On the surface, some might see the four-way race for two seats on the Town Council as a case of "Old Mount Airy vs. New Mount Airy." Two incumbents are being challenged by two political newcomers.
The candidates may have different platforms, but they agree that "old against new" is a divisive way to look at the race in the Carroll County town. The election will be held May 4.
"We need to blend these new people and old people together. We need to make room for all of them," said Roger Rich, one of the challengers and chairman of the Mount Airy Pro-Active Committee, a citizens group working to obtain a community recreation center and a local high school.
Each of the candidates has different priorities for the rapidly growing town of 5,000, and different views of how town government should make decisions.
The candidates for the four-year council terms are:
Council President R. Delaine Hobbs, 63, who is seeking a ninth term, which would make him one of Maryland's longest-serving municipal elected officials.
Councilman C. Robert Mead, 62, seeking a second term.
Laurie Hager, 34, first female president of the Mount Airy Jaycees and leader of a homeowners association fight to get a developer to finish promised projects in Twin Ridge.
Rich, 37, who is also chairman of the pro-active committee's high school study subcommittee.
Mayor Gerald R. Johnson is running unopposed for a third four-year term.
Hobbs supports "some type of advanced recreation in Mount Airy that would be for everyone" in response to a priority residents cited in pro-active committee meetings last summer.
He declined to say whether he would vote for public financing for a recreation center. The Frederick and Carroll YMCAs have expressed support for providing recreation programs.
Mead, a semiretired sales manager for a car dealership, and Hobbs, a semiretired antiques mall manager, see no reason to change the way the council makes decisions.
"I feel I have a better handle on town government than anyone else here," Hobbs said.
He and Mead want to cut the town's tax rate -- 59 cents per $100 of assessed valuation -- rather than add services.
Mead said it's unrealistic for new residents to expect the same services they had in other communities, where taxes were higher.
"They move to a small quiet area and they're no longer there for a short period of time when they want to start adding the things that caused them to move in the first place," he said.
Hager, a Food and Drug Administration program specialist, wants to improve planning to ensure services keep pace with development.
"Sure, we had a budget surplus and we got by this year, but did we really look at where we should be within two years?" she said.
She is concerned about adequate water supplies for proposed subdivisions.
"We have a lot of houses going up," Hager said. "I'm not opposed to the idea of development, but every dry summer, we have a water ban" on outdoor use. "What are we going to do if we're at 100 percent of our infrastructure at only 60 percent of [potential] development?"
Mount Airy relies on wells for its water supply.
Hobbs, who heads the council water and sewer committee, surprised residents last fall when he announced plans for a reservoir that would flood part of a town park.
At the time, he refused to discuss details or explain why the state Department of the Environment had no record of an application for a dam from Mount Airy.
Hobbs said this month that a dam is still planned, but the town withdrew its application about six years ago because "environmentalists have created so many hurdles it's hard to get a permit."
Rich, co-owner of a business that specializes in signs and banners for golfing tournaments, wants to approach issues the way the pro-active committee did: call a town meeting to learn what the community wants, research the feasibility, then take the issue "back to the people to decide what they want to do."
Mount Airy is at 60 percent of its development capacity.
"If we don't do this visionary planning now, we're going to lose our options," Rich said.
Pub Date: 4/20/98