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Four candidates compete for two Commissioner positions

Chris Paterson

(Jan. 8, 2004) Emmitsburg's town election in April could pan out to be at least as interesting as last year's race, with four candidates already announcing they will compete for the two seats coming up for grabs.

Town council president Pat Boyle said this week there is a 90 percent likelihood he will not run again, quitting after six years in office.

"I promised my wife after the last election I wasn't' going to run," he said.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Clifford Sweeney said this week he will run for re-election. He will be joined by residents Harold C. Craig Jr., William B. O'Neil Jr, and Dianne L. Walbrecker.

Each of the latter three candidates said they are already planning their campaigns. And though the commissioner objectives differ in some areas, each candidate's primary stated goal is to protect Emmitsburg from what they term "over-development."

Craig, 73, is a 37-year resident of the town with roots in the area back to the 18th century. He is the vice-president of Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg Inc. (COPE) and was instrumental in last year's effort to defeat the annexation of the 67-acre Silver Fancy farm for development.

Craig and O'Neil worked with a couple dozen other residents to bring the previously approved annexation to referendum.

Once on the ballot, the annexation was soundly defeated and one of the commissioners who voted to approve it originally lost his seat to another COPE member, Art Elder.

Craig said he is running for office due to "real problems that should have been solved 20 years ago, for example our failing sewer system," and that his goal as commissioner will be to "preserve the best of Emmitsburg and improve the rest."

He said he is not anti-development, but rather anti-over-development.

"I'm not opposed to development as such but I'm opposed to over-development, when development exceeds the infrastructure ­ not just sewer and water, but schools and traffic," Craig said.

This year Emmitsburg's town council has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair leaks in the sewer system that is allowing literally millions of gallons of stormwater to run into the lines, ultimately leading to sewage overflows.

The town is currently seeking bids from companies to conduct the repairs.

O'Neil, 44, is the president and a co-founder of COPE and has been a resident of Emmitsburg for about two years.

Since arriving in the town, he has regularly attended town meetings and testified on multiple issues, most often in opposition to further development in the town.

O'Neil is the Federal Affairs Representative for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina and formerly acted as the Legislative Director on Capitol Hill for 10 years.

He also was the president and founder of the Congress Legislative Staff Association and has been a member since 1985.

O'Neil has decades of experience in local government in the areas of planning and zoning, economic development, water resource matters, public works and transportation. As a result of his experience, he believes the town should have no further residential development until the infrastructure, such as water, sewer and roads can support it.

He also supports seeking more commercial development because, he said, it provides a greater tax base for the town without creating nearly the infrastructure demand that residential development creates.

Developing an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance modeled after the county's ordinance and requiring developers to finance all infrastructure associated with their developments are only two other of O'Neil's goals.

He also plans to improve public accessibility to information about what is going on in government and said he thinks every document the town council members examine in a meeting should be duplicated for the town residents to review.

Some people don't want the town residents to have that much information because it will likely raise a lot of questions, he said.

Walbrecker, 48, has lived in the town for about 13 years and for most of the last 18 years, she has owned her own business, "Getting It Write."

The company ghost writes books on marketing and management and develops training materials for government and corporate clients.

Walbrecker said she has had a mission since she came to Emmitsburg, from Manassas, Va. After watching what she said was the "quaint, friendly town" of Manassas "taken over by developers," she committed herself to not let that happen in Emmitsburg.

"I watched them tear up the countryside ...I came (to Emmitsburg) because it was small, friendly and unique. I've been doing everything I can since I came to make sure it stays that way," Walbrecker said.

To that end she goes to as many town meetings as she can and has served on the town's Board of Appeals for two years, on the Planning Commission for five years. She also helped work on the town's current comprehensive plan.

Walbrecker said she is about fixing problems, not complaining about them.

"Instead of moaning and complaining, I look for specific problems and solutions," she said. "I believe if people work together they can solve problems rather than blaming other people."

Other issues include encouraging citizen involvement in government. She said she would like the town to deliver flyers in neighborhoods affected by issues to be considered and not just advertising in the newspaper or putting the information on the town's cable channel.

"I know how badly (Emmitsburg) can be destroyed if people aren't paying attention," she said.

The Emmitsburg town election will be held on Tuesday, April 27. The deadline to file for candidacy is noon on Friday, April 16.

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