forward with a water authority, as stewards of the citizens entrusted with protecting their assets, we need to look carefully at how ownership of the water & sewer assets might be passed to an authority. Should this happen, it is critical that taxpayers are fairly compensated for the transfer of the property.
In Maryland’s 2014’s legislative session, through the bipartisan leadership, language was included in the Budget and Reconciliation Financing Act of 2014 (“BRFA”) to enable the County’s next administration to work with local municipalities and other tourism groups to establish a framework in the local legislation to collect a lodging fee. This was at the request of the hotel, business and tourism communities. I do not support additional taxation to the residents of Harford County, but I believe that if properly administered a lodging tax will potentially provide a tax relief to the residents of Harford County. Not only is Harford County the only one of Maryland’s twenty-four counties not to have such a revenue generating law in effect, it is the only county on the East Coast. What this means is Harford County residents pay a fee whenever they rent a hotel room in another jurisdiction, but none of the individuals renting a room in Harford County makes a similar contribution to our local economy. Serving in leadership roles for both tourism and hotels for over 25 years, I am best qualified to lead the next level of this discussion to determine how to enact the enabling legislation for our county.