BERLIN – The candidates vying for election to the lower shore Senate seat are a study in contrasts in political beliefs and backgrounds.
Delegate Jim Mathias, a Democrat, has been in elected office for 20 years, having been mayor of Ocean City for a decade and in Annapolis the last four years, while Republican Michael James has never held an elected post.
Mathias is a member of the dominant party in Maryland, while James will be admittedly fighting upstream if elected as a member of the minority party.
James has the support of Lowell Stoltzfus, the Republican who held the district Senate seat for 18 years. Mathias counts the leading party’s leadership in the Governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature as his supporters.
James currently is the operator of the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City and has ownership in a management company, and Mathias works presently for Royal Plus as a development officer after previously owning a Boardwalk retail store and resort vending company.
Mathias calls himself a fiscal conservative, a label James obdurately disputes, citing Mathias’ support for critical tax measures during his term.
During one-hour interviews with each of the candidates, Editor Steve Green touched on a number of issues facing the district. Here’s a transcription of those conversations.
Senate ‘A Much Better Fit’
Q: Why are you running for the Senate after just missing out on a delegate seat four years ago?
James: The first part of it is Lowell Stoltzfus retired and I then weighed what I wanted to do. After such a close election in 2006, I figured that it was certainly worth another try. The next decision was would it be the House of Delegates or Senate.
With Lowell’s retirement, I really felt this was a much better fit and that I could do a lot more for the district in the state Senate. It’s been a conservatively-held seat with Lowell holding it and then before him Lewis Riley. I have a great deal of respect for both of them, so I made that decision.
‘State’s Finances Are In Peril’
Q: Some would say with your lack of political elective experience, why set your sights so high up the political ladder. Why not take another shot at delegate?
James: Right now, the state’s finances are in peril. Whoever becomes governor is going to be standing in front of the state with a microphone in January saying the budget is in worst shape than they anticipated. I think it’s better for someone to come in to the state Senate race from the private sector.
Someone who has created jobs, somebody who has had to balance a budget, someone who understands the ramifications of over-regulation and over-taxation, who’s got a pulse on the business community and, obviously, as a father, I’m trying to raise my family here.
There may be times when being a political person is a plus, but right now I think having a strong private sector background is much more valuable.
‘We Need People Who Understand Business’
Q: So do you actually see the fact that you have not held elective office as a feather in your cap compared to your opponent?
James: Given the circumstances, I think so. Although I’ve never been elected, I have a track record, and I have lived a pretty public life the last 25 years. I am open. Again, coming out of the private sector and running businesses and properties for many years, I think that background right now is important.
Our company has been involved in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Salisbury and, of course, Ocean City where we turned around a landmark resort. When I showed up there, they had eight employees. This summer we had close to 300. That property [Carousel] was financially distressed and many people had given up on it. If anything, that’s probably my claim to fame locally.
In over 10 years, we have hired a lot of people and created a lot of opportunity for people. But, again more importantly, I understand we are in competition. Maryland is competing with states for tourism, manufacturing, service industry, and we need a state senator who understands that. We need people who understand business is not the enemy.
‘I Will Work To Repeal’ Sales Tax Hike
Q: If elected, one of your first acts you say will be to address the sales tax increase. What will you do and how would you get that passed, considering the majority passed it easily?
James: Obviously, I will need the help of a re-elected Governor Ehrlich, but either case I will co-sponsor legislation to bring it back down. Either way, I will be a loud voice on this.
Contrary to how they feel in Annapolis or Baltimore or Prince George’s or Montgomery counties, that sales tax increase had an adverse impact on our economy. Implementing that as well as the corporate and personal income tax increases on the eve or beginning of a recession hurt the economy even more.
I oppose that and I will work to repeal it and get it back to 5 percent.
It’s important to realize that simply raising taxes does not raise revenue. Under that line of thinking, you could raise it further. There is a point with raising taxes that you actually get less revenue. We are seeing that in Maryland the last couple years. Economic development requires a vibrant public sector and again you got to remember we are competing for jobs in Maryland, for retail services, financial services. We want people and companies to want to do business in Maryland, and we want consumers to know we want them here.
‘I Think It’s Harmful And Hurts’
Q: You mentioned income and corporate taxes and you also addressed it at last week’s forum, pointing out your opponent voted for them initially before not voting for them in a package with other taxes. You disagree. Do you see that as a clear line of distinction between you two?
James: It’s important for the voters to know about that very clear distinction. I do not support the increase in corporate or business tax. I think it’s harmful and hurts Maryland’s chances to attract new jobs. I think the increase in personal income tax drove our highest income earners out of the state. That’s a proven fact now. There’s been multiple studies and the Wall St. Journal did probably the most comprehensive study on it. We lost over a third of high-income earners.
The voters need to see this distinction. I oppose those tax increases and Delegate Mathias supported those and voted for those taxes. That’s a very important difference philosophically between us.
He was for the income tax increase and the business tax increase but he was opposed to the other taxes. I think I would probably reverse that.
‘I Think Logic Will Work’
Q: As you know, Lowell Stoltzfus rose up to minority speaker at one point. He made it clear there were frustrations in the legislature, being a Republican in a Democrat-controlled state. How would you overcome that fighting against the tide mentality that comes with being conservative in a liberal state?
Mathias: There’s no doubt about it I’m going to have to use some powers of persuasion. I’m going to have to build relationships, but I’ve made a career out of building relationships and using persuasion. When I was younger, I was a pretty good salesman, too.
I understand I will be one out of 47 senators, but I also understand there’s an opportunity to bring Democrats to my line of thinking. Given the condition the state is in, I think logic will work. I think even the most liberal people now realize something has to change in Maryland.
I’m ready to make that argument in a nice way. I’m not in any way thinking I’m going to go up there and create bad relationships. I’m going to go up there and win people over. I’m going to make my argument and make my argument for the shore. These are different times for Maryland. We will be facing a $2 billion deficit. We cannot continue to operate the state the way we are and the best example is California. They didn’t make tough decisions, and now they’re are in dire straits and actually writing IOUs to their employees.
In Maryland, we are a little smarter and in January the deficit will become evident, and I’m prepared to make the tough decisions and prepared to work with my colleagues in Annapolis. It’s a very important time for the state and who we elect is critical. We need more private sector experience, skill, ideas and perspective.
I will have to use persuasion, logic, the facts, the history of the state and use examples around the country where states didn’t take action. I will also use good examples, like Indiana, where they did do it right. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but what I am saying is I’m prepared to work hard.
‘We Need To Be Pro-Active’
Q: Last winter, shortly after the Foxwell tragedy, you wrote a letter to the editor regarding sexual predator laws. Your points created a buzz at the time. What’s your position here?
James: The issue of the sexual predator laws is not a new issue that I just started talking about. When I ran in 2006, I was talking about this. Shortly before I got in the delegate race, the Md. General Assembly had killed some legislation that was referred to as Jessica’s Law at the time. True Jessica’s Law called for mandatory 25-year sentencing. There’s been watered down versions of Jessica’s Law put under the heading of sexual predator legislation, but as a father of young daughters it really bothered me the Assembly was allowing trial attorneys and liberal judges to have more weight.
After that horrific killing of Sarah Foxwell, the point I was making in my letter is there are steps we can take to make it easier to track sexual offenders and we shouldn’t be giving them more credits in prison and letting them out earlier. Sexual predators don’t change. We need to lock them up for mandatory sentences. No good-time credits, parole or anything like that.
The other point I wanted to make and that bothered me was all the people jumping in front of the cameras. There was a lot of legislation brought up prior to this tragedy that never got approved, but all of a sudden there they are showboating. We need to proactive behavior, and what I am offering is a proactive person. The legislature is too re-active. We need to be pro-active. This was not a political thing for me at first. It was just as a father.
On that particular issue, I was asking where were they in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009? It was only after that, that we saw a wave of legislation. We had an opportunity to pass that law in 2006.
‘I Support The Death Penalty’
Q: Your opponent has dedicated considerable resources to mailers and at least two have been dedicated to the death penalty. Where are you on this issue?
James: I support the death penalty. I think there are heinous criminals, similar to sexual predators or people who kill law enforcement, and there are very rare times when it’s appropriate.
“There’s Still Information To Come’
Q: On to the Liquor Control Board, where do you stand? Would you introduce a bill to abolish it if elected?
James: I would certainly entertain that. I want to see the results of Comptroller Franchot’s report. I still want to see all of the financials and see if they are efficient. I want to see if laws are being broken with regard to the state or locally. What really brought all this about was the drop in revenues and that needs attention.
I think it’s an mportant thing to note we are talking about people’s reputation and careers and without that information I can’t make a blanket statement about it.
For full disclosure, I would like to say I am a resident license holder. I obviously operate and have an investment in an operation in this county.
I think there’s still information to come and honestly some of this information has played out publicly and we need to wait another month or six weeks for all of the information. I am a little concerned people are being overly aggressive. We are dealing with people’s lives and we need to take a full view of this.
If it comes back that there are serious issues, then absolutely I would.
We also have to evaluate, and this is very important part, if this is the most efficient way for the county. Maybe it’s not, maybe there’s other ways that the county can receive more money.
Not ‘Business Community’s Job’
Q: Your opponent says if the allegations are true against the LCB and the business community can replace the revenue it presents annually that he would support a bill to abolish it. Your thoughts?
James: I think that’s where Delegate Mathias and I differ on this issue. We have elected officials to lead and our elected leaders have to come up with that. We pay county people to present budgets.
I don’t think it’s the business community’s job or responsibility, and I don’t think that’s how we set public policy – by having a group of restaurant and bar owners come up with a business plan for the county.
My recommendation is to have an economic impact study done by either Ocean City or the County Commissioners on the liquor industry. It needs to be independent. I think the town or the commissioners needs to commission a study to fairly evaluate the facts of this industry. We need to get the facts straight and get the emotion out of it.
‘Annoying To See Them Transform’
Q: At last week’s forum, you made some comments about officials reinventing themselves every four years. What did you mean by that?
James: Delegate Mathias has admitted to voting for the personal income and business tax increase, and I think a true conservative does not vote for that on the eve of a recession.
I think we see a lot of candidates who are in office go to Annapolis for three or three and a half years, they vote one way and then they come back and talk about how they’re for private enterprise or for the taxpayers. Sometimes, as a non-politician or someone coming out of the private sector, it’s somewhat annoying to see them transform from liberal legislators into conservative candidates. And then ask the voters to have blind faith in them, and then they go back and do the same thing for three or four years.
When I was sitting at the forum listening to the answers, I felt it was important to go on the record and we’ve got public votes and four years of a voting record that doesn’t match what’s being said at a candidates forum.
Pay Cut ‘Obviously Symbolic’
Q: Mathias has voluntarily cut 25 days of his own pay to help with the budget Would you do that?
James: If you are asking me if I would return part of my salary as a state senator, sure I will. It’s obviously symbolic, given we have a $2 billion structural deficit. I think sometimes symbolic gestures to show voters you do care, sometimes that’s appreciated. However, 25 days pay of any legislator is not going to fix the budget problem.
We need them to vote the right way. We need state senators to be a loud voice for a better environment for our voters and create jobs and understand we are competing with other states.
The symbolism is okay but what we really need is action.
‘We Need A Vibrant Private Sector’
Q: We’ve talked about some issues, but I’m interested in hearing what the citizens are talking to you about on the campaign trail. What are you hearing?
James: I’m hearing that they like the message I’m delivering – bringing principles and desires out of the private sector and injecting them into state government. People seem to really resonate with that right now. They understand our taxes are a little bit too high. That our debt is way too high. Our regulations at this time are hurting jobs.
For Maryland to really get back into gear, we need a vibrant private sector and we need to compete. They want someone willing to make tough decisions.
‘Agriculture Issues Aren’t New To Me’
Q: Your background is in tourism and business and in this district agriculture is key. Are you well versed on the needs of the ag community and comfortable with its issues?
James: Absolutely. I grew up in a small farm town so agriculture issues aren’t new to me. I moved to Maryland 30 years ago from Wisconsin and have lived here ever since.
I am very comfortable with agriculture issues because I grew up in that environment.
‘Ag Community Is The Cash Cow’
Q: What are farmers concerned about?
James: The number one thing is profitability. It’s critical. They need to make a profit, so when there’s overregulation or blame for environmental issues that hurts them in many ways.
Agriculture is really the No. 1 industry. Tourism is huge, but agriculture is even bigger. It’s the multiplier effect. There are so many businesses that rely on a strong agriculture community. Your retailers, gas stations, food service, home improvement stores, equipment sales.
I’m hearing the last few years they are feeling under siege by state government. They think legislators in other areas have one agenda and that they could care less about the farmers.
The ag community is the cash cow for the state. It’s a multi-million dollar industry for the state. And just like other businesses, farmers have options. They can go elsewhere, and we need to understand we cannot drive our largest job producers, like Perdue, out of the state.
DELEGATE JIM MATHIAS
‘It’s A Record Of Vision …’
Q: Why did you decide to give up your delegate seat after just four years and make a run at Senate?
Mathias: I’ve always been fascinated by Annapolis, dating back to my trips from Ocean City as a council member with then-Mayor Fish Powell and then, of course, when I became mayor.
When the conversation began that Senator Stoltzfus was talking about retiring, I knew at that point in time that I wanted to take that opportunity, use the alliances I have built over the last four years in the House and with my friends over in the Senate and take those alliances over to the Senate to be able to continue to have a strong partnership for the Eastern Shore and throughout Maryland so that when the issues that face us here that we could have a respected, coherent leadership position. What we have here is a proven record. It’s a record people can look at and evaluate. It’s a record of vision and accomplishment and hard work. I’ve been called a ‘workhouse’ and people know constituency service is extremely important to me. That’s what it’s all about, and I truly believe our constituency is very intelligent and aware and consumptive of the information that’s out there. I know they are going to make the best decision.
‘We Have Accomplished A Lot’
Q: Let’s talk about your record. After four years, what do you point to and say these are my accomplishments?
Mathias: Our accomplishments, first of all, is to be able to continue dualizing Route 113. To be able to talk about how we were able to get that hydraulic clamming bill in the coastal bays, which is an entirely different estuary than the Chesapeake. To be able to have built alliances that quite frankly when bills come up at the last minute … we can get them passed, like the microbrewery bill in Berlin, for example.
I am proud to be part of a legislative body that for two years in a row has rendered Maryland as the No. 1 education system in the country. To be able to sustain that in very difficult times, to have budgets that hold the line on college tuition costs, and to be able to ride around the district and look at UMES and its new pharmaceutical program there that will help grow jobs. The capital investment in Salisbury University that continues today. How I helped the building at Wor-Wic Community College. To be able, during my tenure in very difficult times, to allow working parents to continue to learn and retrain themselves at an affordable community college and to be able to take their children to a day care facility as they are working.
One thing that I’m really proud of that’s not legislative in nature is people say, “I don’t know about this Mathias guy, he was a good mayor, councilman, …, but is he going to be able to work for us. Is he going to understand agriculture and what goes on in the rest of the district?”
I think we’ve earned that respect from folks. I think people can look comprehensively and understand we’ve had to make some tough decisions, like the slot machine bill for one. That was a very tough bill to look at very closely when you look at the economic and industrial base of the area versus revenue and taxes and the like. It was a tough decision, where the leadership in Annapolis was on one side of the issue and the needs of our district were on another side of the issue. I was able to be analytical and objective and make a decision, and I voted ‘no’.
I voted yes on the implementation bill because I knew 589 had to be improved and I knew the distribution and community impact money had to be out there. We had to work together to get that bill reopened so Ocean Pines got a dedicated portion of the money. … There were some tough decisions along the way and I was honest about it.
We have accomplished a lot and we’ve grown, and, most importantly, I continue to come home and live in this district with my family.
“I’m Not Happy Either’
Q: On the subject of slots, the issue of fraternal organizations being able to offer limited slots on their premises has failed three years in a row in Annapolis. There’s a local consensus as far as governments go, and it’s been an issue that you have not been successful in getting passed. Detractors say, “here’s a member of the majority party and he can’t get a seemingly innocuous bill passed.” How do you respond to that?
Mathias: Well, first of all, their observations are accurate – I’m not happy either. I was grateful to have the consensus. That was the first thing we had to do. I appreciate that. Getting the bill passed is the next thing in the House and getting it passed in the Senate and then getting it signed by the governor will be the final piece.
I thank the service clubs for the very important work they do. If you think it’s tough in this economic time, imagine if we didn’t have these volunteer organizations and what we would not be able to do. There’s a value to them having these up to five machines and giving back 50 percent of the monies back and what they can do for our youth and our seniors.
I see it as a very easy decision to make. Frankly, I have only been in the House four years and a couple months and although my elected experience in Ocean City brings a lot to the table, to be able to take a contentious issue like this and get it passed in the House three years in a row is a great accomplishment. What happens beyond that, well, it didn’t work out the last three years. I have taken different strategies each year, and quite frankly a lot of it comes down to the desires of the Senate president.
What I have to do, and I was hoping we could do it as a member of the House, is build upon this very strong working relationship I have with the Senate president. That’s going to be built on this bill. He knows how important this bill is for us and how critically important it is to the service clubs. The governor knows it as well. I still have some work to do. As a member of the Senate, I will be in a position to be able to work closer with the Senate president on this bill. I have getting this bill passed as a goal.
‘We Will Pre-File The Bill’
Q: To be clear, if elected, you will again submit this legislation?
Mathias: Absolutely, we will pre-file the bill again, if I am fortunate enough to win Nov. 2.
‘I Didn’t Want To Vote For Either’
Q: At last week’s forum, concerns were raised about you voting for increases to the state’s income and corporate tax in these tough times. Let’s get it clear – did you vote for increases to these taxes?
Mathias: In the developing stages, yes, and we will give you the timeline.
As you know, it takes two houses to pass a bill into law. There was a structural deficit, and initially there were revenue bills. One was the sales tax increase, which I voted against. The other was a corporate and personal income reform. I didn’t want to vote for either, but after deliberating the whole thing, I very reluctantly in the House did vote on the bill for the corporate and personal reform.
After those votes, a battery of other taxes were added to it. IT, the tax on computer services that would have been the opening of the door to other service taxes, and an additional cigarette tax. I couldn’t vote for either of those. I felt the smokers had been hit hard with the public smoking ban earlier in the year and the dollar per pack tax sometime earlier. I felt it was wrong. Other taxes were also added and I said, ‘no, no, no’. That’s why I voted no on the entire package.
‘I Am Fiscally Conservative’
Q: The corporate tax increase directly hurts small business. Explain your reasoning for initially supporting it.
A: I used the word reluctant. It was a very difficult decision. Quite honestly, I have a record of vetoing budgets in Ocean City with tax increases that were unnecessary. I am fiscally conservative.
At the time, November 2007, I was building my credibility in Annapolis, as I had just been elected months before. I knew our needs here, with schools, roads and all, so I looked at it all and saw there was reform in the personal income tax, where some got increased and others were lowered, so I very reluctantly said yes initially. I said no after all the other taxes were added because I didn’t think the average Marylander could afford it and I believed it would be detrimental.
Sales Tax ‘Detrimental To Our Area’
Q: Your opponent says, if elected, he will immediately introduce a bill to reduce the sales tax. Is there a will to do that in Annapolis? Would you do it?
Mathias: I know from being in retail and in business for over 30 years what it’s like to deal with the sales tax. It was detrimental to our area and I couldn’t support it.
Looking ahead, I don’t know what the complexion of the legislature and the governor’s office will look like after the election. Therefore, I wouldn’t want to say. Today, the majority voted for the sales tax, based on the need for the revenue.
I’m not going to pledge to put in a bill, but I can only say at that time and place, the vote was no for me.
‘I Believe In’ Death Penalty
Q: Let’s talk about your mailers and obviously you are dedicating considerable resources to getting these messages out. At least two I received deal directly with the death penalty. Why?
Mathias: I’m a public safety person. It’s the first thing I talk about. Sixteen years on the Ocean City Police Commission, lifetime member of the fire company. I believe in public safety, and I do believe in the death penalty.
I believe, through appeal, there are plenty of opportunity to bring forward any additional evidence or lack thereof to either keep someone from being convicted or to correct a faulty sentence.
There are instances when I think it’s necessary – a police officer killed in the line of duty, a corrections officer, a social worker, a teacher … Once you are incarcerated for life or a long period of time and you know you will be there forever, why wouldn’t you perhaps murder someone if you think it’s just going to be forever and forever?
I know of true stories told to me where the death penalty was the reason in the eye of the alleged perpetrator why they did not pull the trigger. I do believe in it and that the social justice is there.
I voted against diluting it. It went from a repeal to dilution where certain things have to be in play now. It takes finger prints alone out, still photos out, and I think it just makes it that much more difficult. By all practical means, Maryland does not have a death penalty today because of all the elements that now go into it, and I think we need it and it’s not right that we don’t have it. We need this type of sentence for the worst crimes.
‘I Apologize For That’
Q: On the one mailer about the death penalty, it’s written, “Liberals Are Wrong.” This seems to be an attempt to put yourself in more of a moderate position. It’s an interesting choice of words. Can you explain that decision?
Mathias: To be perfectly honest, I missed that. I have never been one to name call, and I apologize for that. It was not my intent. That was unfortunate and it was not something I did consciously, but I do take full responsibility for anything that has my name on it. That was not my choosing necessarily and the draft copy was supposed to be changed to “lawmakers” not “liberals.” I respect other people’s beliefs and it’s not my posture to name call and I regret that. It’s not something that made me happy.
‘Yes I will Continue’ Donating Pay
Q: In another one of your mailers, it says you voluntarily cut 25 days of your own pay and returned it to the state. How long have you done that and will you continue if elected to Senate?
Mathias: I have done it for three fiscal years and yes I will continue while we are in these times. Where this came from was with the furloughs and the opportunity was given to the electeds to match the state employees, and I have authorized the maximum amount all three years – fiscal year 2009 was five days, fiscal year 2010 was 10 and fiscal year 2011 was 10. And yes I commit to doing that again.
I also, every year, operated my office budget under the appropriation and turned those back in. I just did it by not spending the money and it’s the way I have always been, having operated my own business.
LCB ‘A Top Of The Line Issue’
Q. Let’s talk about the future of the Liquor Control Board (LCB). State for the record your position once again.
Mathias: I have always known there’s a natural tension between the licensees and the LCB. I knew the importance of the revenue to the county and local governments. I have tried, as a delegate, to seek a working compromise, but when I got down on the ground and started campaigning for this seat, the first issue that came to the center of the pool was the LCB, at least here locally.
We’ve deal with many more controversial issues than this, but here’s one that keeps coming back and presenting itself. I’m a person that deals with the facts, there’s other allegations that have been swirling that I have been trying to stay away from.
I came to a decision that if the allegations and remarks were proven to be true and the industry comes up with a revenue stream, that as your senator I will put in a bill to abolish it. That’s where I stand.
Of all things out there, it’s been a top of the line issue and I think I have given them a clear answer and that’s where we are and we are sticking with it.
‘… Why Wouldn’t You Do Away It’
Q. The proverbial smoking gun on the LCB has not surfaced yet. Are you waiting for the comptroller’s report to see what allegations are true and which are not?
Mathias: Look, if you want to have a strict government out of private enterprise discussion, I think it’s time to have that. Right or wrong, when you look at the responsibility that comes along with this quasi-government private relationship that’s out there, if at some point you can provide the revenue to the counties and municipalities, protect or maintain the jobs, make fiscal responsibilities back to the private sector, why wouldn’t you do away it?
My final compelling moment is this issue has been talked about and talked about. When we think we have found a happy medium, somehow it slips back one way or another. It’s the industry that wants to replace this, and I know the Board of License Commissioners will not allow the proliferation of liquor licenses all over the place, contrary to what some think will happen with liquor stores on every corner.
To stay on point, I am not moved by any allegation of mismanagement. This is just something that continues to find itself the topic of discussion. I believe frankly that if we can find a way for the private sector to manage this responsibly, to take into consideration those who have worked in the system and provide the jobs that are out there, I think it would be smart business to do and that’s the direction we go.
‘Family Unit Is Critically Important’
Q: What are people talking about out on the campaign trail?
A: When we are out knocking on doors, people are very concerned about the economy of the day, depending on the age group we are talking to.
The family unit is the most important element of where we live. What I’ve heard is people want to hold that family unit together. They would love to have their children or grandchildren continue to live around them. Perpetuating the traditional family unit is critically important and that’s what I hear a lot about.
Also, people want to make sure we are able to articulate the critical importance of agriculture, the poultry industry and the working watermen. Finding that balance between an estuary here that’s very shallow and slow to flush and the Chesapeake, and be able to articulate that in a rational way. That’s what people want.
It all has to do with perpetuating the family unit and that’s important to me. We have to look at our industries – the matrix of tourism, agriculture, grain, poultry, the burgeoning medical industry, continuing higher education and keeping our public schools Blue Ribbons of Excellence – and make sure they are sustainable for years to come.