A change in Carroll

August 26, 2002

SUBURBANIZATION is the dominant issue in the crowded Sept. 10 primary race for the Carroll County Commission. Fourteen candidates -- 10 Republicans, three Democrats and an independent -- are vying for the three commissioner seats.

Across the county, the buzzword is growth -- how much of it, where it should be, and in what form. The stresses of unchanneled growth are affecting schools, roads and water. And poor relations between county government and Annapolis have exacerbated the problems.

The Republicans have the only primary contest, with three incumbents facing seven challengers. Of the incumbents, Julia Walsh Gouge, a former mayor of Hampstead, is the candidate for the future of Carroll County, the one who understands the need to weigh local and countywide considerations and compromise when necessary. Farmer Donald I. Dell's characterization of the county's growth as "moderate" may be accurate when compared with other jurisdictions, but it doesn't address the pressures confronting the county today. And former bank loan officer Robin Bartlett Frazier's suggestion that the outcome of the gubernatorial race will determine the county's future misses the point.

Two newcomers deserve a chance to compete alongside Ms. Gouge in the general election. Dean L. Minnich, a 60-year-old retired newspaper editor of Westminster, says "a laissez-faire style" of growth management visible in the county amounts to no management at all. David L. Brauning, a planning commission member from Finksburg, recognizes the necessity of the county and its towns to work together for the betterment of all Carroll residents.

Although the majority of registered Carroll voters are Republican, the problems facing the county defy party affiliation. In the Democratic primary, there are only three candidates, ensuring all a place on the November ballot. They are Sykesville Town Councilwoman Jeannie Nichols, Betty L. Smith of Westminster and Neil M. Ridgely, a former town manager of Hampstead who now works for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

The challenge for the new county commissioners, incumbents or newcomers, will be to put aside parochial interests and pursue a concerted, uniform effort to balance the needs and wants of localities with the overall good of the county.


The Sun continues its 2002 primary endorsements tomorrow with a look at county governments in Baltimore and Howard counties.

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