After some research, dragged and dropped the Intro, Episode 3 audio and Intro into Audacity
After edited the combined recording, editing was done through Auphonic for audio post production
Then dropped into Buzzsprout for uploading and publishing
I read a nunber of podcast reviews reviews (Buzzsprout, Podbean, Libsyn and others). Buzzsprout seemed more intuitive and easy to use. Moving from Anchor was not hard, but as suggested didn’t move to Buzzsprout for a week.
Episode 3 was posted to my Facebook election page and is now listed on Spotify, Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts. So far 10 downloads.
So I will continue to learn and get better at podcsting.
I’m also thinking about starting Placesense as a podcast. I previously reached out to a former local news paper reporter to partner with him. That didn’t work out as he took a new job out of the area. Another potential partner (podcast producer) couldn’t commit the time.
So now that I’ve actually taken the podcat plunge (and risk), perhaps, I will move forward and start the Placessense Podcast!
We thought COVID was receding, given the availability of vaccines. Restrictions were relaxed, with antictipation this would comntinue. There was even talk of starting in-person Town Council meetings again!
Unfortunatelty, the Delta variant exploded. As of early September, our county has the highest infection rate in Maryland.
The county then re-instated mandatory indoor masking. We had a special session to determine if the Town would do nothing, or follow the county’s lead. We had our new county attorney provide legal guidance. This was a contentous session, with political undertones – those arguing do nothing, masking should be a choice, not a mandate, while others saying the Town needed to demosntrate leadership and not always follow the county’s lead.
I urged mandatory indoor masking, to demonstrate leaderhip and that public health and safety is the top priority. The pushback argument was we would face whithering critisiscm from businesses and on Facebook. I began to lose my cool, countering that we, as elected officials and leaders, shouldn’t cowtow because of Facebook vitriol – “bring it on” I responded.
We recessed and later got a call from a council member, attempting to dissaude my support for masking and that we should present a united front when voting on this in a later public session. While I understand the need for unity, my belief was and still is public health and safey are paramount now during this health crisis. I was sticking to my belief and values.
Prior to the public session, another council member suggested a compromise – “indoor masking is recommended”. While not perfect, this was a accetable to me, that at a minimun, we as a council would step up and take a stand. It passed unanimously.
Listen more (“two ears, one mouth”)
Stick to my core values and beliefs
Compromise and consensus is a good thing.
There will be more conflicts, and decisions will not be easy.
As a new Town Council, we were briefed about two residential annexations requests that have been in the queue for a number of years, with no actions by the previous Town Council. I remember these and wrote staff reports as Town Planning Director six years ago. I asked our new Town attorney, if this was a conflict of interset and therefore should I recuse myself from any further discussion. The response was no, so I can participate.
For both annexations I submitted questions in writing to each applicant. These focused on their respetive reports and documentation about impacts on the town – traffic, water/sewer, stormwater management and fiscal impact. This last issue is particularily important because fiscal impact reports had no source or documentation supporting their claim the town would receive increased tax revenues from the respective residential projects. I wasn’t going to accept thier general statement, with no proof or facts.
I have mixed feelings about approval of these and other potential annexation requests. I worked for engineering companies, advocating approval of these type of projects for our clients. But the pandemic has exposed and heightened my awareness about economic and racial inquality, and climate change/environmental impacts. Now that I’m an elected official, the impacts are specific – how do we pay for all the needed infrastructure and provide water?! COVID-19 has exposed that perhaps the status has not worked and time fo new ideas.
So I expect to be in the minority and will take a lot of heat. But that’s part of the job I signed up for, so it will be fascintaing to see how I perform. This is still a journey, with still much to learn and do.
I’ve talked a long time about developing a podcast. I took free courses, read Buzzsprout and other podcast host blogs, and read books.
I reached out to a former local news reporter to collaborate on an interview podcast about growth/development, similar to this blog. We talked for several months, enlisted a local podcast producer, deveoped an interview list, artwork, and an introductory episode script.
Unfortunately, the news reporter moved out of the area and the producer couldn’t commit the time. So I lost the momentum and motivation to start.
But the bug was still there, motivated by aGet Set Up class about starting a podcast, using Anchor, a free podcast host platform.
So I now have a podcast, posting two episodes, using Anchor and initially posted to my politicianFacebook page. It’s a ” Bi-weekly update about La Plata Town Council meetings, activities, and issues.”
I practiced recording using Audacity, then as a suggestion of a very well-known national blogger and podaster, use Auphonic for audio post production to improve the sound quality of the recording. I then drag the audio into Anchor, added intro and ending music, then published them.
This is still a work and progress. I have a lot to learn, including not to write and read a script! I did this for Episode 2 and it was terrible – too stiff! This was deleted and did another take, just talking into the mic, refering to brief topic headlines.
So I will continue to practice and improve.
Here is the link to the public website and two episodes:
My position as a Town Council member is non-partisan. There is no party affiliation question on the application form. As I am learning, that doesn’t mean there isn’t politics!
Our police department has and continues to advocate switching to a Maryland State retirement program. This includes the threat that half the force (total staff 22, 18 sworn officers) will leave if the retirement benefit is not changed. The police retirement demand is in the context of increasing crime (gun violence) in the town. There is a lingering bitterness and resentment why this issue was not resolved by prior councils.
The previous council, in April, within a month of leaving office, passed enabling legislation allowing the town to enter into a develper rights and responsibilties agreement (DRRA) for land development projects. This was significant because one week later the town received a DRRA for a residential project. The draft DRRA is from the land owner of a site annexed into the town 25 years ago. No plan has ever been prepared. It was submitted to jump start needed water/sewer infrastructure they claim was partially funded by them. At the last Planning Commisssion and Town Council meeting on May 5, five days before I took office, no action was taken on the proposed DRRA. In early June, our Town Attorney recieved a letter from the developer’s local attorney, demanding all town records from their project be preserved. This is in advance of a lawsuit, likely on the basis of due process.
We now own these issues as the new council.
At both our council work sessions and (2nd,3rd Tuesdays) and business meeetings (4th Tuesday), there is an agnda item, Public Comment. Any person in attendance (now still virtually) has three minutes to state their name, if a town resident and the provide their comments. If appropriate, council members and staff can answer questions.
At a work session in early June, several residents and police officers spoke and supported the police department’s desire for a new reitirement system. One individual was not a town resident, but a business owner and current president of the town business association. He read a letter of suppport for the new police reitirement system and “challenged” the council to appoint a blue-ribbon commission of experts to study and then forward their recommendations for a new retirement benefit.
This seems resonable, until I met with this individual to hear his concerns and issues, in his role as business association president. During our conversation, he again urged the appointment of the blue-ribbon restirement commission, but added – if it fails, you (the council) have “political cover” to blame the commission. I find this odd and frankly what then is his real motive. It gets better – read on!
Then earlier this week, the same person calls me demanding to know why the council has not resppnded to a letter from the developer’s attorney about no action taken on the draft DRRA. I responded that the town would be sued and therefore no response had been developed yet. He responded that it was stretch and a leap to assume we would be sued. I disagreed and he then revealed his question was in response to a call to (or from) the developer’s local attorney.
I suggested to him to be careful about making demands and accusations without first verifying the facts. Our conversation then got arugumentative and heated. After a pause and deep breath, we agreed to disagree and he would be calling the mayor and other council members. That is certainly his right.
On the police issue, I’m not sure if he was actually speaking on behalf of the business association or his own personal opinions and views. I have serious doubts if his board of directors authorized him to write the letter in support of the police and then present it at a council work session.
Follow-up; Several hours later, the Mayor called and told me that she had called this individual. There was a town response to the local attorney through two phone calls in early June.
I now also question his his integrity and motives, by making demands and accusations, without first checking the facts about the DRRA issue. He just took the attorney’s word that the town had not responded, when in fact the mayor did with two phone calls. Perhpas, that was not good enough in his mind, but it was a response. I have recommended to the mayor that our legal council prepare a written response.
Grow a thick skin; don’t take it personally
Listen more, talk less; we have two ears and one mouth!
Take a deep breath before responding to questions, accusation and demands
I will make mistakes, learn and move on
I read this for perspsective:
Ignore the Critics; Do the Work! (Excerpt from The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon)
Positive leaders don’t lead because they want recognition or enemies. They lead because there is something they must do, build, create, transform, and change. They lead because it’s who they are and what they are meant to do. However, with leadership comes scrutiny, praise, critics, and attacks. A leader could find a cure for cancer and would still have some people criticize them for it. There was even once a leader who transformed the world by feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and loving the unlovable, and yet he was killed for it. If you are a leader, expect to be attacked. Positive leadership doesn’t mean you won’t be criticized. It means you have the grit and belief to overcome it. Positive leaders don’t lead in a tranquil sea of positivity, but through the storms of adversity and negativity.
Leadership is knowing that the critics will criticize you while still saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done. History doesn’t remember the critics. It remembers the one who withstood criticism to accomplish something great.
In our modern social-media–driven world, you will have more fans and critics than ever. The keys are: Don’t let praise go to your head and don’t let critics into your head. Be so invested in your craft that you don’t have time to listen to the naysayers. No time for negativity. You’re too busy creating the future. If I would have listened to the naysayers and critics, I would have stopped working on my craft years ago. I want to encourage you to never let the opinion of others define you and your future. Your identity doesn’t come from what the world says about you. It comes from who you are on the inside. Your work, leadership, and mission are too important to allow others to define your destiny.
No matter what anyone says, just show up and do the work. If they praise you, show up and do the work. If they criticize you, show up and do the work. If no one even notices you, just show up and do the work. Just keep showing up, doing the work, and leading the way.
Lead with passion. Fuel up with optimism. Have faith. Power up with love. Maintain hope. Be stubborn. Fight the good fight. Refuse to give up. Ignore the critics. Believe in the impossible. Show up. Do the work. You’ll be glad you did. True grit leads to true success.
I have and will continue to read this passge, as I expect many more challenges.
But first, my Civic Responsibility as an elected official – The Athenian Oath, recited by the citizens of Athens, Greece, more than 2,000 years ago. (Source: A Guide for Local Elected Leaders, International City/County Management Association (ICMA), National League of Cities (NLC):
“We will never bring disgrace on this our city by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.
“We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city both alone and with many.“
“We will revere and obey the city’s laws and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught.“
“We will strive increasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways, we will transmit this city, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
My goals, with references from the September 2020 Town Comprehensive Plan:
Increase outreach, engagement with Town residents
Source:GOAL #19: Promote a culture of civic activism and community ownership.
Advocate for a safe and walkable La Plata
GOAL #16: Continue to make La Plata a very walkable community.
GOAL #32: Create a town-wide walking/biking trail system as recommended by the 2011 La Plata Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
GOAL #2: New development areas will reflect the principles of walkability, sustainability and environmental protection.
Strive for innovation and continual improvement in all town processes.
GOAL #20: Strengthen town services and programs with adequate staffing and technical expertise.
Restart La Plata Town Center Corporation (LPTCC)
GOAL #1: La Plata will maintain and enforce its plans and policies to strengthen the downtown core and maintain its small-town character.
GOAL #26: Focus the town’s community and economic development efforts on the downtown core; demonstrate public investment to attract private capital.
GOAL #23: Encourage mixed-use development in new subdivisions and in downtown redevelopment projects.
Track Comprehensive Plan implementation
Refer to Part 3: Implementation Plan, Page 72, Comprehensive Plan
I wrote these goals shorty after my May 10th swearing-in and shared it with the other council members. This was also used as talking points when I met with Town Department directors, including the Town Manager. He is the COO – Chief Operating Officer, working for the CEO, the Mayor and Board of Directors, council members. Some council members have also shared their goals as well.
But now reality sets in as we attempt to reconcile our different goals into a coherent plan, providing direction to the Town Manager and senior staff. We are still working through this.
This now runs up against immediate issues – increase in violent crime with handguns, demand by police to switch to another retirement plan (expensive!), failing infrastructure (multiple old water, sewer, drainage pipes collapsing), and new residential development, further increasing demands on infrastructure and staff. I am not convinced we are adequately staff and organized for the future. We have some difficult decisions make, including how to pay for this. The Town hasn’t raised taxes in 20 years! This is not to suggest we do, but the demands have changed dramatically. As COVID has shown, hoping to return to the way it was is not a recipe for success.
My challenge will be how to balance these goals with the above immediate demands. Do I need to adjust and refocus? We will see as my term unfolds.
I officially took office at a swearing-ceremony Monday, May 10.
The swearing-in also included a Council organizational meeting – commission/committee assignments, approving our work session and business meetings schedule, received Town Hall keys, iPad and the required paperwork for pay, taxes and other deductions.
We provided our commission choices, so I was assigned to the Town Center Corporation (TCC) (I helped to establish in 2013) and the Parks and Recreation Commission. These were my choices and align with my interests and experience.
What I’m doing
I was disappointed that we didn’t have a better transition as new members, given the significant and complex issues we face. We did have an hour long virtual meeting prior to our swearing-in.
I (and several Council members) met individually with the Town Manager, Town Treasurer, Police Chief and Public Works Director to hear their respective concerns, issues and needs.
No time to reflect on the election, with our first Council work session, Tuesday night, May 11. This was followed by my first Parks/Recreation Commission meeting 7:30 AM the following morning.
After this initial flurry, I’m getting organized as well. Completed all the paperwork, set-up my IPad, received a town email address, accessed our Office 365 enterprise account, ordered apparel with the Town logo, and updated my election Facebook page to a public official page. I’ve haven’t used Apple products for many years, so this is another learning process to maximize its use for Town business.
Using the Town’s Office 365 account let’s me separate business versus personal use. This is important for practical and legal reasons (See the issues list below).
Rather than have another cell phone forTown business, I and several other Council members will use an app – RingCentral. This has a separate phone number and can be used for texting as well. Use and costs can then be tracked, again separating personal versus town business.
We posed for official Town photos, now posted on theTown’s website. It turned out pretty good – I actually smiled!
I’m usingHarvestto track my Council hours. I’m getting paid, so I need to put in the work to justify my pay. I didn’t know the salary until the prior council approved a pay increase in April to $15,000! I didn’t want to vote on that and would have voted NO.
The Real Work
I’ve already engaged in the real work of an elected official – constituent services. I’ve received many emails (through my town email) and phone calls from residents asking specific questions about possible zoning violations, the proposed FY 22 budget, building permit inspections and process, and police service, retirement concerns. My goal is to respond within 24 hours, even if only to acknowledge their inquiry and then follow-up with a response or referral.
My knowledge and experience in planning and zoning has already helped. When walking my dog in my neighborhood, there was a construction crew installing internet cable, within a 15 foot wide utility easement along the front yards of homes. The contractors were working for Comcast. After my walk, I emailed to Town Manager and Planning Director, copying the Mayor ( chain of command, all on the same sheet) and asked if a building permit had been filed. Within 10 minutes, they responded that no permit was on hand. Code Enforcement and Public Works personnel shut the job down. They resumed their work a week later after filing the required permit.
It’s easy to be critical when looking in from the outside, not necessarily knowing the “the rest of the story”. I suspected this was the case, later confirmed from our issues brief on the afternoon we took office.
Our key issues:
Town Council operating procedures: As new members, we are struggling to understand how we must work together, how to place items on meeting agendas and meet to candidly discuss these and other sensitive issues, while complying with the Maryland’s Open Meeting Law and requirements.
FY 22 budget: review and approve by June 8 ( effective July 1); the budget process started in January 2021 by the previous Council; the tax rate has already been set, any opportunity for amendments is very limited.
Potential law suite: An attorney for a developer, and owner of a +-200 acre tract, annexed in 2000, has submitted a letter that all records and documents for this project and an adjacent project under construction, be preserved. This is likely in advance of a law suite they will file about the project review process by the prior council.
Police benefits: The Police ( 25 total staff)want to switch to the state retirement system; there is a retention and recruitment concerns if the change in not made now; there is an equity issue – what about other Town staff, cost ($4-6 million to switch, $400-600K annual cost). Note – the proposed budget includes $75K for a salary/benefits study), previously delayed but needed now to provide factual data and context.
Is the Town organized and staffed for projected growth? This is related to the previous item; Town population is +-10,000 and expected to grow significantly based on projects in the pipeline; Do we need more staff? Do we need a full time Human Resources ( HR) staff or consultant (73 Town employees)? Do we need full time Town Attorney?
Infrastructure: We operate a water and sewer treatment facility, provide trash/recycling (paid by enterprise funds – users pay for it in fees),police and park/recreation, services primarily funded by property taxes).The fees are set each FY and will increase by 3% in the FY 22 budget. An immediate issue – water. The State will not grant additional groundwater aquifer withdrawal, so we may have to buy water from a regional water authority, at a significantly higher cost. Are we prepared for cyber attacks?
Public Participation/Engagement: The May 4 election turnout was dismal (<5% of eligible voters!). Actions needed – a new Town website, use other social media channels, change how and where the Council meets, start Town Hall meetings, meet with Homeowners Associations (HOA) and other groups. We have been meeting with the town business association. We have a PR consultant, but need to fully utilize them for more effective engagement.
It was a long day, starting at 6:00 AM. Candidates could verify the ballot boxes were empty, and the ballots were correct, including directions to vote for one candidate for each ward.
The polls opened at 7:00 AM. I voted and the set up my sign, table/chair to meet and greet voters. The weather was sunny and hot (88 degrees). I took a break mid-morning to change clothes, and apply sunscreen. (my house is 10 minutes from Town Hall). I took another break mid-afternoon, walking to Burger King for lunch.
Late afternoon there was a severe thunderstorm and lightening. I retreated to my car, while the other candidates remain outside under their umbrellas!
Voting surged during lunch (12:00 PM) and then later (5:00 PM), voters returning from work . Some voting during the thunderstorm!
The polls closed at 8:00 PM and the candidates or their designated representatives, could observe the vote count. Unlike the primary, I chose not to watch. I was just too tired to sit for several more hours while the votes were counted.
I then collected several nearby lawn signs and went home, not worrying about fraud.
The results would be posted on the Town’s Election Page. I thought the tally would be completed by 10:00 PM.
The race was far closer than I initially imagined – 241 to 214! But greeting and seeing voters throughout the day, I saw and felt a much different vibe from the March primary.
First, voter turnout was lower than expected.
There was only a two week primary campaign versus the nine weeks for the general election.
The status of the Town police became a dominant issue, because of recent national events, and Town officer’s emotional and persistent advocacy to fund a shift to the state retirement system (estimated $1.6 million entry cost, $400K annual cost).
My opponent’s husband is a Town cop, while another candidate (another ward) father is a retired County cop. Many police , (on duty and retired) and their supporters gravitated to them. We all clustered together in front of the Town Hall, to see and greet voters (beyond the electioneering distance), so I overheard many interesting conversations and comments. Some were very critical of the current mayor, and the Town was not supporting them.
I understand the desire for improved benefits and appreciate what they do. But I was very disappointed by their sense of entitlement, demeaning of town staff, who work from home, while they are “out there and exposed to COVID”.
One town officer in particular and in uniform, standing adjacent to my table, talked to another candidate, openly criticized the Mayor. He has a right to express his opinion, but not in public, in uniform and on the job. For me, this violates the basic tenants of leadership I learned in the US Army. I served with many officers that I didn’t like, but never openly criticized them in public!
My opponent was banking on full support from this “blue wall”, their friends and families. I wasn’t sure there were votes for me to overcome this, particularly with a low turnout. So my confidence dropped throughout the day.
I kept refreshing the election page website after 10:00 PM for the results. At 11:15, I received two texts at the same time saying congratulations, one from a friend and the other from the mayor. I was surprised and asked for the actual numbers. Then the website posted the results, confirming I has won! I was excited and relieved , but then reality took hold – now the real work begins! I am now accountable!
The Next Days
Picked up all lawn signs; including thanking the property owners
Thanked by email, and FB Messenger supporters
Emailed thanks to family, friends who supported me
Attended virtually a joint Planning Commission and Town Council meeting to review long delayed but now active large residential project
Congratulated the other council winners
Updated by FB page
Set meeting appointments for Monday, May 10 with the Police Chief and Director of Public Works, to get up to speed about pressing issues and concerns. NOTE: I purposely copied the mayor and town manager, to set the example to use the chain of command, sorely lacking in previous town councils
Reached out to my opponent asking for her ideas and issues. We will talk after she takes some time off
I take office 7:00 PM, Monday, May 10, in person, but with appropriate COVID protocols. It will also be live streamed through Facebook Live and YouTube. We will all receive an iPad, Office 365 account and FOB key to Town Hall . We can also register for the Maryland Municipal League (non-profit support organization for town elected officials) summer conference, in-person and virtual, in June.
Each council member is assigned to a board or commission. We provided the mayor our with three choices. My choice is the downtown developed corporation ( I helped established in 2012) and the Parks/Recreation Commission.
We then have our first council work session Tuesday night. I just now (Sunday night, 9:00 PM) received an email from the Assistant Town Manger about a Parks/Recreation Commission meeting 7:30 AM Wednesday morning.
So we are off and running!
Review and pass draft FY 22 budget
switch police retirement system? Include all town staff?
Tax increase? Non in 20 years
Review developer’s agreement for long delayed residential project, attempted this month, by lame duck council member
Review two previously submitted annexation requests; several others waiting to submit
Improve outreach to citizens
New town website
Outreach to homeowners associations
return calls/emails within 24 hours.
Maximize Town’s GIS (Geographic Information System)
Revive downtown development corporation
An advocate for a walkable, pedestrian, bike friendly community
It’s been an adventure and learning experience getting here!
I’m writing this on Sunday, May 2, two days before the Town Council election on Tuesday.
I had one final Zoom candidate forum Thursday, April 29, sponsored by the County NAACP. All candidates were invited, but my opponent declined due to a “prior engagement” as stated by the forum host. That was a surprise, and helped relax me.
The rules were straight forward – the two minute rule – for opening statement, answering questions and closing remarks. Interaction with other candidates was discouraged.
We logged into Zoom 15 minutes prior to the start of the forum, to insure no audio and video problems. The forum was also a live Facebook event and recorded.
Two funny things when I connected – first, an incumbent candidate in another ward, quickly changed from a tee-shirt to a coat and tie, after the other candidates were dressed appropriately for the occasion. This reinforced my mistake of wearing a hooded sweatshirt ( the hood was down!) during my Facebook Live event in late March!
The other humorous thing was when the NAACP President asked another candidate from a different ward (not my opponent) if he was old enough to vote! He is 21, but looks much younger. He had tried to run four years ago when he was 17!
This is not to bash younger folks, but it was funny and an ice-breaker. Note – I hope his opponent wins. He is more mature and experienced that the Council will need.
We answered 11 questions from the participants (22) during the two hour forum, fielded by the moderator. I had anticipated two of the questions – our position or thoughts about defunding the police and if we supported switching to the state retirement program for the town police.
One other question ( two parts) was unexpected, and hard – how we would help a poorer neighborhood in town and support expansion of an adjacent (and new) community center.
It was a long forum, but well organized. The video was viewed by over 500, with 77 comments. My performance was ok, but disappointed I didn’t provide better answers to several questions.
I read the comments and there were no specific negative comments about me. They were numerous comments about the younger candidate referenced earlier. He was called out for not looking at the camera when not answering questions. He seemed to typing notes but still not a good look.
After the event, the current mayor (running unopposed) and the retiring council member both texted, saying I did a good job. They want me to win, so while appreciated, I take them with a grain of salt.
Final Things to Do
So now I’m on a FB election page posting blitz now until Tuesday, emphasizing vote on May 4, between 7:00 AM and 8:00 PM (a long day!). In response to many questions, a follow-up post added that residents can vote for one (1) candidate for Mayor and the four Wards. I want to avoid what happened in the primary – six ballots were thrown out for marking two candidates, not one. I lost at least one vote, critical when only 200 voted.
I will also re-post Why I am Running and Future Issues narratives.
As of today, campaign expenses for lawn signs (21) and election postcard handouts (500) total $581.00. I used Canva (free version) to design the lawn sign and postcard. I have not accepted any campaign contributions.
I’ve checked on my signs after Friday’s wind storm (>50 MPH!) and all ok.
I am planning to set up my last sign outside the electioneering limit from town hall on election day to greet and say hi to voters. A sunny warm day is predicted! I will take strategic breaks during the day. Results should be known Tuesday night, but haven’t decided to stay for the vote count. There is little chance of fraud and it could still take several hours to complete the vote tally. It comes after a long day!
So now is the hard part – waiting. I am really ok win or lose. If I lose, life moves on, I’ve learned a lot about myself and I have a list of what’s next.
If I win – what have I done! There will be significant challenges, some long neglected and others from growth pressures. There is always the unexpected, so the hope is the new council will coalesce into a team! We will have to make tough and controversial decisions. This is where my Army experience will help.
It’s been a good experience and glad I took the challenge!
It’s April 25 – 9 days to the May 4 General Election!
What I’m Doing
Supporters wanted more signs to post, so I purchased additional ones, for a total of 21. All have been posted at strategic and visible locations for maximum exposure. I’ve keep track of their location and costs. I shorten the metal sign holders so they don’t get blown over by the wind. I also check the signs and if necessary reset them.
There was another Homeowners Association (HOA) Zoom candidate forum earlier this week. It was the same format, a five-minute introduction, but reversed, so I was the second candidate, after my opponent. I noticed all the candidates improved their introductions., except my opponent.
Q & A followed, but was different than the earlier candidate forum. First, the youngest candidate (not my opponent) attempted politicize the forum by demanding his opponent state his support to change the town police retirement program and support raises. Note, this is a non-partisan election. No party affiliation is asked when filing for election. The moderator shut down this attack and admonished him for not following directions. It was not a good moment for him!
This was needed. We have local, bread and butter issues – services, growth, and taxes. We need to work together to reach consensus for the health, welfare and safety of residents.
The other oddity was my opponent, after her five-minute introduction, never said another word, never added comments even when we all were asked to add our thoughts.
I attended Celebrate La Plata Day, Saturday, April 24. Note: no campaigning was allowed, but I attended with a name tag to be seen, talk to current Council members, Town staff and residents. I also talked to three other candidates (not my opponent, who was not there).
I was called earlier this week the Council member I seek to replace (she is retiring). She asked I review draft legislation on the April 26 Business Meeting agenda, the last meeting before the election. I returned her call, but expressed my hesitancy to provide comments. I am not elected and didn’t want to interfere. She understood this, but values my opinion, and was looking for an outside perspective. Her comments were consistent with my review.
Received a text from the Mayor, who is unopposed. She was going to organize a candidate forum, not knowing about the April 29 forum. I let her know and asked if there has been any feedback from the two earlier forums. Her response was positive about me and several other candidates and advised me to keep up what I am doing.
All candidates were notified about important dates for the winners after the election:
May 10 – swearing ceremony, Council organization – committee assignment, issue FOB key to Town Hall, issue iPads
May 13 – official photos
June conference dates to attend (virtual or in-person) Maryland Municipal League, non-profit, non- partisan support/ research organization for Maryland towns
Because I am superstitious and take nothing for granted, these dates are not on my calendar.
I finished in the top two (out of three) at the March 15 primary. So now it’s on to the May 4 general election.
The primary was a double-edge sword – only two weeks to campaign, but there was an end – votes were counted.
Now there is a nine week gap between March 15 and May 4. With three weeks left, I’ll be glad when it’s over, win or lose.
This is a positive learning experience – the need to listen, putting myself out there, subject to criticism and failure, meeting new people, trying new things and getting to know my community.
The Issues so far
Concern about traffic from new development, need for sidewalks have been the bread and butter issues so far.
But recent national events and last week’s town’s council meetings have interjected a new dynamic – policing. We’ve had no shooting incidents here, but this is on our collective minds. Calls for defunding police adds to the stress.
The local business association at a Town Council meeting last week urged the town to switch to the state ‘s law enforcement retirement system. If not, the town will lose officers (25 total staff) due to higher pay and retirement benefits in neighboring counties. They will also have difficulty hiring new officers. The Police Chief made this same request at next council meeting, when reviewing his FY 22 budget. I’ve known him since 2016 and never heard this level of frustration before.
My campaign activities
Social media: after the initial launch of my Facebook (FB) election page, I’ve made steady improvements. My Likes have increased to 55.
I scheduled (and recorded) a FB Live Event, introducing myself and listening to voter feedback. There were eight views. There were positive comments, so I plan another one, about the status of a large (3,100 homes) project now started after annexation in 1990 and an overview of the annexation process.
Outreach: I’ve responded to five voter emails, requesting information about me, why I am running, and my plans if elected. I responded within a day, with positive responses and surprise I answered at all .
At the suggestion of a local business owner and past president of the business association, I contacted my primary opponent who finished in third place. My intent was to thank her for running and if she could share her concerns and issues about the town. She called, saying she was voting for me. I was surprised and responded I had not reached out for her vote. She acknowledged that and shared some great ideas. I will continue to reach out for her insights.
A local reporter requested we provide a brief (75 words or less) Why Should I Be Elected narrative, late last week for publication in the local newspaper.
I have posted 14 lawn signs in Town. Additional signs have been ordered in response to requests from friends. I always ask for permission and visit each site, asking where to place a sign, to minimize disruption to the property owner.
Events: I’ve attended three events – the Town’s Sustainable Committee spring clean-up (trash pick-up) and native tree planting, and a ribbon-cutting for a new business opening. Photos were then posted on my FB Election page.
Participated on April 14 in a Zoom candidate forum organized by a Home Owners Association (HOA). The format included a five minute opening introduction by each candidate (by ward and alphabetically). I was second to last to speak, giving me time to listen and calm my nerves. This was followed by a thirty-five minute Q&A session.
A second Zoom candidate forum with another HOA is scheduled on April 21.
An unexpected candidate forum, sponsored by the County NAACP chapter, is scheduled for April 29. I am apprehensive, given recent national events. This is and will be a major issue that requires us to listen, learn and have a honest dialogue. I will prepare by researching and attending (virtually) their public meeting on April 20.
I will continue the following:
Daily postings on my FB election page
Schedule another FB Live Event (Note: good practice for candidate forums and podcasting)
Place eight new lawn signs, hand out campaign postcards
Prepare for the next two Zoom candidate forums
Be responsive to email inquires
Attend Town events
Look for other opportunities to get the vote out!
Plan my election day activities and hope for good weather!
So I filed to run for the council. This required completion of a 6 page form, with questions focused on potential financial conflicts – doing business or any investments associated with the town.
I was initially intimidated by the questions, believing I may have conflicts. But after obtaining clarification and guidance from the Town Clerk, there were none and completion was straightforward.
The filing package also included signatures and addresses from five town residents, then signed by me and notarized.
The paper work was filed on February 23, a week prior to the March 1 deadline. I wanted some time to insure time to make revisions if needed.
So I filed! What’s next?!
I was naïvely thought there wouldn’t be any opponents. It would a cakewalk.
I was brought back to reality after checking the Town’s election website after the 5:00 PM filing deadline . Two others had also filed to the vacant Council seat! My bubble was burst, my ego deflated.
Town residents who are who are registered can then vote, selecting one candidate from three on the ballot. Two with the highest votes then move on the May 4 general election.
I experienced anxiety – what if I lose, why did I file, what have I done?! I’m a failure if I lose! I also freaked out over what my opponents were doing.
After stewing several days, I realized the need to focus and take action for my campaign, not worrying about others and things I can’t control. There is acceptance that if I loose or win life moves on.
A primary is then required if two or more candidates file for a seat, The primary election vote was then scheduled for Monday, March 15, a two week campaign!
The Primary Campaign
A two week campaign for a newbie like me, during a pandemic is a challenge! I did several things. First, I Googled “political campaign” looking for ideas, Second, I called the current Mayor and Council member who retiring, asking how they ran their campaigns and associated costs.
Reviewed my contact list, then called and emailed them, announcing my candidacy, t and the primary voting date
Drafted a Why I am running narrative and candidate bio
Follow up message to my contact list, attaching why I am running narrative, bio and FB election page link, requesting they Like and Follow
Used Canva to create candidate post card ,, using Fed Ex to print 250 and a local printing company for six lawn signs
Posted my candidacy on Nextdoor App; later posted Primary Day (March 15) as an event
It was easy to write the why I am running narrative. It’s an extension of my passion, knowledge and work/life experiences.
After the Town issued a press release of the candidates and the primary voting date, all the candidates were contacted by email by a reporter from the local paper ( published on Fridays, and online version on Wednesday), requested a bio, a recent photo and why I an running document (100 words) .
The local business association also reached out to the primary candidates, requesting a response to an online questionnaire.
Once the lawn signs were ready, they were placed at strategic locations around town after receiving permission from property owners.
In anticipation of possible contributions, I picked a Campaign Treasurer. I am tracking all campaign expenses, currently limited to the post cards and lawn signs.
The Town has no campaign funding limits or filing requirements.
I was contacted by a lobbying firm, currently representing the County, and the new owner of a large residential project (3,100 homes) currently under review by the Town. He asked if I needed funding. I didn’t accept any contributions if offered. This would be a conflict and wrong thing to do,
Primary Election Day!
The polls at the Town Hall, opened at 12: 00 PM, and closed at 8:00 M,
I could designate poll watchers and alternatives during the election. Prior to the polls opening, I was allowed to access to the polling area inside Town Hall to see the ballots and confirm the ballot boxes were empty when opened.
No electioneering can happen within 100 feet of the Town Hall entrance. I set up a lawn sign beyond this boundary to greet voters as they arrived and left. Some voters stopped and asked questions before voting. I thanked voters for voting,
It was a long eight hours, and fortunately no rain and not too cold!
After the polls closed, I could observe the opening of the ballot boxes and vote counting by the Town Election Board. While anxious to know the results, it was nerve wracking as the candidates names were called out as ballots were opened, tallied, and confirmed.
Six ballots were discarded because voter intent couldn’t be determined. Two candidates were marked, when the voter directions at the top of the ballot stated vote for only one candidate. I lost a t least one vote. This could have been critical, given the low turnout. (200) There were 11 absentee ballots and one provisional ballot were counted.
Within an hour, the results were official :
I had no sense of how many would vote, because this was a primary during a pandemic.
As one of two with the highest votes, I am now eligible to run against the other candidate in the May 4 general election.
I am gratified by the vote total, but now must shift to a six week campaign.