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McCarthy discusses accomplishments as county executive

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Alan McCarthy

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.

McCarthy is the current incumbent. After retiring as veterinarian, he first ran for council in 2012.

Back when McCarthy first ran for office, he railed against the then-Board of Commissioners for standing in the way of economic development. At the time, the county was evolving into a new charter form of government which created the office of the county executive.

McCarthy was elected as the first councilman from District 1, representing his home of Chesapeake City as well as Cecilton and Earleville. He was appointed council vice president in 2012 and re-appointed in 2014.

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?

ALAN MCCARTHY: “Yes sir, I do. That’s that’s a simple answer. It’s balanced, we have an executive, which is me, and we have a legislative branch, which basically deals with legislative functions and passes laws. Easy peasy. It is. I mean, that’s a duck soup.”

CW: What is your opinion on the county-implemented growth plans? How will you continue to further the growth plans?

AM: “I just continue on the same path I’m on basically; it’s five principles: fiscal responsibility, economic development, placing the necessary infrastructure in the ground to support the infrastructure to support the economic development, fund public schools, quality of life issues and public safety.

“Those are the five main major goals, and I’ve done those all very aggressively over the last three and a half years. One of the things I’m looking forward to is replacing some of the aging, and just simply obsolete, schools. I mean, some of these things are older than I am.

“We have some built in the early 30s, 40s that are functionally obsolete. They’re not what you call “environmentally friendly.” They’re not easy to heat, air conditioning, and basically do the maintenance on so I’d like to replay some of those as we go forward.

“I want to continue the economic growth of Cecil County, we’ve created over 4,000 new jobs in the last three years, more than probably any other county in the state of Maryland. We want to continue to move forward. I’m trying to make the lives of all citizens of Cecil County better and providing more opportunities, better jobs, more jobs.”

CW: What is a Trump Republican? How does one ensure that leadership in Cecil County is for all resident across the political spectrum?

AM: “ A Trump Republican is one that believes in basically a truly financially responsible government. Budgets get balanced and there isn’t reckless spending. …

“I believe myself to be Republican. I adhere to conservative principles by balancing the budget… I believe in operating from a position of financial strength — not to be an underdog and be uncapitalized.

“The reason I say that is we’re building public schools right now. The reason we can do it is we cannot start a public school and expect state aid unless we have our own money to basically initiate it.

“I spent a lot of time building up a budget, which is responsible and has the necessary amount of money for the emergency fund — which we were are getting there, but not there yet.

“I’m accused constantly of having all these monies just hanging around. But these are necessary monies to establish a good bond rating so that we can borrow money at a reasonable rate.”

CW: County wealth has been described to have negative impact on residents, do you agree? How should taxpayers feel growth in the county?

AM: “[Such as] what’s happened to state’s withdrawing money from the education budget?

“Other ways [residents] can feel county wealth, as they can see, wastewater and sewer is one way that allows for better and greater development.

“It’s more environmentally friendly, and it’s very good for public health quality. Parks, like Brantwood, we never had that before. We’re basically have developed the Calvert Regional Park. We’re building in brand new library, new schools, a more efficient, more effective and more cost-responsible government than they’ve ever had before.

“Yeah, I mean, those are the ways that you see it. But also by the way that other counties have in the state of Maryland and other jurisdictions look at Cecil County and hold to a far higher state.

“[Previous county leaders] started talking about putting wastewater and sewer on the Route 40 corridor in 1962. Certainly, that was probably 30 years before you’re even born. Yeah, it’s only happened since I’ve been again, the executive. They’ve talked about it, they talked it to death. I’m doing it.”

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?

AM: “It has because the fact is, is we’ve had to cut the budget so substantially, because I have to provide for the needs of the why actually provide for Cecil County government I have to provide for the citizens.

”The thing is, is I know that the revenues will be significantly written down because of people losing their jobs. One thing I can say is Cecil County has done fairly well. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the state of Maryland right now, because we’ve created so many new jobs. But there’s lots of small businesses that are truly struggling. I’ve made all types of incentives to allow them not to feel the pain as much as they would.

”Basically, the safeguards we are putting in place is trying to pay the police officers a livable wage a good wage, meeting their medical needs and also their retirement and pension needs.

”In order to do that have to grow government. I mean, one of our biggest problems in Cecil County has been to get a police officer candidate to begin with. Once we do, to get him through the school is one thing. Once we put them on the salary, many times these other jurisdictions will come in and take them away, because they offer them a bigger salary.

”So basically, I’m trying to incentivize them, I’m trying to pay them a competitive reasonable salary and make their careers such that they want to stay here and not go somewhere else.”

CW: Any other final thoughts?

In regard to keeping a fund balance, McCarthy said:

“Well, it should be about 10 percent of the total operating budget.

”So, in our case, we have an operating budget of about $200 million, we should have actually should be 15 percent [in savings]. We have, right now $10 million, and we really should have close to 30 million counting.

”But, we’re moving in the right direction. When I came on board, we barely had anything, because they use the unassigned fund balance — which is your rainy day fund or basically your savings account to make the budget work. We are required to have a balanced budget. You can imagine, I mean, we have roughly $250 million on the books for capital projects at schools and libraries and rooms and etc. If you get a quarter of a point change in a [bond] rate, it’s costing you a tremendous amount of money. ... The other thing that a lot of people don’t understand is I’m trying to build this county for the future. I’m trying to establish a good foundation upon which we can build. You don’t build on shifting sands because things move around.”

Katie Tabeling contributed to this article.

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