From the Desk of County Commissioner Candidate Randy Phiel
There is no doubt that in these economic times government management, at every level, has become a very challenging proposition. As a consequence, being an elected official today is certainly no walk in the park whether it is a borough, township, county, state or federal post. Since announcing my candidacy for Adams
County Commissioner on December 8, Adams County residents have generously approached me almost every day and thanked me for stepping forward. What wonderful and welcome reinforcement that is! After telling me that they think I would do a great job – they many times pause and then ask why would I want to do this to myself – why would I want to be an Adams County Commissioner with all the stresses
and problems that will come with the job in these difficult times?
My reply is consistent: "That is a fair question that I needed to answer for myself and to my family before heading down this path. I feel I have the ability to make a difference! I feel I have the proven background, skills, personality, commitment to my community, vision and common sense to make a difference! I also believe it is the right time for me to serve Adams
County from the standpoint of age, maturity, background, experience and energy. After thirty years of service in Federal Law Enforcement and reaching mandatory retirement age in 2008, combined with small business and community service experience, it is my desire to continue public service in a significant manner. I can think of no more significant endeavor than serving the community you love –
the community where you have been raised, have raised your family, and lived and worked all your life.
I have an extensive background that has prepared me to be an effective county commissioner. I received a BS in Administration of Justice from American University. I received a Master’s in Public Administration from Shippensburg University and served as a Graduate Assistant in the Center for Local & State Government. During a thirty year distinguished career as a U.S. Law
Enforcement Ranger, I supervised one of the largest and most recognized Volunteer Crime Watch groups in the country, was the Park Tort Officer related to claims against the government, Acting Safety Officer, am a certified incident command Public Information Officer and was detailed across the United States for wildfires, dignitary protection and homeland security details. I am currently a
Cumberland Township Supervisor, am on the board of the Cumberland Township Municipal Authority and serve on four Gettysburg Main Street Committees helping to plan and prepare for our community’s 150TH Anniversary commemoration – including April’s Kick-Off events in Fairfield and Gettysburg. I have been a small business owner since 1984 and have been the Operations Principal for the Annual
Gettysburg Civil War Reenactment. I manage all reenactment operations including a community staff of 150-400 – depending on the year and size of the event.
As I make my way around Adams County, I am often asked: "What do think is the most significant issue facing Adams County?" Opinions vary from the county re-assessment to property tax reform to farmland preservation among others. I firmly believe that Adams County has many significant issues and that we cannot afford tunnel vision for any one issue. It is also my opinion
that there is one broad based issue that encompasses most of the other issues, one that will define the legacy we leave behind for our generation and future generations of Adams County residents. That issue is "How do we balance and maintain the rural quality of life that we embrace, yet reap the benefits of business, development and industry." We want jobs, economic stimulus and tax relief; but
we do not want truck traffic, noise, environmental pollution and water run-off. We need to seriously address this issue while supporting our necessary infrastructure and still keep Adams County an affordable place to live. There are some viable options. We must promote and seek economic stimulus options such as agri-tourism, agriculture technology, general technology, retail and light commerce.
We should potentially look at enhancing development areas for the retiring baby boomer market. These are folks who build homes, pay taxes, generate service industries, have expendable income and cause limited infrastructure requirements to our schools and community. We need to aggressively pursue these initiatives while still enhancing our existing agricultural and tourism opportunities. That
vision of balanced progress needs to begin with the Adams County Commissioners. My campaign theme, "Preserving Our Past – Shaping Our Future," defines what I believe what our legacy should be to future generations.
Despite many significant issues, it would be negligent not to discuss the county-wide tax re-assessment and the bigger issue of tax reform after what has occurred in the past year. There is no doubt the re-assessment has been a painful experience, and many residents, especially our seniors and low income folk – our most vulnerable residents – are experiencing great
difficulty and anguish from the re-assessment and other economic conditions. Should 21st Century have been hired in hindsight? Debatable. Was the onsite evaluation process in many cases too limited and flawed? Yes. Were the co-efficients within the prescribed limits? Also debatable and the court will decide. Could some better adjustments have been made during the process? Yes. Could the
communications and information coming out of the courthouse, during all phases of the process been better for everyone’s benefit? Yes. So what have we learned - other than the fact that more than $2.5 million dollars of taxpayer money for assessment and massive appeals is not coming back. We need to make sure that every citizen has common sense, fair, neutral and easily available assistance from
our county government to review and appeal their assessment if they feel it is unjust. We need to assure the assessment process, at the county level, on a day to day basis every day, is the best that it can be to mitigate this situation in the future for Adams County residents. We simply cannot allow the re-assessment process to go another twenty years. Despite the political unpopularity of a
re-assessment, future commissioners must make the commitment to re-assess on a regular basis. In fact, I would like to see mandated re-assessment dates, with political and campaign considerations, completely removed from the process. A consistent rolling assessment could be an option. We need to emphatically assure this piece of Adams County history does not repeat itself.
The related matter to the re-assessment is the tremendously unfair tax burden placed on property owners. This is an unconscionable situation that affects our most vulnerable residents. To lose your home, not be able to afford the tax on your home, or have to help pay your parents property tax for them to stay in their home, is not my idea of the American Dream. Our taxes
need to be proportionately shifted to a combination of deeper pockets. Along with property tax, we should include some additional sales tax, earned income tax and an increased pillow tax - where dollars already exist and there is a greater ability to pay. We also need to recognize that placing the bulk of the tax burden in any one of these areas, like the current property tax situation, will have
a significant negative impact. If we do that, I believe we could also get rid of some nuisance taxes like the per capita tax.
With a $50,000,000 budget, 600 employees and the economic challenges that face us in Adams County, I feel the future Board of Commissioners must take a fiscally conservative but visionary and global approach in order to effectively lead Adams County into the future. The future commissioners need to focus not only on the day-to-day details of running the county, but also
must focus with vision on larger issues like seeking appropriate economic stimulus and effectively lobbying our legislators, now more than ever, for funding and support. The commissioners need to get out and analyze county operations, be the leaders in promoting regionalization and sharing of services and reach out to areas of the county that feel disenfranchised. I believe the commissioners need
to proactively be good stewards and ambassadors for our wonderful community. We are fortunate to live in a community that is known and respected throughout the world. I will embrace that privilege and vision to ensure that we are not only responsible to maintain our quality of life in Adams County today; but we are also responsible for tomorrow.
I am pleased to report that I have received the rare endorsements of the Adams County Police Chiefs’ Association, the Adams County Fire Chiefs’ Committee and the Adams County Volunteer Emergency Services Association. These emergency responders are part of the strong fabric of our community - in every corner of Adams County. To receive any one of these endorsements is a
privilege; to receive all three is indeed an honor.
The May 17 primary is very important for the future of Adams County. We need to restore faith in county government and move forward in a positive manner. I hope that readers will take the time to go to the polls on May 17 to express their views and democratic privilege. Help and support me in making sure the quality of life in Adams County is preserved and protected for our generation and future generations.
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