LA PLATA, Md.– The Charles County Commissioners hosted a public hearing on October 19 to consider the proposed Bill 2022-08 County Commissioner Elections, which changes the code of Charles County to require district commissioners to be elected only by residents of that district.
Along with requiring district commissioners to be selected specifically by the residents of the district, the bill requires the candidate to have lived in that district for at least 18 consecutive months before the general election.
“I think it’s best to do it this way,” said Joseph Mink, a resident of District 4 in Charles County. “I think this holds Commissioners Districts 1,2,3 and 4 accountable for their districts.”
Mink echoed the sentiments of most of the speakers at the hearing for this particular subject. The community made it a point that Waldorf controls the election process because of its size.
“I found out while I was out and about talking to residents that the majority of them want this,” said Stacey Lehn. “They want to be represented by their commissioner, and they really want their vote to count. A lot of them feel like it [their vote] doesn’t matter because the majority meaning Waldorf are the people electing officials.”
Meanwhile, all of the districts have different needs. Additionally, Alexander Rak, who is running for Commissioner of District 2, mentioned that commissioners previously ignored these needs to ensure the majority of constituents were satisfied.
On the other hand, there were a few critiques of the bill like the timing of when this bill was introduced. Members of the community suggested that this bill could have passed last year.
Ralph Patterson II, who recently won the Democratic Primary election against incumbent Bobby Rucci, submitted testimony saying he was against the proposal, calling it “ill-conceived legislation”.
A total of over 90 people submitted written testimony on the topic.
In May of 2021, the Charles County Board of Education passed a bill that altered the manner of election for certain members of the Charles County Board of Education by specifying that members be elected from certain county commissioner districts. That is now similar to the bill discussed for the public hearing.
Additionally, other community members would rather wait until the next term, in hopes that Charles County can be reformed into a chartered government.
A chartered government allows any municipality to adopt specific charter ordinances that differ from certain state statutes or local acts of the state legislature.
In theory, a chartered government would allow districts the freedom to have their ordinances based on the community’s needs.
The overarching theme all the speakers harped on was that this bill is a way to hold commissioners accountable to their district.
By the end of the meeting, the county commissioner informed the public that this bill will not impact the current commissioners or the commissioners coming in following this election, and this will not be the last time the community will hear about it.
The proposal passed on a narrow 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Bowling, Rucci, and Stewart in favor and Commissioners Coates and Collins opposed.
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