At the annual State of the County event on January 12th, the 61st Carroll County Board of Commissioners delivered their individual assessments on the state of Carroll County. The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce event was held virtually due to COVID-19 precautions.
The commissioners from each of the five districts highlighted thoughts and insights from the past year and initiatives moving forward. Common themes included appreciation and gratitude for county partners and county staff for their ongoing work and commitment to maintain services and help the community while maintaining safety and security protocols during the pandemic.
Commissioner Ed Rothstein, District 5, began by emphasizing his commitment to listen to citizens, learn from them, and lead with them and also his commitment to promoting citizenship in the community. His overall message reviewed some of the challenges in 2020 indicating that the county will face more challenges ahead. The county will succeed in its continued resiliency by working together, working with the communities and our partnerships locally as well as with state and federal agencies with a focus on health, as well as personal and economic wellbeing. The comments praised the Carroll County Health Department, businesses, schools, and residents for collaborative efforts and leadership and asked for the community’s continued efforts to shop and dine locally. Commissioner Rothstein listed some successes of the year including teamwork with the delegation and state administration, food resource planning, maintaining a triple AAA credit rating, breaking ground on the Career & Tech Center and the county’s comprehensive rezoning project. The commissioner thanked Commissioner Stephen Wantz for his two years of commitment and leadership, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Priorities include a budget that supports the community, balancing agriculture and business/economic growth to keep a safe and secure environment. Commissioner Rothstein recommended the county choose COURAGE as the word for the county as we move forward in 2021.
Commissioner Eric Bouchat, District 4, delivered a speech predominantly regarding the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the difficulties of balancing required responsibilities with leading the community. During a year of challenges, Commissioner Bouchat continued with a “boots on the ground” strategy of personally visiting and studying county projects. His hands-on examination of county operations concluded with his assessment that “county employees are top-notch conscientious public servants committed to their duties. We do not run a top-heavy bureaucracy living large on the backs of the hard-working taxpayers in Carroll County.” Many of his talking points shared thoughts and concerns as the commissioners begin the budget season and the importance of the difficult decisions ahead, emphasis on a free-market economy, and offered some solutions. Lastly, the commissioner will be fully engaged as the county enters the next crisis related to the pandemic, the fiscal aftermath and recovery process.
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, District 3, highlighted three primary themes during his speech: working through the pandemic, public education during a health crisis and mass transit. The commissioner praised the county’s workforce for overcoming challenges during the pandemic for successfully achieving a balance between service and safety. Working with the Board of Education as ex-officio during 2020, he expressed his thoughts and concerns about the health crisis on local public education and emphasized the need for community-based decision making. Regarding transportation, the commissioner highlighted improvements to Carroll’s transportation busses by more efficiently using the busses and altering routes to reduce wait times. Lastly, the speech praised the county website for its ease of navigation and encourage residents to search the site for information.
Commissioner Richard Weaver, District 2, began his remarks by recognizing and praising county staff and specifically the county’s Department of Economic Development for dispersing millions of dollars of CARES Act funding to our local businesses and organizations which have endured a difficult year and implored the community to continue to support small businesses. Next, the commissioner highlighted the Carroll County agricultural community and his optimism for the future. COVID emphasized the frailty of farm to table systems and how the pandemic affected local ag businesses. The local ag community accepted the challenge to keep the local food chain flowing. The remarks mentioned the importance of the agricultural preservation program and how the county will celebrate the 75,000 acres preserved milestone this year. Continuing to invest in this initiative is a continued investment in the security and sustainability of the local food supply. The commissioner then discussed the community solar zoning project and its proposed concepts. Lastly, Commissioner Weaver noted the proposed Panther Events Center and an overview of the planned facility in Hampstead at the former North Carroll High School site.
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, District 1, took the audience through some of the twists and turns in 2020 as the county reacted and responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Wantz highlighted that the county’s message was focused, and consistent and county collaboration was excellent with our partners. The commissioner thanked many of the community partners and staff and emphasized the need to stay vigilant with best practices and moving forward with the vaccine as it becomes available. The commissioner noted the importance of continued engagement and leadership on regional boards and recognized some of the bright spots of the year. Public safety remains the commissioner’s number one priority and he emphasized notable points regarding its continued importance. Commissioner Wantz also stressed the critical need for improving rural broadband. He concluded by saying the board has constructed a solid foundation with the building blocks of fiscal responsibility, accountability, collaboration and transparency; a foundation that will stand the test of time. Carroll, despite this challenging year, remains solid, preserving our heritage and always striving to serve its citizens well.