Gardner looks back on eight years in his final county state address

Oct. 7 – Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner used her final state of the county address Thursday to tout the progress she said the county has made over the past eight years in nearly every aspects of government functions and services.

Gardner, D, was elected in 2014 as Frederick County’s first executive in the transition from commissioner-led government to chartered government with an executive and county council.

“I am proud to have laid the foundation for the operation and future operation of chartered government,” Gardner said during his speech, held at the New Spire Arts Stages. “It depended on a strong and productive working relationship with the county council, with our federal, state and municipal partners, and with the broader community.”

Gardner said having an executive has given Frederick County a voice with the county’s congressional delegation, bond rating agencies in New York and businesses looking to set up shop in the county.

Since transitioning to chartered government and under its administration, the county has improved education funding, development planning, farmland preservation, economic growth, library access, ethics within the government and more, Gardner said.

Education

Funding for Frederick County Public Schools has represented a substantial portion of Gardner’s overall operating budget for the past eight years. This year, it allocated $365 million — or 46% of the budget — to the Frederick County Board of Education, which oversees the school system’s budget.

Its budgets funded the county’s public schools $113 million more than the state’s required “maintenance of effort” levels, a minimum legal threshold that requires counties to provide at least the same amount of money per student from year to year.

Over the past eight years, Gardner has invested $525 million in school construction projects in its capital projects budget. The county’s $215 million capital budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 included funding for nine school construction projects.

Since 2014, the county has completed construction of Frederick High School and five elementary schools. The county also undertook a limited renovation project at Thurmont Elementary School.

Gardner said the county has been innovative in its approach to public education, launching the LYNX (Linking Youth to New Experiences) program, which provides students with work, arts and crafts experience. And the partnership between Early College and Frederick Community College allowed students to earn associate degrees while completing high school.

Development planning

Gardner led the county’s adoption of the Frederick Livable Master Plan in 2019. The plan guides growth, development, and preservation in the county.

The Livable Frederick Plan includes the framework for area plans that will outline land use, transportation and community facilities in specific areas of the county.

County Council is set to vote Oct. 18 on Frederick’s first habitable zone plan, the Sugarloaf Treasure Landscape Management Plan. If the board votes to approve the plan, it will go to Gardner for his signature and final approval.

Preservation of agricultural land

The county has preserved more than 73,000 acres of farmland, and Gardner said she expects the county to exceed its goal of preserving 100,000 acres of farmland by the early 2030s, 10 years earlier than expected.

Under Gardner, the county created Agricultural Innovation Grants to maintain the economic viability of the industry and to help farmers expand or diversify their businesses.

Economic growth

Since 2014, Frederick County has attracted major employers like pharmaceutical company Kite, Texas-based data center development company Quantum Loophole, Australian biopharmaceutical company Ellume, and grocery giants The Kroger Co. and the UK-based Ocado group.

Gardner said more than 100 businesses opened or expanded in the county at the height of the pandemic.

Libraries

The county opened branch libraries in Walkersville and Myersville and expanded the Point of Rocks Library, under Gardner. The county also began construction of a new, much larger Middletown Library.

ethics in government

Under Gardner, the county’s ethics laws were rewritten, and the county established an ethics commission to ensure open government and hold elected officials accountable. Frederick County is the only county in the state with an independent ethics commission, Gardner said.

During his state of the county address, Gardner also highlighted the county’s progress in public health, public safety and emergency response, fiscal management, parks and recreation opportunities. , transportation options, senior care and diversity, equity and inclusion in government and health care.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan

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