District 5 Primary Preview

BERLIN – Incumbent
District 5 Worcester County Commissioner Judy Boggs is being challenged by Bob
Thompson, a financial professional recently named as general manager of the
Ocean Pines Association (OPA), in the Republican primary on Sept. 14.

The Dispatch spoke with
both candidates this week for an overview on their positions.

Judy Boggs:

Boggs, with eight years as a county commissioner on her resume, is too cautious
to make any detailed predictions about the county’s financial state next year,
but one thing she does know is that she will look at all the facts she can get
before making any decisions.

“I always believe in
getting all of the information first,” Boggs said.

Boggs cannot say whether
she would support raising taxes without knowing more about the precise
situation.

“We have been cutting
for two years,” Boggs said, adding the county can only do so much more of that
before vital services begin to be impacted.

“Furloughs and lay-offs
of personnel is my very last choice,” Boggs said. “I’ve always believed that
the county government is a service business. We have good people. We want to
keep good people. … I think the county is run very conservatively and I think
we’re in a better position than most counties.”

The coastal bays are the
lifeblood of Worcester County, Boggs said, and protecting the local environment
is critical to her.

“I have always supported
environmental issues, the cleanliness of the bays,” said Boggs.

As a supporter of public
schools, Boggs noted she has voted to fund the county public schools $29
million more in the last seven budgets than the state’s required funding level.

“We have not cut our
schools [in the last two years]. We have given them the same amount we gave
them the previous year,” Boggs said.

While teachers and
county staff have not gotten raises in the last two years, the county did
absorb 90 percent of the increase in health insurance costs, and the
commissioners voted to keep their own salaries static for four years.

The county is working
hard on economic development, mostly in the southern part of the county, she
said. The commissioners also entered an agreement this year that provides small
businesses with advice from a professor at Salisbury University’s school of
business.

“It’s hard to start a
business anywhere,” said Boggs. She added that she is aware of the business
regulations, and that there is a justification for every one.

Bob Thompson:

The first thing Thompson wants people to know about him is that he is a strong
supporter of Worcester’s public schools.

“That doesn’t mean
automatically signing off on everything the school system wants to do. It means
working more collaboratively with the school board,” Thompson said.

The commissioners need a
better working relationship with the school board, he felt.

The county also needs to
be more proactive about business relations and embrace the business community
to grow the tax base.

“It just means working
more collaboratively with business, in a more business friendly way,” said
Thompson. 

As far as Ocean Pines is
concerned, the commissioners could be reaching out to the local medical
community to forge a partnership to bring medical development to the area.

“I think we do not
necessarily look at the broader picture,” said Thompson.

He also called for
collaborating with Ocean City to develop more tourism-related businesses in the
county so everybody benefits. Ocean Pines is not isolated from the resort,
either, and there should be a way for both communities to benefit.

“Have we looked at right
sizing government? It starts at the county level,” Thompson said.

The county has one of
the highest unemployment rates in the state, and Thompson said he just does not
see asking people for more money during budget talks.

“I just don’t think
higher taxes are the right way to stimulate growth or our economy,” Thompson
said.

The county also needs
more businesses to add to the tax base, the candidate said.

“I wouldn’t say we’re
business friendly,” said Thompson.

The county needs to be
more proactive in promoting the county to outside businesses.

The commissioners need
to continue working on water quality, which is important to tourism and
promoting the county, he said.

Ocean Pines also needs a
commissioner to push the state on the long-delayed Route 589 dualization, he
said.

Thompson, newly hired as
the general manager of the OPA after the community fired his predecessor, said
he sees no conflict of interest if elected to the District 5 commissioner seat.

The county attorney has
assured him that it is legal for him to hold both positions if elected.

“I say it’s not a
conflict. I say it’s a perfect scenario,” said Thompson. 

Thompson would be
accountable to the community either way, he said, because he is answering to the
same people.

“I’m not putting money
in their pocket,” Thompson said. “I don’t see a conflict there.”

 

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