Panel Previews Frederick County’s Charter Transition

On March 11, a meeting was held of the Frederick County Building Industry Association to discuss how charter government should work when it is put in place December 1.

The Frederick News-Post article broke it down to bare facts regarding the county executive and county council.

The county executive, who will make $95,000 a year, will be in charge of department heads, drawing up a budget, annual reports, and approving or vetoing legislation passed by the seven-member council. The council, with a majority of at least five votes, can override a veto by the executive.

Council members will be paid $22,500 a year, but can own businesses or have outside employment; the county executive cannot have outside employment. The council will meet the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

The county executive will run the government day to day. Council members will not have direct contact with department heads. Politically appointed staff will stay or go at the will of the county executive; other staff members will continue based on merit.

Council members will have a budget for a staff if they need one.

The county executive will draw up the comprehensive plan for the county, said Bruce Dean, an attorney and former head of the builders’ Land Use Council. That plan is of great interest to builders. Land-use plans now on the county code would remain in place.

“We have a big pendulum that swings back and forth,” said Mackintosh (president of MacRo Ltd., a commercial realty firm, and member of the team that drew up the charter), referring to the county government’s change from growth to anti-growth. “There could be gridlock, there could be healthy dysfunction in the charter government. With seven members of the council you get more diversity, more opinions.”

The key point made in the meeting regarding the change from a commissioners form of government to charter government was:

As with any organization, the success of charter government will come down to who is involved and whether they get along.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman was present at the meeting and expressed,

“No form of government is a panacea, but on balance, charter is the right way to go.”