Opinion: A Member of Team Hogan — and Team Maryland

Hancock Mayor Ralph Salvagno
Hancock Mayor Ralph Salvagno

I am responding to Peta N. Richkus’ opinion piece Oct. 9, “In Search of Team Hogan.” In her piece, Ms. Richkus’ attempts to malign Gov. Larry Hogan but succeeds only in demonstrating what is so dysfunctional with today’s partisan politics.

I am the mayor of the Town of Hancock, a town of 1,700 residents in Western Maryland. My town’s voter registration is overwhelmingly Republican, although we hold nonpartisan elections. Our town is located within Washington County, yet we are a few miles from Maryland’s Allegany County as well as West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In local government, we value the not-so-simple things that make people’s lives better: the affordable delivery of safe drinking water, clearing roads during weather events so families can be home together, and community-oriented policing to name a few. This work isn’t just for Republicans or limited to Democrats – whether you are a small -town mayor like me or a big city mayor like the mayor of Baltimore, we all care for the everyday needs of the people we serve.

During the last four years, Gov. Hogan has demonstrated that he understands the critical need to govern and partner with us in our local efforts. State agencies are more responsive than they ever have been. As mayor I value being able to pick up the phone and reach out to state experts – this often saves our town time and money.

Good customer service is a hallmark of “Team Hogan.” Gov. Hogan and state leaders listen and collaborate with us. During this term, members of the Hogan administration, including Secretary Joe Bartenfelder (Agriculture), Secretary Mark Belton (Natural Resources) and Secretary Wendi Peters (Planning) have visited our small town and spent considerable time meeting members of our community and making the effort  to understand our needs and concerns.

Ms. Richkus makes a lot of claims in her opinion piece – I can only write about what I have experienced. I have never met Ben Jealous. I understand that Western Maryland is not a part of the Jealous campaign strategy. Yes, more voters are registered Republican in our region, but Mr. Jealous is running to represent all Marylanders. In my opinion this blatant lack of interest in our communities is more partisan than any of Ms. Richkus’ points.

What do we make of a candidate who so clearly demonstrates no interest in our small towns in rural Maryland? Don’t the voters deserve more? Doesn’t he have a responsibility to learn more about our towns and cities? I have a feeling that my counterparts in Garrett and Allegany counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore may feel the same.

The vain attempt to characterize the governor in partisan terms strikes me as unnecessary. In my world, we don’t feel a need to throw around the labels of partisanship in order to get things done. As mayor, I view myself as an ambassador of sorts and I frequently travel to Annapolis to communicate with legislators from different regions as well as my counterparts from other towns in our state. I don’t ask for party affiliation before we learn from one another and they don’t ask for mine.

Importantly, there are those of us who want to do more than bicker. There are those of us who value service more than the grandstanding of political talking points. It is for these reasons, Ms. Richkus, that it is ok if you consider me as a member of Gov. Hogan’s team.

The reality is, however, that I consider myself to be a member of Team Maryland … the entire state of Maryland.

— Ralph T. Salvagno

The writer is the mayor of the Town of Hancock.

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