By Eric Colvin
The writer, a Republican, is a St. Mary’s County commissioner.
I was disappointed to read the opinion letter submitted by former Democratic commissioner candidate Brandon Russell, not because I disagree with his viewpoint, but because he repeatedly presents inaccurate and untrue information. His mischaracterization of my viewpoints is insulting and unfair to our residents.
I understand that a portion of our population advocates for district-only voting for the St. Mary’s County Commission offices. Their motivation is clear to see. They desire to make it easier for a Democrat to win local office in a Republican majority county. Many of the speakers at our public forum voicing support for this change were either current or former members of the Democratic Central Committee.
My opposition, as Russell has heard me say multiple times, stems from the very examples he cites. Our delegates and senators campaign based on what resources they bring back to their district. As a county commissioner, we campaign on what is best for the county, not our individual districts that we reside in. A shift to district-only voting for commissioners has the potential, over time, to shift the way commissioners view the job and be more district-focused.
To borrow a popular comparison of the day, it comes down to equity vs equality for me. Currently, being elected by the entire county, we are able to use our resources in an equitable manner — we provide the resources where they are needed in the county. Certain areas might be struggling more than other areas and we can and do allocate more funding and priorities to those areas.
Shifting to district only voting would result in equality in resource allocation. Each district, having roughly the same number of residents, would receive roughly the same level of resources. Our struggling areas would struggle more. Russell knows this, yet his partisan push to change the way local government operates, without input from all of the residents in the form of a referendum, would hurt St. Mary’s County and the very people he claims to be advocating for.
Partial quotes and misrepresentation of the process paint a sensationalized but unfair picture of how local government operates in St. Mary’s County. We held a public forum that had great discussion between our state delegation, commissioners, and residents voicing opinions. The accusation that residents’ feedback and requests are not heard is simply untrue.
There is so much incredible stuff happening in St. Mary’s County. I am proud of the partnerships we have built and the work we do for the entire county. I am sorry that Mr. Russell and the Democratic Central Committee cannot recognize the good that is being done and focus only on partisan politics.