Candidate Survey: Wayne Keefer for Washington County Commissioner
Office Sought and District
Washington County Commissioner
A.S. in Management, Hagerstown Community College
B.S. in Business Administration, Frostburg State University
M.B.A., Frostburg State University
11 year banking career, adjunct instructor in business and finance, small business owner
In 2015, I was chosen for a seat on the Washington County Board of Elections. In 2016 I was selected for a vacancy on the Washington County Board of County Commissioners, and currently serve in this capacity.
Social Media Accounts
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CitizensforWayneKeefer/
Why are you running for office?
As a young man of 32, I have more of my future ahead of me, than the years I’ve lived. I love Washington County, and want to make sure the stewardship of county resources are maintained for the long-term, and to keep at a minimum the burden of government on my constituents.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
I would consider a political role model to be someone who works to represent the people, and is more concerned with accomplishing that task, than personal gratification, benefit, or self promotion. A few people come to mind. On the local level, I consider Senator George Edwards to be a man of this character. He is humble, doesn’t seek attention for himself, understands the issues, and focuses on being responsive to his constituents. He has a large geographic district, but comes to those important events he needs to, to attend to important matters and not for photo ops. I also respect someone like former Washington County Commissioner Greg Snook, who was very respected for his work, yet also knew the importance of change and succession and voluntarily retired from service when he felt the time was right. That quality in particular, having authority yet giving it up voluntarily is rare. Since his time in office, he has used the knowledge and contacts he acquired as a Commissioner to continue his public service in a different way, with current stints on the Board of Trustees of Hagerstown Community College and Meritus Hospital. On a more national level, President Ronald Reagan is someone I would admire for his leadership, in particular his ability to reinvogorate national pride, and meet with foes worldwide to come to peaceful resolutions.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
I enjoy the short story “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell. The book shares of the pitfalls and inefficiencies of Communism in a humorous, but very simple manner to follow using animals as his characters. While not necessairly pro-Capitalist (Orwell had Socialistic leanings), I believe the story can be shared today, some 70 years after it was first published, to highlight how it is not government and political bureaucracy that comes about with the best solutions, but rather a free market, and the free exchange of ideas that generates the best opportunities for socio-economic growth for which everyone has an opportunity to participate in, not a select few in the politburo (or hog house, as Orwell might contend!).
What will be your top priority in elected to this position?
I’ve identified three broad priorities I feel important for Washington County:
1- Safe Communities: We need to make sure police and emergency services have the resources they need to meet an increasing demand due to population and demographic changes, and rising drug abuses. I’m proud to have worked directly with our Sheriff and mayors of our smaller communities to reinstate the community deputy program, which will add additional FTE deputies on the streets throughout our county. We also must support our volunteer and non profit fire and ems providers, and realize the savings they provide us while finding efficient ways to support their operations.
2-Responsible Spending: I believe it is important to stay within a budget, and to limit borrowings. We must always evaluate our budget in terms of what is the purpose and function of county government.
3-Stronger Ethics in Government: I have publicly called on my fellow commissioners to expand the scope of authority on matters handled by our Ethics Commission. Right now, only financial gain is covered as a state minimum requirement. I believe issues of harassment and breaches of confidential should be reviewed by the Ethics Commission. Commissioners should not be exempt to the same standards of conduct required of our county employees.
What is the biggest issue facing your county?
I don’t believe we have one single issue that trumps all other issues, but we have many. Obviously, the drug epidemic nationwide is wrecking havoc on our society and with our financial resources. Emergency responders are spending an inordinate amount of time handling theses situations, further stressing an already fragile emergency services network. The costs associated with prosecution, incarceration, and social services for children involved is astronomical, and reallocates financial resources away from other projects.
We also face tough competition with neighboring states. Washington County, being the only Maryland county contiguous to three other states, often sees businesses relocate just across the border for various advantageous reasons. This, coupled with increasing state regulations, unfunded mandates, and a decrease in a once stable Highway User Revenues, all takes a huge chunk out of local resources. For example, HUR have declined 90%, from a high of $10million, to now around $900k. This forces local projects to be marginalized, and is an inhibitor to effectively increasing our tax base.
What is your position on taxes and spending?
The best way to increase tax revenue is to grow the tax base, not the tax rate. To grow the tax base, last year I proposed regular meetings with our Economic Development Commission, a volunteer county board that employees collectively 9,300 employees, something that has not happened in years. These are our advisors on ways to grow jobs and our economy, which will allow us to maintain tax rates. Some useful ideas to come from these meetings are under consideration. We must also promote smart growth and select target areas for commercial expansion, while recognizing the impact upon our communities of unplanned growth areas.
With regards to spending, we must again recognize the purpose and function of county government. During our current budget cycle, staff has been asked to analyze even the smallest of expenses, as little as $50, an example being subscription services, to determine necessity.
What is your position on a county tax cap?
(I suppose that you refer to the current issue of the $10,000 property tax deduction cap at the federal level.) On the issue of a county tax cap, I support Senator Serafini’s and Governor Hogan’s proposals to allow Maryland residents to take the standard deduction on a federal return, but the itemized deduction on a state return. Currently, this is not allowed. Such a proposal would allow the best of both worlds, so to speak, to take full advantage of both Federal and State tax laws. Another stand alone or concurrent proposal I would support is a general state tax cut, given that Maryland already ranks among the highest taxed states in the country. This will make up for the additional tax some may have to pay. The Attorney General’s approach of suing the Trump administration is wrong–we can solve this with our State legislatures and tax law changes.
What is your position on land use issues?
I am a property rights advocate. I believe increasing restrictions on ways property can be used is tantamount to reducing the rights of property owners. For a recent example, I have spoken in opposition of a request to require replacement mobile homes to abide by new and overly cumbersome setback requirements. If someone wants to upgrade to a new model mobile home, they should be allowed to use the existing setbacks, and not be forced to move septic and utility lines to accommodate new setbacks, requiring even more costs.
What is your position on public safety?
We can certainly argue about the function of government, but public safety, in my opinion, is a paramount responsibility. I frequently ride along with emergency responders and witness first hand the difficulties they face. Safe communities is one of my 3 top priorities, and as I’ve mentioned, I have worked to bring about new sheriff deputies into our small municipalities, that would be available at a moments notice to respond to any issue county-wide that required all hands on deck.
Fire and ems providers in the county are also struggling. Our volunteer companies need to be supported as time progresses and volunteers age out. These are essential services in our communities, and as volunteerism declines, the county will be forced to incorporate more resources through a combination of time, staffing, and equipment, to help provide the same level of high quality and dedicated service we appreciate and have now.