St. Mary’s redistricting board finishes work
Sets new residency boundaries for commissioners, school board
The St. Mary’s County Redistricting Board, which reviewed the election boundaries for candidates for county commissioner and the school board, finalized their changes at Monday’s meeting by a 4-0 vote.
Calvin Brien, who cast a dissenting vote at a meeting earlier this month, was absent from the final meeting.
The board had voted 4-1 on Nov. 4 to change the commissioner district boundaries, moving Hollywood’s Precinct 6-3 as well as Precinct 3-6, the rear section of the Wildewood neighborhood, from District 2 to District 4.
The five members originally were to review and cast their final vote on the redistricting plan via a teleconference phone call based in the county commissioners’ meeting room last week, but there were technical difficulties.
Donna Gebicke, assistant to the county commissioners, at that meeting added the board members to the conference call one by one, but in the end the call would only allow five parties and not six, including Gebicke.
Redistricting board member Barbara Thompson volunteered to be cut loose from the conference call to make room for the others to make the final vote.
That’s when George Sparling, county attorney, said, “cancel the call.” He said he wanted all five members involved. “I don’t think somebody being excluded is a good procedure,” he said.
Cathy Allen, a school board member who lives off Hollywood Road, attended both meetings.
The district boundary changes also affected the school board’s districts, which follow the commissioners’ districts. Allen, currently representing District 2 (roughly the Hollywood-Leonardtown area), will be moved to District 4 (the Lexington Park area). She will retain her current seat until the 2016 election.
The board voted to change the districts to even out the number of voters in each commissioner district. District 2 has the fewest voters at 15,449, while District 1 (southern St. Mary’s) has the most voters at 17,991 under the changes.
The redistricting plan is scheduled to be presented to the county commissioners at their Dec. 3 meeting, Sparling said, but their approval is not necessary. That meeting starts a 60-day clock as to when the changes become official.
The redistricting board’s members were selected by the county commissioners. Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) said last week that if he were on the board, “I would have made no change.”
However, “the outcome of a committee is not necessarily what your opinion is,” he said. “It’s a shame to see something like that,” he said of the boundary changes.
Jarboe said to the best of his knowledge, the commission district boundaries haven’t been changed since the commissioners went from three to five members in 1974. “It worked well then, it works well now,” he said.
Jarboe’s appointee, Jacqueline Miller, voted this month with three other members to make the changes. Brien, who voted no, was appointed by Commission President Jack Russell (D).
The actual boundary changes are to take effect Feb. 3, 2014, in time for the filing deadline for candidates in that year’s election. The deadline is Feb. 24 for the primary election on June 24.
The boundary changes do not affect which commissioners voters can choose. While the commissioners represent certain areas and the president serves at large, all voters can select all the members of the county commission and the school board.
When the commissioner form of government in St. Mary’s County began in the 1841 election, there were five members. Then the board was reduced to three members in 1892. The 1974 election saw the return of five commissioners.