SNOW HILL – While primary races decided several local seats, voters in southern Worcester County will cast their ballots for the District 1 commissioner on Nov. 8.
Incumbent Worcester County Commissioner Josh Nordstrom, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Caryn Abbott for the District 1 seat in this fall’s election. Nordstrom, who defeated Merrill Lockfaw in 2018, wants to continue his efforts to bring economic opportunities to the Pocomoke area. Abbott, a longtime nurse, wants to increase transparency while advocating for District 1.
The Dispatch sent each candidate four questions regarding local issues. Their responses are printed here verbatim in hopes of providing voters a better idea of each candidate’s positions as the election nears.
Q. Why are you running for commissioner? Please list at least three reasons.
Abbott: As an RN of 36 years, I’ve devoted my life to service and advocacy of others. As your next County Commissioner for district 1, I will put the same effort, time and advocacy into bringing a result driven perspective to all that I do. After retiring from fulltime nursing last year, I can now devote the time this office requires, the people deserve and Worcester County needs. We need a strong advocate whose focus is on the people first, which requires truly knowing your constituents and their issues and needs. I will bring much needed transparency through Townhalls to hear from the people and our small business community each year in Pocomoke, Stockton and Girdletree. I am passionate about revitalizing our district for all of our children and generations to come. We need principled leadership that leads with integrity and honesty.
Nordstrom: Serving as Worcester County Commissioner has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I enjoy my position as an elected official because it gives me the opportunity to help my friends and neighbors every day. Being re-elected will allow me to continue to bring more money, resources, and economic opportunities to District One. The work of bringing broadband internet options to our more rural communities will remain a priority. I will also continue to work to help revitalize downtown Pocomoke by securing funding for new parks, playgrounds, and other capital projects.
Q. In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing Worcester County currently?
Abbott: We need controlled economic development through attracting businesses and expansion of existing small business while protecting our environment in our beautiful county, producing jobs, resulting in additional tax revenue. We must reign in the unnecessary spending of taxpayer money for ill-conceived, costly projects and focus on basic needs such as clean water, sewage and rental housing and homes that are kept up to code. We need to be responsible stewards of the taxpayer money and end using the fund balance to balance the budget.
Nordstrom: One of the issues we face is the need to revitalize our small towns by funding new projects that replace old, blighted structures with new facilities for public use, much like we are doing with the armory/library project in Pocomoke. Collaboration between the county and our small towns to improve infrastructure and fund new construction should become a priority in the next several years.
One major infrastructure project is the rural broadband initiative currently being undertaken by the county and its partners in private industry. While progress has been slowed significantly by COVID, internet providers continue to run fiber in mostly rural areas throughout the county. We must continue to find ways to fund this venture until every Worcester County resident has access to high-speed internet service. Having accessible broadband throughout the county also makes our area more attractive to business and industry, potentially bringing new jobs and new opportunities to Worcester County.
A significant issue for Worcester County lies in the Maryland State Assembly’s continued practice of mandating the participation or actions of the county without providing the necessary funding to pay for the programs. There are several instances from the last few years where the state has passed bills – requiring millions of dollars to implement – without a way to pay for them. This is unsustainable and cannot continue.
Q. How do you see the county funding and developing a sports complex? Are you in favor of public funds being spent on acquiring the property and developing it?
Abbott: My position on the sports complex is that I am not against the idea. I am, however, against the taxpayers footing the bill. We have insufficient information regarding other funding sources, business/design plans or results of a roads study of the area in question. The taxpayers have had little transparency on this issue but are expected to fund it. If this is to be as successful as some say, then why isn’t the private sector being approached to develop and run this facility? Government should not be in the business of running businesses.
Nordstrom: I voted for this project because I believe that a sports complex will increase tourism in Worcester County, especially in the off-season. This facility will help bring in new tax dollars to the county and our towns while both directly and indirectly providing jobs and economic opportunities. Finding ways to create new sources of revenue in Worcester County should continue to be one of the highest priorities for the commissioners. Building a facility of this type represents an investment in our county – one that will raise county tax revenues and help keep income and property taxes among the lowest in the state. The vast majority of these complexes in the United States have been built through government funding, and the proposed site in Worcester County would be no different. There are still many questions left to be answered, however, including addressing what percentages of the total cost of the project will be covered by the relevant public and private entities.
Q. How are you going to help southern Worcester County as the District 1 commissioner?
Abbott: As your next District 1 County Commissioner, I will forge partnerships with the city council and fellow commissioners, who recognize the need to bring revitalization to the southern end of county. We must first focus on infrastructure, including broadband. We also need to be more business friendly, offering incentives to attract business to the area. That, in turn, will create more jobs, which will help keep our young people here and grow our community. My focus is also on our youth and providing a safe place for them with a year-round facility, where they may play sports, but could also benefit from mentoring through organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, churches, 4-H, etc. Working on ways to accomplish these goals and others will help to attract some of the millions that pass by our district on the two major thoroughfares yearly, to stop and visit or possibly decide to make district 1 home.
Nordstrom: Along with my colleagues and county staff, I will continue to look for new funding sources and a variety of solutions for completing the broadband infrastructure project in southern Worcester County. The scheduled Snow Hill Road and Bayside Road segments – in addition to greater coverage in the Pocomoke area – will serve residents and help attract new businesses to the south end of the county. I will also continue to push the Pocomoke library project through to its completion. The commissioners still have decisions to make on design and funding, and I will be a strong advocate for the facility that best serves our community. I addition, I have begun a preliminary venture into the feasibility of a recreation center to serve the families of the greater Pocomoke area. Most of our population centers in Worcester County already enjoy public facilities of this type, and I believe the citizens of District One need and deserve a center where both kids and adults can exercise, play and have fun.