- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As the town of La Plata gears up for town council elections next week, residents can expect to see changes on the horizon.
In December, Ward III Councilwoman Paretta “Paddy” Mudd resigned from her position on the council because she was moving out of her ward. She was replaced by La Plata lawyer Hammad Matin, who has decided not to run for re-election, leaving the ward with a race between two new candidates, Lynn Gilroy and former Ward II councilman Scot Lucas.
“It was a great honor to serve,” Matin said. “It’s one of those things where I realized quickly that it’s a part-time position. There’s a lot of issues facing the town, and I felt I couldn’t give the full commitment and time they deserve to the people of La Plata and to my clients at my practice.”
Gilroy ran for the Ward III spot eight years ago and was defeated by Mudd. An 18-year resident of the town, Gilroy has been a decades-long volunteer with the La Plata Volunteer Fire Department, where he serves as treasurer.
Gilroy said his main priority is serving the town citizens and that he will push for a special election on the Walmart Supercenter annexation, a comprehensive road use plan for the town, economic development and additions to town utilities. Gilroy also plans to push public safety issues in the town, about which he believes “we still have improvements we can make.”
“We have to support the infrastructure to make sure it’s taken care of,” Gilroy said. “If you don’t keep that up, everything else starts to deteriorate.”
Lucas said that during his tenure on the council, he pushed for speed awareness to protect the town’s children. August was designated as Speed Awareness Month in the town, which Lucas said has fallen by the wayside since he left office, and he intends to bring it back.
“It doesn’t cost extra money on the police side, as far as salaries,” Lucas said. “They just spend more concentrated time in the neighborhoods.”
Lucas, who said he has lived in La Plata for 37 years, is also focused on improving parks and recreation opportunities within the town.
“Our younger kids don’t have much to do, the ‘tweens,’ I should say, and I want to see that become ... more broader based, agewise,” Lucas said, adding that he also would like to serve as the council liaison for the Design Review Board.
“I’m a fiscally responsible person who will reflect what the citizens of Ward III and La Plata want,” Lucas said.
In the other wards, Keith Back of Ward II and Joseph Norris of Ward IV are running uncontested for their spots. Mayor Roy Hale’s position also is uncontested.
In Ward I, newcomer Robyn Sprague is running against the incumbent councilman of 11 years, Wayne Winkler. Sprague declined to be interviewed for this article.
Winkler said he is focusing this time around on economic growth for the town.
“I am pro-business, and I think the more we attract to La Plata, we can have more shopping, and that helps keep the residential tax low,” he said, adding that the tax base has not risen during his tenure. “I think we have to have economic growth, but it has to be very controlled.”
Winkler said that while he was in the workforce, he spent his days commuting to Washington, D.C., because of “the absence of skilled jobs” in La Plata, which he hopes to bring in. Winkler also listed traffic in the town as among his concerns, along with the growth of Civista Medical Center and maintaining the low crime rate. Winkler said he is also in favor of a youth center to “keep the youth off the streets so they have more learning opportunities.”
“Overall, I think the town of La Plata is in good shape, and that’s because of good staff and leadership,” Winkler said. “I want to continue to serve.”
Back said his concerns moving into his second term are simple.
“My main concern is that we can continue to provide services but keep the tax base the same,” Back said. “I personally don’t want to raise taxes, but we want to provide services and we’re doing that with our current budget.”
Back said he is also concerned with the town’s parks and recreation opportunities, and will push for “reasonable growth in the town’s commerce district without adding to the sprawl.”
“I look forward to continuing to represent the citizens of Ward II for another term on the council and to do my best to serve all of the citizens of the town of La Plata,” Back said.
Norris, a lifelong La Plata resident now moving into his second term on the council, said his focus is also on employment in the town.
“I don’t know how we can do it, but I’d like to see something where we can help employment in the town. I want to get educated,” Norris said. “In my first term, a lot of the things that got accomplished were things that the public doesn’t always see. We have a much more stable and efficient water and sewage system. ... We allowed that for the staff and supported them. Without them, it wouldn’t have happened, but it couldn’t have happened without our support either.”
Norris added that he would like to see more commercial and residential development for the town, and a strong job market could help afford that.
Hale, who served on the council for 15 years before being elected mayor, said he is focused on “continuing to keep La Plata a great place to live and work.”
Hale expressed his support for continued work on town utilities and said he wants to “hold the tax rate as best we can while still providing great services.”
“We are still concentrating extensively on the La Plata Vision Plan, which speaks extensively to the redevelopment of the downtown,” Hale said.
Hale is also focused on the recently approved changes to the Heritage Green annexation agreement, which will now allow for a 300-acre park on what was once slated to be a golf course.
“That’s substantial because of the amount of acreage,” Hale said. “The opportunities associated with that right now are almost unlimited.” Hale added that he is also planning to continue concentrating on the town’s park system as a whole.