Communities throughtout Maryland are embracing smart growth by supporting investment in our cities and towns, improving housing and transportation choices, and protecting Maryland's natural areas and working rural lands.
Do you think your work, and Frederick County (and Maryland), would benefit if a diverse range of organizations that care about smart growth and the protection of our environment worked together in a more organized and effective manner?
That was the basic question posed to leaders of organizations working on land use and environmental issues in Frederick County and statewide in Maryland a few months ago.
During a walk in the woods last summer, Kai Hagen and Kim Brandt discussed the establishment of a Frederick County-focused coalition to share information and coordinate advocacy efforts. There are so many challenges and opportunities in Frederick, and not enough hours in the day for any one person or organization to address it all as effectively as they would like. Envision Frederick County and 1000 Friends of Maryland already and often work in partnership with other organizations. Bringing our local and state partners together seemed like a smart, strategic way to make progress on our shared interests.
The coalition’s kick-off meeting was held in September in downtown Frederick. We were excited to have representatives of thirteen organizations brief the group on their work and engage in a lively discussion of the many opportunities for collaboration. In addition to growth and environmental issues, the group discussed the importance of working together to improve citizens’ awareness of and involvement in the development of plans, policies, and projects that impact their quality-of-life.
Even before the coalition was fully defined and firmly established, we had an opportunity to take a policy position and help rally the public to do the same. A bill sponsored by Council Member Jerry Donald sought to strengthen protections for stream buffers in Frederick County, restoring some of the provisions that had been removed by the previous administration. Thirteen organizations signed on to the coalition’s letter of support and hundreds of county residents signed an online petition supporting the bill, which was passed at the first council meeting in December.
This blog entry is a preliminary heads up about this new alliance. We are still working out a number of details — a Mission Statement, for example. Among other things, another blog entry before long will include the Mission Statement, a list of all the participating local and state organizations, and links to a new website and Facebook page. Stay tuned!
The coalition, called the Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County, is now meeting on a monthly basis and has a busy agenda for next year. It’s an exciting time to be working in Frederick County!
Upon arriving in the small Southern Maryland town of Indian Head, one comes across countless boarded up storefronts. But this unique Charles County town has received lots of attention recently due to the election of 19-year-old mayor Brandon Paulin -- making history as Maryland’s youngest mayor.
1000 Friends had the opportunity to meet with this inspiring young leader who says he wants to incorporate key elements of smart growth to develop and “change the perception” of Indian Head from a run-down town to a thriving center of jobs and activity.
What Indian Head lacks in amenities – like a grocery store, restaurants and shops – it makes up for with its array of parks, its nature trail or “Rail Trail,” and the popular Mattawoman Creek. A native of Indian Head, Paulin noted that fishing and kayaking along the Mattawoman – along with preserving it – has been “something I’ve always done and something I’m passionate about.”
Paulin explains that one of his main goals is to make the town more inviting to those who come to Indian Head for an outdoors experience and for those who work at the Indian Head Naval Support Facility. He says that his “willingness to work” with small businesses is one way he hopes to fill the vacant buildings.
A key element of smart growth is investing in our cities and towns where considerable investment in infrastructure has already been made, and that is exactly what this young mayor intends to do. By offering incentives to get vacant buildings filled and bringing in new businesses, Paulin promises revitalization and newfound hope for the community.
While working as mayor to bring businesses and jobs into Indian Head, Paulin also balances his time as a political science major going into his sophomore year at the College of Southern Maryland. When asked whether he thought his schooling would interfere with his work as mayor, he explained how the May election period, and the frenzied media coverage that came along with it, coincided with his midterm exams. He admitted that, “This is the busiest I’ll ever be,” and is confident in his ability to adjust and remain focused on both his academics and his objectives as mayor.
Even though he is so active in politics at such a young age, Paulin says his parents don’t follow politics closely and weren’t a factor in his decision to run for mayor and his choices as mayor. While his parents are always supportive and encourage him to express his own opinions, Paulin explains that they never try to impede on his decisions or sway his political views. He even jokes that “they avoid politics at all costs.”
Having been an active member in his community since the age of 12, when he started attending town hall meetings, reviving Indian Head and doing what the residents of the town of 3,900 want are goals he is dedicated to achieving. Paulin is confident and optimistic when he says that “at the end of these four years, I want the people to see progress.”
Paulin hasn’t given much thought to a future in politics – and in fact does not even identify with any political party – but is certain about one thing: his mission to improve and bring progress to Indian Head. He stresses that he has “got to do Indian Head first before anything else.”