Quarreling Commissioners Leave County In Agreeable Position

SHURSHOTS

December 02, 1990|By Edward Shur

In bequeathing the rule of his island to his son, Telemachus, Ulysses admired his son's mild manner and accepted their differences in character, saying "He works his work, I mine. . . . To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Those were the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in a lyric poem published in 1842.

But they easily could describe the philosophical differences between departing County Commissioners John L. Armacost and Jeff Griffith, who served together the past eight years.

"The reality is if one said yes, the other said no," said Julia W.

Gouge, the third member of the board and the only one to seek re-election.

"I used to hate to see either one of them say absolutely, 'I don't want anything to do with that,' because I knew invariably the other would say, 'Well, I do.' " Were those diametrically opposing positions a help or a hinderance? Did they spur debate on varying alternatives or slow the decision-making process?

If you read county reporter Adam Sachs' special series on Pages 2-10, you'll find people lined up on both sides of the aisle, regardless of political affiliation.

Many who criticized Armacost the past eight years labeled him with the "C" word. They say his policies, especially fiscal, were too conservative.

Those who attacked Griffith labeled him with the "L" word: his positions were too liberal and called for too much spending.

"They both are very strong willed and have very large egos," Gouge said. "Both of them liked to have their own way."

To be fair, who doesn't like to have his or her own way? I do.

Over the years, I've disagreed with the quiet-spoken Armacost on numerous occasions, including his pay-as-you-go policy for capital projects, his stance that the county does not have an affordable housing problem, his questioning of the propriety of spending county money on the successful ag preservation program . . . The list goes on.

As for Griffith, who is known for speaking his mind, I've generally found myself in agreement on such topics as supporting increased budgets for our schools (and I have no children in school, or out of school, for that matter) and more support for sexual abuse programs and alcohol and drug treatment and education.

Clearly, their personal relations often were counterproductive to good government.

But whatever differences I've had with their positions, I've never doubted the sincerity and honesty of either man.

When Armacost and Griffith took office eight years ago, they, along with William V. Lauterbach Jr., ran a county of about 100,000 residents on a $42 million budget. They inherited a growing number of problems that previous boards had left untouched.

Tomorrow, the new board inherits a county with a $116.3 million budget, serving nearly 130,000 people. And while the new members also inherit growth-related concerns, the outgoing board has set in motion steps to solve those problems, such as the strategic study groups and yesterday's first-ever town-county meeting.

For that, and for putting themselves on the line every day to serve us, their constituents, they deserve our heartfelt thanks.

They have cleared a path for Gouge and her new colleagues, Elmer Lippy and Donald Dell.What's your opinion? Please write: Letters or Guest columns, The Carroll County Sun, 15 East Main St., Westminster, MD 21157-5052. You also may FAX your comments to us at 876-0233.

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