|1.||Tell our readers about yourself (family, education, employment, community involvement, etc.):|
|I am a registered Professional Engineer with over 30 years of engineering experience serving various industries, for which I have traveled frequently both nationally and internationally. I am currently employed with Bechtel National working primarily in the nuclear sector. I live with my wife Clara (married 30 years) in Old Town, on the corner of West Pennsylvania Ave and Maple Ave in an old historic Victorian which we are currently renovating. Clara is a Certified Professional Accountant, and runs Clara L Winch CPA LLC, which she runs out of another building we own across the street from our home in what is known as the old GE store which was run by George and Paul Devilbiss. We have one son, Nick, who is in his final year at Elizabethtown College finishing a double engineering major.
I have been an elected Commissioner for 10 years, first elected in 2008. However, my work with the Town began in 1998, when I was appointed to the Appeals Board. I stayed on that board for three years, chairing it during my last year. In 2001 I was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Board. When I was elected Commissioner, I stayed on the P&Z Board as the Burgess & Commissioner liaison until 2016.
In addition to the experience I have earned working for the Town as described above, I have also been an active member of the Maryland Municipal League (http://www.mdmunicipal.org/). The MML is a state-wide advocacy group which works at the state level for the betterment of the various towns and municipalities. The group, via the University of Maryland offers training via the U of MD School of Public Policy. I have received my certificate with the distinction of Fellow in the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance. I have been a two-term President of the Frederick County Chapter and have just ended my third term of office as Vice-President of the chapter. I have been the only member of the current Burgess & Commissioners working with this local chapter for at least two years.
In addition to the positions I have held on the various town councils, I have spent a considerable amount of time in volunteer activities for our town’s youth. I have had the unique pleasure of being in leadership roles to many fine young Walkersville boys in Walkersville’s Cub Scout Pack 1070 (Den Leader and CubMaster) and Boy Scout Troop 1070 (Asst. ScoutMaster). I was also involved with GVAA Baseball as a Coach, Operations Director and Commissioner of the program for many years.
|2.||What prompted you to file as a candidate for the Town of Walkersville government?|
|As stated above, I have worked on various Town councils for the past 20 years. At present, I am the only candidate for Burgess that has worked on three separate boards on the Town. With the experience I have gained during my tenure, I felt the time was right for me to run for Burgess of Walkersville.|
|3.||What is your main priority if elected?|
|My first priority will be to ensure the new board of Commissioners are provided with what is needed for them to effectively assume their new role. With only one incumbent Commissioner running, the Commissioner Board will be a freshman class of elected officials, and will need quick access to training for items such as ethics, planning and zoning regulations, etc. There are long term priorities such as bringing more business into Town, ensuring that the new Water Plant is constructed on time and within budget, and continuing to ascertain what type and levels of policing are required to ensure proper protections to our residents.|
|4.||What are the most important issues facing the Town of Walkersville, and how will you address those issues?|
|a). An extremely important issue is the new water plant that in the beginning stages of construction. At $8.5 million, it is the largest infrastructure investment the town has ever made. As an engineer, I plan to stay on top of the project and ensure that cost and schedule are kept in line with estimates previously given.
b). Business development. I had created the Economic Development Council (EDC) about six years ago. It was codified and established to work with local businesses to help make them more successful and to help encourage more business to locate in Walkersville. However, the current administration decided to abolish the EDC. I believe it was short-sighted, as it takes years to build up the momentum to bring in more business to the Town.
|5.||How long have you lived in Walkersville?|
|My wife and I moved to Walkersville in Sept. of 1995, so 23 years!|
|6.||How can Walkersville’s Government support business development within Walkersville?|
|Again, I feel that re-establishing the EDC is critical. The Town needs to commit to helping encourage business development and seek out business to come into Walkersville. This needs an active.|
|7.||What are your plans to inform more residents of issues and events in Walkersville?|
|When I started the EDC, one of the first items I requested was to increase communication to our residents. We enlisted an outside agency to re-design the Town website. The Town also created a Facebook page (of which I am an Administrator). If one has been on our Facebook page, you will see the many posts that I have made over the years reporting on town events, etc. This was a concerted effort to grow and maximize the communication potential to our residents. Most of the photos on the Facebook page are from me! We also have Comcast channel 99, but equipment issues with Comcast has prevented that channel from being very effective. There is also the “Talk of the Town” newsletter which comes out twice a year. I have always thought the newsletter insufficient, and had directed the EDC to look into monthly mailers to our residents. Unfortunately, with the dissolution of the EDC, that initiative was lost as well.
If elected Burgess, I would begin again to have more frequent communications to our residents, such as the monthly mailer. Finally, I feel that we should bring one if not two new individuals into Town Hall. The Town has operated fairly lean over the years, but we need to begin training new staff in anticipation of potential retirements in the near future. With new staff, there is opportunity to assign social media duties, and increase our presence on social media outlets such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.
|8.||What are your thoughts on growth in Walkersville?|
|I have always been for “No Growth”, at least in a residential aspect. At this time, the three last residential zones (R1/R2/R3) are under construction (there is one small R4 that may be developed soon). I have worked hard over the last 20 years to ensure our Comprehensive Plan and Zoning maps reflect no more residential growth. We have a large agricultural buffer around the Town, and I feel that most if not all residents like the rural nature of the Town, so further residential growth would not be in the Town’s best interests!
We have land zoned for Business and Limited Industrial, and that is where future growth should be.
|9.||The following topics will likely come before those elected in September. Please give your thoughts on these topics:|
|a.||Proposed Revision to the Monocacy River Management Plan:|
|To be honest I have not reviewed much about the recent revision to the Monocacy River Management Plan. It is public record that I was not in favor of the MRMP when the plan was presented to the Burgess and Commissioners some time ago, and I spoke against signing onto the plan. My reticence was not that the concept of the plan was bad, but I felt that it would be futile to move forward since there would be little movement from Frederick City to fulfill the intent of the plan, and Frederick City has much more land located at the water’s edge than Walkersville.
In fact, I did agree with much of the plan, and stated as much during the meeting calling it a “good” plan. I also suggested to the large landowner/farming community that showed up to our meeting that working their lands to maintain a good riparian buffer, i.e. helping to maintain a healthy river ecosystem was in their best interests. If river quality degrades, it may be mandated at the state-level sooner or later.
|b.||Rock Creek School Relocation to Walkersville Middle School property:|
|It is public record that I liked the idea of the Rock Creek School coming into Walkersville. Walkersville has a great set of schools, and I think this will complement the educational diversity that we have (K thru 12, Adult Ed, etc.).
However, it is also public record that I was greatly dismayed with the proposed plans presented to the Burgess & Commissioners which was quite different from the plans seen and used to perform their studies on site selection. I called it a “Bait & Switch”, which the FNP stated in their article written on the Town meeting. The plans in the study included much more areas for outdoor activities, and did not show a dedicated school bus parking lot. I trust that FCPS will go back and revise the plans in an effort
|c.||Solar Farm on Biggs Ford Road:|
|Again, I have publicly stated that I am unopposed to the solar farm. Note that the property is outside the town limits of Walkersville, and therefore not under our Planning and Zoning regulations. The Town is granted a say in this matter from the County Planning Commission, as the property is within what is called a “zone of influence”, but it does not mean that any concerns will be heeded.
It is because of this that I understand it is possible for the property owner (now or in the future) to request residential zoning from the County. I would rather have the solar farm than houses.
|d.||Water Rates to pay for the new Water Treatment Plant:|
|Water rates have already been increased as a requirement to get the State funding (loan) for the new water plant. Also, there is an annual escalation of water rates to account for inflation. The Town has recently received the loan documents which describe the payment schedules. I have not yet reviewed the payment schedules vs. the income from water user payments (the loan would be paid from the water fund, not the general fund i.e. property taxes), so I cannot speak to increases at this time. However, two things should be noted; 1) Our water rates are very low to begin with, so raising rates may well be necessary to pay for the loan, and 2) the new water plant will be a very advanced system of micro-filtration with ultra-filtration (reverse osmosis) units. This will eliminate the need for water softening. Our water users will see a reduction in costs from the elimination of household water softeners, and less maintenance on water heaters, faucets, etc. from salt deposits.|
|“Vote for Russ” Campaign Brochure|