Monday, May 26, 2014

Rod Pearson, Sr - Interview with the Candidate for Washington County Commissioner

Rod Pearson Sr (center) with his family, children, and grand children.

The following is a guest post/interview conducted by David Malekar, who regularly contributes content to the WashCo Chronicle. The interviewee, Rodney Pearson Sr, is the candidate for Washington County Commissioner. You can contact Rod through his Facebook page.

A very big thank you to Rod for participating in this interview. 

DM:  Thank you Mr. Pearson for taking part in this interview to help the Washington County voters know more about you and more campaign.  You have stated before that you are "not a politician," but a "working man" who has extensive experience with farming and agriculture.  Personally, I find it important that you are a working citizen and know the hardships that we face, first hand.  Would you please give us more information about yourself and what inspired you to run in this year's election?
RP:  Regarding additional background information about myself; I am 65 years old.  I have been married for 37 years and together with my wife Nancy, have raised 6 children; all of whom graduated from Boonsboro High School.  I retired three years ago from a 42 year career in the wholesale food distribution business; this career included 19 years in ownership, to focus full attention on improving the Pearson Family Farm that I both own and operate.  My additional past business experience includes a restaurant partnership and a few real estate partnerships.  Additionally I am a former licensed, and successful licensed Realtor.  
At the time that I retired, I planned to run for the office of Washington County Commissioner.  I have owned property in Washington County since 1968; and I have lived in Washington County since 1978.  During this period of time I have had serious concerns about the quality of local elected government; and I quite frankly believe that the citizens of Washington County deserve better from their elected BOCC than they now get.  Washington County consistently has the third highest unemployment rate in the state; has an illiteracy rate of 17%, has about 11.5% of its citizens living below the poverty level, has an average annual household income level that is 20k less than the state average, and 30k less than our neighboring Frederick County.  I could state more facts about the deficiencies in Washington County, however I think you get my point.  The shame here is that these are not new facts; these have been the facts about Washington County for many years.  Our current BOCC; and their predecessor boards have had many opportunities to correct the problems in Washington County, and they have not.  For the past four years the BOCC has lacked leadership, transparency, and accomplishment.  Additionally they lack no new ideas as to how to turn the county around.  Therefore it is time to give people such as myself, who offer new ideas and real leadership an opportunity to change the course of events in Washington County for the better.  The citizens deserve better; and I will do better.

DM:  What would you say is your main course of action if elected this year as County Commissioner?
My top priority as a county commissioner will be to grow our economy.  I am proposing that the county create an Economic Opportunity Zone, that would overlay the entire county.  This would allow us to eliminate the regressive commercial building excise tax, and to offer tax and loan incentives to attract new business.  I would also move to create an independent and powerful economic development commission, headed by an "economic Czar" and empower them to go out and "bring home the bacon" for Washington County.  We must create a very business friendly environment in Washington County; we must then identify those businesses that we would like to relocate or expand into Washington County and then go and knock on their door.  We must become very proactive in going after new businesses; rather than do what we now do, which is to sit back and wait for them to come to us.  We are currently losing many businesses and business opportunities because Washington County is simply not business friendly.  I will change that; with the help of other new faces on the BOCC.
DM:  Who would oversee the management of the “economic Czar” and what kind of resources would be provided to them?  Transparency is also a concern, can you elaborate more?
Regarding the "Economic Czar" that I propose to place in charge of "real economic development" in Washington County.  This individual would be hired by the BOCC after an extensive search process; a process much like what is done in the search for a new Superintendent of Schools.  I want to find a highly qualified individual, with proven skills in the area of economic development.  I want for this person to have a proven track record, and a lot of experience in the real world of economic development.  I would cast a broad net in searching for this person; I would like to see a nationwide search complete with many personal interviews before an "Economic Czar" is hired.  As to the supervision of the Economic Czar; this person would be accountable to the BOCC; he or she would, however have a lot of authority and autonomy; the BOCC would hold regular meetings with this person and the Economic Development Authority would be required to submit monthly progress reports to the BOCC.  I do not want economic development to become politicized; therefore an independent economic authority would be in the best position to succeed in actually growing the economy in Washington County.
DM:  What are some of the challenges you feel you will face early on as County Commissioner in Washington County?  How do you plan on overcoming those challenges and making the positive difference?
The biggest challenge that I foresee in changing the course of Washington County is restoring leadership to elected county government.  Currently the BOCC is not leading the agenda, or the county.  The county staff is really running the county.  When I am elected I will move to have public "work sessions" of the BOCC, not just voting sessions. The commissioners need to work to set the agenda for the county; and they need to discuss and establish public policy before they vote on it.  I would also like to have BOCC meetings later in the day to encourage much larger public participation than we now have.  County government is not now transparent; I will work to make it both transparent and responsive to all 150k citizens of the county.  I plan to be a full time commissioner with regular office hours; I will answer my phone; I will return messages and I will go and see citizens to help them with their problems.
DM:  Long term, what actions do you plan on making that will further help Washington County for the future?
The most important long term problem in Washington County is our stagnant economy.  If we do not start today to put into place what is needed to create a business friendly "nest" for business, and attract new businesses and jobs to Washington County, we are doomed.  As I write this answer there are 1500 fewer people working in Washington County than there were one year ago today!  If this trend continues; some future BOCC will be faced with the need to either radically cut services to the public; or raise taxes.  I do not want to do either.  I want to grow the size of our economic pie so that we will be able to create new tax revenue through growth not through increased taxes.  Washington County needs to wake up today!  The citizens of Washington County need to elect me and people like me who have an support new ideas to grow our economy.  We cannot continue to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic here in Washington County; we are sinking and the time for change is at hand.
DM:  It’s great to see your goals towards a more open and working with the community approach.  I know small business owners will appreciate your open support as well.  Washington County does need to “wake up” and realize that leadership affects them in their everyday life, directly or indirectly; especially if anything can be done about the lack of job opportunity for many residents within the area.  In closing, what would you like to summarize for the readers and voters of Washington County?
RP:  In closing; I would like to remind the voters in Washington County, that they will get the government that they deserve; because they will get the government that they vote for.  If the voters in Washington County are happy living in a county that always has the third highest unemployment rate in the state, has an illiteracy rate of 17%, has a per household income that is 20k less than the state average, has about 11.5% of its citizens living below the poverty line, has roads that are crumbling, lacks governmental transparency, lacks leadership from our elected leaders and most of all lacks any accomplishment from county government during the last four years; then they can vote for the current group of County Commissioners; because they are all running.  If on the other hand; you believe as I do; that you deserve better than you are now getting from your county Commissioners; then I ask for you to vote for Pearson on June 24th.  I will do better for you.  I will be a full time hands on Commissioner.  I will answer my phone and return your calls and emails.  I will come to you if you need me.  I have a plan; I have a vision; I believe that I am your best choice for your future and that of your family and business in Washington County.
Rod Pearson, Sr
Candidate for Washington County Commissioner

WashCo Chronicle encourages discussion of current political issues and candidates, regardless of viewpoints. Please keep comments polite, and on topic.

Photo courtesy Rodney Pearson, Sr.