County Council member Jerry Donald reflects on year one

JerryDonald282x422My first day in office was one of the most interesting of my first year in office. We were sworn into office at the Weinberg Center. Some of the speeches looked to the future, some to the past. We had a nice reception afterwards, where families were invited to attend. Bud, MC, Tony, Jessica, Jan and I attended with our families. Later that afternoon we had our first official meeting where we selected officers. Bud Otis, a Republican, and MC Keegan-Ayer, were elected President and Vice President respectively.

One of the first things I had to do, along with Jessica Fitzwater, was to get an ethics ruling concerning voting on Board of Education issues. The ruling was clear, since the BOE was a separately elected body with control over how it spent its budget, we were clear to vote on the BOE budget.

In January the county made national news because of one name – Kirby Delauter. It’s an interesting thing to sit beside somebody’s who is nationally famous, even for just a few days. My daughter in Ohio said her friends were talking about it. We received emails from as far away as California.

Also, in January I began to have a series of meetings with constituents in different towns in the district. I had over twenty of these in Middletown, Brunswick, Jefferson, Point of Rocks, Urbana, and Adamstown. I also began to attend town meetings in Middletown, Burkittsville, Rosemont and Brunswick. I found out that Brunswick’s meetings were well attended, Rosemont’s were fast, Burkittsville’s were very participatory and Middletown’s commissioners and Burgess seemed to work well together in a very mature way.

One issue that came up in the spring involved allowing farmers in the southern part of the County to use rifles to reduce the deer population on farms in southern Frederick County with crop damage. Although most of those who contacted us were against it, it became state law anyway. Unfortunately, the DNR took it a step further and allowed not only farmers but general hunters to hunt deer with rifles in southern Frederick County. It was not what the state delegation intended with the law.

The budget was our next big project. Jan gave us a good budget to work with. It gave FCPS a much needed $4.2 million over maintenance of effort, added many public safety positions, and was only 1.9% over the previous year’s budget, with property tax rates unchanged at $1.06.

Trout Run was a hot topic from April into June. We had to decide whether the property was historic. After carefully studying the documents and listening to the presentation, I decided it was not. Eventually the Council voted 6 to 1 (with Billy Shreve as the lone supporter) to deny the application.

In the summer we dealt with Jessica’s bill (with MC as co-sponsor) to repeal English as the official language of Frederick County. Bud and I were targeted by a national group who promotes English as the official language. We received hundreds of calls and emails. It was quite an experience. Finally the repeal passed, a first in the USA.

Over the course of the year I worked on a bill to limit what can be done in a water body buffer (with Jessica as co-sponsor). It finally passed in November on a five to two vote. It felt good to do something, even a small thing, that would make the water we have just a bit cleaner.

I have really enjoyed being on the County Council. I enjoy the exchange of ideas, helping constituents, dealing with the media, and just coming into Winchester Hall. I’m living proof that every vote matters (I won by 25 votes out of over 16,243) and hope to help make the county a better place for all of us to live.

County Council member Jerry Donald on the county website

County Council on the county website