calvert commissioner debate

HUNTINGTOWN, Md. — On June 16th at the Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department, the Calvert County Republican Central Committee held their second debate forum for their candidates running for Calvert County Commissioner.

The debate was moderated by the master of ceremonies James McQueen Sr. and had twelve different candidates in attendance.

The candidates in attendance for the debate included the At-Large Candidates Todd Ireland, Myra Gowans, Earl ‘Buddy’ Hance, and Paul Harrison; the District One Candidates Steve Jones, Patrick Flaherty, and Mike Hart; the District Two Candidates Mark Cox and Chris Gadway; and the District Three Candidates Kelly McConkey, Evan Terzansky, and Katherine Grasso.

In this debate, the candidates were asked six to eight questions from the audience and each candidate was given one minute to answer each question.

These were some of the major questions that were asked of the candidates and how they responded:

Drugs and violence are a big issue in the current Calvert County Public School System yet the BOE keeps sheriffs and SROs at bay, not allowing them to properly do their duty. As commissioner, how do you plan to stop the BOE from the legal rights to protect the children in schools, which the county’s payers pay for? Who will empower the sheriff’s SROs to do their jobs correctly?

Ireland: “We need to form a better relationship with the BOE and our education unions, we need to communicate with them. As far as SROs go there needs to be an SRO in every school…the presence of that police car out in front of that school is a huge deterrent for bad type of behavior…parents need to be parents as well…”

Gowans: “Let the adults run the place, the children right now are running the schools and I’ll tell you what the whole problem is, they are texting and sexting while the teacher is trying to teach the classroom. The teachers have lost control in many instances…the teachers are petrified of the students writing a complaint about them because nothing is done to stop these kids who are aggravating the classroom and disrupting. The cellphones have got to be off, in their backpack or whatever…the parents need to take back control of their kid’s behavior…”

Hance: “I support safe schools; I believe we should have SROs in our school. On Tuesday, as commissioners, we voted to put an SRO in every school, the school board might not allow it. Everybody has to understand that we are very frustrated with what is going on…there is gonna be a change in the board of education this year, do your homework and vote for those people that support your values because we need change…”

Harrison: “Listen, we need to guard our kids like we guard our money. We need an SRO in every school, here’s the problem though, there’s no accountability. The kids that act up every day, throw desks, throw scissors, hit teachers, you know what, they go to in-school suspension…”

Jones: “Recently I received a notification that there was a child in school that was threatening to shoot the school up, that happened three separate times. You know what the punishment for that was, the kid was allowed to go back to school. There should be consequences for youngsters’ actions even though they are young…”

Flaherty: “As your trying to change the behavior of the child you take something away from them hoping that they will change to the behavior that you want…we have to stop funding above, well above the maintenance of these endeavors…add discipline, bring it back, get these bad apples out and discipline them…”

Hart: “Well we know this is a real problem for the teachers and for the parents, my child goes to middle school…there is now this get even type mentality that has to stop. It’s a relationship between the BOCC, the BOE, law enforcement, and if we cannot get policies to stop transferring kids like this…just because you change location does not mean you change the behavior or situation…These kids cannot be fearful of going to school…”

Cox: “We need to have conversations not only between the board of commissioners and the BOE but our state board. We need to take all stakeholders and sit down and have good conversations about what needs to be done, what’s not working, and where we need to go forward…”  

Gadway: “Videos of fights are commonly being taken by kids with their smartphones and currently being broadcasted, sometimes live, on different social media…as soon as those sights or videos are found and shut down the kids immediately go to a new site so they can broadcast their fights and stuff like that again. That needs to stop…”

McConkey: “When I first got to the school board there was an issue where they were not allowing the police officers to come in and sweep the schools with the dogs, when I got on the school board I was able to get them to sweep the schools and the parking lots and do it in a way that didn’t disrupt classrooms…never in my six years did they ever find anything because a lot of the drugs being done are pills…we need a system where police can communicate with each other better in the schools.”

Terzansky: “I completely agree; common sense is absolutely needed. We need to keep the safety throughout the community and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best way to do this is to make sure folks are funded properly, and that includes the police officers…”

Grasso: “We all have to invest in our children and we have to keep them safe and we have to do whatever we have to do to keep them safe and we need to get behind our sheriff’s department and encourage…We need to stand up and get common sense into our schools and protect our children and support our police officers.”

Would you support the purchase of a new bearcat for the Sheriff’s Office?

Ireland: “The bearcat is used most often, in my experience, during barricades…the initial bearcat they bought was small but suitable at that time and it was 15 years ago. With the increase in mental issues that we are seeing, there’s going to be more barricades. The purpose of that bearcat is to be able to get in and get out. Well, if they’re going in or they’re coming out and they’re in a bad situation and that bearcat is not dependable, where are we?”

Gowans: “…I just happened to be there the day that the commissioners discussed this and they, the Sheriff’s office, did say that they would try to see if they could re-engineer the motor and everything, it didn’t sound very promising at the time, but like Buddy just said they have come back and told the county they don’t need our money and so they’ll get their bearcat and everything will be fine…it would be wonderful if maybe the federal government would give a little something down here…”

Hance: “The bearcat is a piece of equipment that the Sheriff’s office needs to protect its officers and citizens. I was in the fire service for over 30 years and we have equipment in firehouses that we hardly ever use, sometimes that we never use, but if the incident happens and we need it, we need it…it is out of our hands whether they replace that bearcat or not.”

Harrison: “This question is funny because I’ve gotten a lot of grief on this question because I brought up at the Republican Men’s Club…you’ve gotta go with the experts on stuff…”

Jones: “When you get a ballistic vest as a police officer, after four or five years it’s no good anymore. The same exact thing has happened with this piece of equipment bearcat…”

Flaherty: “I support law enforcement and part of my background is being an electromechanical technician…I cannot fathom how an engine cannot be replaced economically today. If I want it to work for my truck that I drive today, I can get a brand new $2500 engine, have it shipped to my house, put it all together, take the old one out, put the new one in, and call it a day and drive away…any mechanic will tell you, it’s easy to replace an engine and any associated components.”      

Hart: “I don’t think in my eight years I got more questions about a single piece of equipment than that. I was amazed at what a hot button issue that was…unfortunately it can’t be repaired and there’s absolutely no way I would ever take a one percent chance to put any of our people in harm’s way…”

Cox: “I do not know all of the details on this matter, I would ask if it is a need or a warrant…”

Gadway: “The safety of all of our citizens and our deputies is paramount, I’m not going to defund the police in any way. I’m going to support them in whatever way they need in order to do their job appropriately…”

McConkey: “My first job is to make sure everybody in the community is safe. The first bearcat that was purchased was not purchased with your taxpayer’s money, it was a grant. The thing is outdated, old, and the motor is ready to blow up…so I support the bearcat because I support the community and I support our men and women that work hard for us to keep us safe…”  

Terzansky: “…what I would personally do regarding this is I would look at possible warranties that we could potentially get for the existing vehicle because if we can essentially rebuild what we currently have…that would essentially nip that issue in the budget…”

Grasso: “No I wouldn’t. I think we put an awful lot of money into our sheriff’s department and I think we have to have equipment that works and I think that we have to make sure they are safe because their safety and their equipment helps keep us safe…”

How is your campaign financed, is it self-funded, using donations, and/or company contributions?

Ireland: “So when I came into this thing in March I knew I had to get signs up immediately, I had no idea the things cost as much as they do…I’ve done three fundraisers and I’m doing one more. I have received a majority of all my funding from the citizens of this county, friends, family and that’s where my funding has come from…”

Gowans: “I’m the founder of Calvert Citizens United and all four of our officers have worked for three long years pro bono…everyday citizens that begged and pleaded please don’t build the county out the way that it is destined to go have given us $115,000…”

Hance: “I’ve held one fundraiser, we’ve had people just call in and contribute money. It’s not self-financed, it’s financed by the people and the citizens of Calvert County who want to see me stay in office.”

Harrison: “I have given some money myself to the campaign and I also have small-dollar contributions that are on the latest campaign finance report…”

Jones: “Let’s talk about special interest groups first. For somebody to be a special interest group to a candidate, in my opinion, they have to be able to gain or garner something from them…I’ve received donations from construction workers, attorneys, builders, citizens, military, insurance companies, just to name a few…”

Flaherty: “Well I’m running on a very afraid and shoestring budget, which is zero. I’m not taking money from any group or any persons. I’m not beholden to anybody except to the people I’m going to represent…”

Hart: “So this is my third campaign, first two campaigns I too donations very naïve from a lot of great people, and please understand me when I say that’s not throwing rocks to anybody, 99.9% of people who gave me funds they believed in me and believed in what I was saying…there have been times that people give me donations, they expect something and I’m just not wired that way…out of that frustration I said, ‘you know what I’m just not gonna take any funds’…”

Cox: “Well I’ve had two fundraisers, I had a golf tournament, and I have a meet and greet we’re getting ready to send a postcard out next week for. I should have done six fundraisers for what I’m paying for that postcard. A lot of friends and family have given us money and we are grateful for their support…”

Gadway: “I’m about three-quarters self-financed where we are right now. My wife and I are blessed in order to be able to do that. I am earning a salary as a commissioner and I feel that’s the least I can do to give some of that back…”

McConkey: “So this is my sixth campaign in a row, I’ve run every two years. What I found when I first started was that…money doesn’t buy the election. You don’t need a lot of money, it’s the hard work, getting involved in the community, and people realizing what you are doing…”

Terzansky: “The way that I got the majority of my funds was literally going door to door, and one of the first things I did was I posted on my page $20 per sign, and guess what, I sent my message out: safety, salary, service, the three things I’m shooting for through the county…

Grasso: “I have gotten my money from everyday people in Calvert County. I did decline two donations because the two individuals were counter to what I believe this county needs. I’m a big believer in integrity matters and moving forward with integrity…”

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  1. Pretty disgusting how two sitting commissioners are even running again. McKonkey after his huge ethics violation causing lawsuits to be filed against him and holding up zoning issues, which has still not been adjudicated. And Hart who lied about not running for a third term. In either case, all current incumbents should be voted out of office for their roles, their support of the draconian economic shutdown, during the COVID BS. There are seven (7) other competent and viable candidates to choose from to replace them.

  2. Pretty disgusting how two sitting commissioners are even running again. McKonkey after his questionable ethics violation causing lawsuits to be filed against him and holding up zoning issues, which has still not been adjudicated. And Hart who lied about not running for a third term. In either case, all current incumbents should be voted out of office for their roles, their support of the draconian economic shutdown, during COVID. There are seven (7) other competent and viable candidates to choose from to replace them.

  3. You misspelled Evan Turzanski and didn’t address that he is willing to support the replacement of equipment that can’t be covered by warranty like the bobcat… convenient since he is not the current Commissioner.

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