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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Frederick County voters will elect, for the first time, a county executive and a seven member council when the change to charter government takes place in the 2014 election.
Local educator and Democrat Jessica Fitzwater wants to be a member of the council representing district 4. The council will be made up of five members elected by districts and two members elected at-large.
She has filed a candidate committee; Friends of Jessica Fitzwater with the state and intends to officially file her candidacy within the next couple of weeks.
We sat down recently and during my one hour interview, she shared with me why she wants to be elected.
Jessica, who teaches music at Oakdale Elementary School, told me her interest in politics started early when she was active in student government while attending St. Marys College. When she began her professional career she became a member of the Frederick County Young Democrats, joined the League of Women Voters and became active in advocating for education issues. The latter interest led her to get actively involved in the Frederick County Teachers Association, where she currently serves on their board of directors.
On her campaign website; www.jessicafitzwater.com, she writes about how she will stand strong for schools, bring back culture of respect and open government, advocate for responsible growth and strive to maintain and improve the quality of life.
During my interview, she spoke of the importance of having diversity on the council and how excited she was about having an opportunity to serve. She believes she will bring a new voice and fresh perspective and is looking forward to working with the other members of the board and the county executive.
When we discussed the checks and balances in the new charter between the county executive and council, she said time will tell on how well the budget power relationship works between the two. The current language does not allow the council to add funds to the overall budget or a line item within the budget. This relationship, may be a concern for her as she pointed to the current board of county commissioners funding education at the minimum maintenance of effort level. She believes schools need to be as good as they can be which will encourage folks to want to live here.
In regard to the county executive, Jessica told me she was supporting Democratic candidate Jan Gardner who she feels relates well with people, has the experience, vision and record for the position.
On my facebook page, I asked for questions for Jessica Fitzwater and Valarie Dale asked “What is her vision for the future of Frederick County? Jessica said she wants to maintain the quality of life and make sure it is there for everyone. She wants quality schools, affordable homes and Frederick County to continue to be a tourism draw and a place you can call home.
Fitzwater told me she was concerned citizens were feeling they do not have a part in the process when they felt their voices were not heard during recent public testimony on the proposed sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities and the proposed Monrovia town center development.
She wants people to feel they have a voice in government and would like to see the county look into having community roundtable discussions on issues and use social media tools to facilitate input from voters.
Rita Gordon shared on my facebook page she wanted to know her position on the need for infrastructure. Jessica said the county needs to work with the state delegation and hopefully, combined with the county executive having a seat at the table in Annapolis; the county will receive their share of state funds.
She added she would not support the elimination of the impact fee and that she needs to find out more about the transfer tax before she weighs in on it.
When I asked her about issues directing impacting the voters in district 4, she said she is planning meet and greets throughout the district to hear their concerns.
The 4th district includes the eastern side of downtown Frederick, Worman's Mill, Dearbought, Mt. Pleasant, most of Lake Linganore, Spring Ridge, Crestwood, most of Ballenger Creek, and the southern part of downtown Frederick.
Frederick County elections director Stuart Harvey sent me the voter registration breakdown for the county as of December 4, 2013. District 4 has a total of 28,789 voters with 12,287 Democrats, 9,662 Republicans and 6,564 Unaffiliated.
The deadline for candidates to file for office in the 2014 election is February 25, 2015. The primary election will be held on June 24 and the general election will take place on November 4.
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