Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part election interview series that involves all four Republican candidates for the June 2 primary election. Two of the candidates ran Wednesday, with the remaining two candidates running in today’s edition.
ELKTON — The Cecil Whig conducted a Q & A to present to voters as they begin mailing in their ballots for the June 2 primary election.
Coutz is a Cecil County Council member and the business development manager for Rollease Acmedia. To win his seat in District 2, he ran on his experience in business and helping out his fellow neighbors. Coutz has focused on the door-to-door economy of individual citizens, and how to best serve them.
CECIL WHIG: It’s been 10 years since the county voted itself into a charter, has the county found its footing in this form of government? Do you believe power is balanced in Cecil County?
BILL COUTZ: “It has been some time since we have changed over to charter government, and I think it is the proper configuration from government.
“I’m not sure that we have fully found our footing yet. We’re still working through some issues. I think if you look at the United States, it’s over 242 years old, and we’re still finding areas where we can make adjustments and improve. I think we should always be looking for that opportunity to improve.
“The charter is not perfect, and this charter wasn’t specifically written for Cecil County. It was you know, cut and paste from some other charters; that’s not a terrible idea either. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
“But, I think it’s we’ve been able to identify some areas where maybe we could do a little bit better. Since I’ve been on council, we have identified areas that we would like to see improved and modified. It does take time … we’re still fairly young in our endeavor as a chartered government, but I think we’re getting better every day.
“Foundationally, I think we have a footing, I just don’t think we are fully developed — maybe that’s a better way of stating it. So, I think we got work to do and we’ve got good people to do it. We’ll get there.
CW: What is your opinion on the county-implemented growth plans?
BC: “I agree with the comprehensive plan and growth within Cecil County.
“I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve watched the county stagnate to a certain degree. There was a long period of my life growing up here, where there was no growth within Cecil County … I’m not sure that it was really sought. We’re very rural, a very agribusiness[-centered] county. … We are going to grow and the comprehensive plan and long term planning is the way to make that happen with a level of responsibility that’s necessary and respectful for the people who have lived here for long periods of time.
“We welcome new people to come in. … I am definitely in favor of the growth corridor, but I don’t think that we [can]not ignore the other areas in the western and northern parts of the county.
“Rising Sun is a perfect example of that. That’s a municipality that — just given their their geographic location — makes [development] difficult because they’re removed from that growth corridor.
“Should we then stagnate their growth? No. [Rising Sun] is growing, I grew up in a Calvert/Rising Sun area. There’s opportunity there.
“There are businesses that want to move their proximity to Pennsylvania and Oxford and to Harford County, [to a] unique geographic location that should allow [Rising Sun] to grow their economy.”
“I agree with our comprehensive birth plan, but I don’t want to see that be prohibitive to municipalities that they have a right to grow their economy.
“Why should we hold [for example] Rising Sun back just because they’re a little bit north or west of that designated growth corridor, [or] master water and sewer [plans]. We need infrastructure. I would like to see that infrastructure be a little bit more equitable and how it’s balanced.
“I also do not want to see a municipality restrict their ability to run water or infrastructure services outside to the people that are in the proximity closest to them. They can do it in the most cost effective way.”
CW: What is a Trump Republican? How does one ensure that leadership in Cecil County is for all residents across the political spectrum?
BC: “Yeah, Trump Republican, I’m not sure that I even want to go down that road.
“I support our president. … I believe in the leadership that he’s put in place, and I believe that he is doing the best job that he can right now.”
“… My concern with that term is President Donald J. Trump is not going to come here and govern Cecil County. I’m not looking for a Trump Republican. I’m looking for a leader. I’m looking for a county executive. I’m looking for someone that can stand on their own volition, their own experience, their own leadership ability to lead Cecil County.
“Congress that have kind of pushed that agenda in this direction because they believe that it is a beneficial position to take up and will garner votes. As you can tell by now, I believe that you should vote for people that are qualified, experienced, have leadership ability and expertise and who had the best interest of Cecil County in mind, and that’s what I am. I’m a Republican, by party, but I am not espousing myself today in Trump, Republican, I support our President Trump. I’ve supported every president that we’ve had. But I don’t expect that that is going to be the path for leadership here.
“The other thing that bothers me is I don’t care for deception, who you are. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you become and what how you run your your administration, or how you run your campaign.
“Don’t set out to deceive people and tell people that you’re something that you’re not, because eventually that will be exposed, and that’s a hard question to answer at that point in time. So be who you are. I’m Bill Coutz. I’m a county councilman right now. I’m a lifelong resident of Cecil County, and I’m running for county executive.
“I won’t tell you that I’m a Trump Republican. I will tell you that I’m built out Cecil County Republican, because I understand what Republicans and Democrats here in Cecil County need want and have to have to make their life here as the best that it can be.”
CW: County wealth has been described to have negative impact on residents, do you agree? How should taxpayers feel growth in the county?
BC: “An increase in county wealth is a tricky thing, because that increase in county wealth is not translated from or to individual citizens. It is a formula, and that’s really all it is. It takes a gross number divided by the number of people, and cases of like schools and divides it by the number of students.
“It’s counterproductive to what it is that we’re trying to do, and that spreads the services to the citizens who live. It’s difficult to take the example of school board, when we see an increase in the county wealth number. We’re working two directions that are that are pulling funding from the state down and away from the CC County Public Schools. That makes it more difficult for us as county government, because we have to fulfill that shortfall.
“We can’t expect the schools to operate with just less and less money every year. So it’s a it’s a tricky equation.
“What I don’t like is when people just point specifically to that one thing, [and think] we’re doing better because the county wealth has gone up. It’s a deceptive number. It doesn’t translate to me or you. It doesn’t put more money in your pocket.
“Do you feel more wealthy now? I don’t.
“[The wealth] is because we bring in large corporations who improve a property and bring additional wealth. A lot of times those jobs aren’t even being held by citizens here within Cecil County.
“So, while I don’t think it is a negative or a detrimental number. If not properly used and properly looked at, it can be deceptive, and it can have a negative impact on funding to the county from sources outside the county (whether that’d be state, and in some cases, even federal).
“… The part of it that is troubling is instead of actually working to make sure that people do understand that we have not done a great job of communicating the information that is necessary to allow people to understand … Different people have made the suggestion that [Cecil County residents] are not intelligent enough to understand what it is. I couldn’t disagree with that more vehemently. People in Cecil County are very intelligent.
“But one of the things that I would like to do as county executive is increase the flow of information out from the county government to the people that are there so that they get a better understanding. So that when we sit down and we got to make hard decisions, they’ll go, yeah, that’s a hard decision, but I understand why. … “
CW: In a previous forum, candidates listed public safety and education in their top two priorities. How has COVID-19 highlighted areas of improvement? What safeguards will you put in place moving forward, if you are elected?
BC: “COVID-19 certainly has brought to light a lot of the things that may have been hidden underneath of the surface layers and they certainly have been brought to light now they’ve been exposed.
“I do believe that schooling, as well as our jobs probably will never look the same as they did in 2019. I think one of the things that has been brought to the surface is we need education. Education is going to play an enormous role, obviously, in getting us out of this.
“The other thing that I think that this has brought about is an understanding of we don’t know what jobs are going to look like, in the coming years. You know, I truly believe that a child that’s entering first grade today won’t hold a job that we recognize, you know, 18 years from now or 25 years from now — depending on the paths for education.
“We don’t know what the job looks like, and are we really preparing our students adequately to be prepared for those jobs that are coming up? Are we looking forward enough?
“So, I think those are the things that this COVID pandemic has exposed. If there’s a silver lining to it is that we can become safe and stable again.
“Losing one person is horrific. Losing almost 80,000 as we have is unthinkable. But you know, there have been times in history where we’ve lost millions. I think we have seen we have put some of the precautions in place. I have to give credit to Richard Brooks in the Department of Emergency Services here in Cecil County and [Lauren Levy] with the health department. …
“Public safety has always been my number one priority, because it is what government was originally designed to do. Governments were designed to do the things for us that we can do ourselves. When United States was formed, our federal government was put in place to defend our borders from our enemies, and for those that would that would invade us, because we couldn’t do that as the states that originally formed the United States. They couldn’t protect themselves. So, we put together a government that would allow us to have a national defense force, and county government is the same. The No. 1 priority is public safety (law enforcement, fire and emergency services)”
CW: Any other final thoughts?
BC: “I guess the only thing I would like to add is I really believe that people are tired of the divisive [politics]. It’s not even partisan, because we’re going to be talking about a Republican primary here.
“I just think that people are just tired of this back and forth and this ugly, dirty, nasty, hateful, whatever.
“I have two things that I believe that our society and inherently our political system has lost touch with — and that is respect and integrity. You know, and I think if we got to re-inject those two things, dignity and respect, back in our political system that would translate and bleed out into the lives of the people that are touched.
“We have a responsibility as leaders in the county and in government, to set that example. I just would love to say that happened. I’d love to have the opportunity to do that. I think one of the things that people would see immediately and longstanding in my tenure and my term would be returned to respect and dignity. I think that would serve the people of Cecil County well, and I’d be proud to be able to do that for residents.”