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The Frederick County Council has a President … so now what?

With hot campaign issues still burning over degree of real estate development, ethics and selling of county owned nursing home facilities, will Bud Otis lead the council into an era of civility or discord?

Two weeks ago the last post on the MacRo Report Blog, our readers were offered the opportunity to cast their votes in an online poll among the four Republican council members elect who captured a majority of seats in last month’s Frederick County Government general election.

It was Bud Otis who gained a clear victory of 42.41% with Chmelik at 39.91%, Shreve at 15.19% and Delauter at 9.49%.

While the poll was opened for only a few days, well over 150 individuals participated (limited to one vote per device), linking the article on Facebook yielded over a thread of 250+ comments and considerably more readers than votes.

Yes, by now anyone who paid attention to the December 1st inaugural ceremonies and actions of that day, know by now that Bud Otis, who earned the most votes among his three rivals in the At-Large council challenge, garnered enough real votes from his piers to capture the position of President.

Democrat M.C. Keegan-Ayre through a bit of bargaining earned the second slot of Vice President of the Frederick County Council.

Many would say that the selection of Otis and Keegan-Ayre displays to the public that the council wants to take a bi-partisan approach to new legislative duties and decision making authority granted this body within the new charter document.

Well, if one wants to think that this is how it all shook out, well, not so fast.

Getting deep into the weeds of the back room political maneuvering that started in the waning minutes of the November 4th election night.

Clearly there was more than one Republican who had the presidency in his sights.  Other than Kirby Delauter, it was clear that Billy Shreve and Tony Chmelik were more than open to the idea.  It wasn’t long before Tony realized that Bud and Billy were already working the system.

While Billy had Kirby in his camp, Tony had to make a choice.  He soon aligned himself with Billy with hopes that the trio could win over one more vote or find someone to talk Bud into dropping his bid, or convince Billy’s friend M.C. to get him one Democratic vote.

Meanwhile, Bud took his initial step by walking across the aisle to the new county executive Jan Gardner (D) and M.C., who quickly was recognized as the de facto leader of the Democratic councilmembers. Before Billy knew it, Bud appeared to have locked up all the votes he needed without really making his pitch to his fellow party members.

It seems that the common bargaining chip that both Billy and Bud had in mind was to offer M.C. the VP gig in exchange for a vote or two or three.

If M.C. was in fact the swing vote and did give any serious consideration to a pitch from Billy, all was surely lost with the final action of the last official meeting of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners meeting on November 24th, where they formally appointed Blaine Young to the Frederick County Planning Commission for a stint that locks him that seat until June 30, 2019 … which conveniently coincides in the middle of a likely Jan Gardner County Executive re-election campaign.

So much for Blaine’s statement that planned to step away from the political fray for a time.  But then again it is said that time passes in the blink of an eye!

Do I have an opinion about all that … sure, but it will not be expressed here!

Now I haven’t spoken to M.C. since all the hoopla of the last ten days, but if M.C.’s reaction was even a fraction of Jan Gardner’s well, my guess is that Billy did not score any points in his Council Presidential bid … or as it turns out, his last ditch effort to win the VP slot.  For that matter if Tony had received a VP nomination at the first council meeting, his chances left the room with Billy’s.

Without a doubt the dynamics of how all this transpired are deeper than the well that serves my farm; so why go there?

At the end of the day on December 1st, it appears that there may be a rift among the Republican ranks of the County Council.   How deep?  It’s hard to say.

No doubt that Bud Otis has positioned himself as the leader of the council, but it is now clear that he is an obvious swing vote …. And in my opinion the latter position carries more power than one that grants the authority to preside over council meetings.

Good for Mr. Otis.  It appears that he learned how to play the game well from his many years of experience on Capitol Hill.

So now what?

Will Bud become Jan Gardner’s secret weapon to win the day on divisive legislative issues?

Can Billy, Kirby and Tony find a way to count on him to stand up their interests?

Over my many years of serving on boards for any number of organizations, more often than not it becomes clear on how the majority of votes will be cast well before the actual election or appointment of an individual to a position.  In such cases the voting body will choose to put their differences aside as a display of unity with a strong unanimous vote of confidence for the person of favor.

That did not happen this time, which in an ideal world would have been nice, especially in the case of the dawn of the era of charter government in Frederick County.

By this am I suggesting that all the county council members and the county executive gather before each council meeting and sing a few stanzas of Kum Ba Yah?

Not on your life.

What I do see in the cases of Jan, Billy and Kirby is that these three elected officials in their final four terms of service on the Board of County Commissioners were part of bodies that garnered a strong majority and virtually voted consistently in block to get their way.

Now it is different.  The political maneuvering that was easy in the past — as easy as appointing Blaine Young to the Planning Commission last week and as easy as diminishing the housing density in Lake Linganore 5 years ago – will now, if there is to be a higher level of civility than Frederick County has endured in the last 8 years, require more give and take than many are used to.

His campaign slogan was “This Bud’s for You!” … Now he is ours, and here is wishing him all the best to earn the trust and respect of all of his fellow council members.

I have faith in Bud’s capabilities. As in the case of most politicians, the good ones know how to lead by checking their egos at the door and work inclusively with his/her fellow members.

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The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades.  He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, to name a few.

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