Outgoing Commissioner Howard says goodbye, give North Carroll High School back to Hampstead

Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard speaks during the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce State of the County address at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster in 2017.
Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard speaks during the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce State of the County address at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster in 2017. (Ken Koons / Carroll County Times file)

At his last Board of County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, Nov. 29, Doug Howard, R-District 5, thanked county staff and his fellow commissioners, and recommended getting North Carroll High School off the county’s hands.

Many residents have advocated for re-opening North Carroll High, which was closed in 2016 — despite county staff’s calculations that it would not be feasible to do so — and ideas about putting the building up for sale or lease or creating a community center have been bounced around without making much headway.


“The death knell for North Carroll sounded as soon as the first shovel dug in to build Manchester Valley, and even today, good options that could save that property that are being worked on very difficultly … are being squandered by those that are clinging to false hope,” Howard said.

“I think it is time to put the ownership of that building into the hands of the town and contribute a comparable amount of what it would cost to demolish it, some $1.5 million — for something we don't want to see happen — to help the town find a real solution that meets their needs, and let them make the decision. I strongly believe that as reality sets in a real solution will be found.”


Howard also recommended that the BOCC work hard to talk through tough issues with residents, like North Carroll — something he felt the 60th board could have done better.

Citizens should “be wary of county and state local officials that tell them they can have it all without cost or consequence,” he said.

District 5 Commissioner Doug Howard attended his last Sykesville Mayor and Town Council meeting in his current position this week.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, represents Hampstead, the town where North Carroll is located. He said Friday he believed the new board and the community will find a viable solution for the building.

“We will find a plan,” he told the Times. “We will find a good use, we just have to keep working on it. We can’t quit.

“I have confidence in the town, I have confidence in the people, that we are going to work out something,” Weaver said. “I just don't know what it is yet.”

And Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin had a similar take.

“We look forward to working with the new Board of Commissioners and pursuing every possible angle for reuse of the building and the property,” he said.

Howard was the first commissioner to represent the Freedom Area since the body increased from three to five representatives in 2010, and is departing after a second term along with Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4 — who gave his departing remarks at Tuesday’s meeting.

He also said the BOCC should maintain strong communication with the governor of Maryland so the five representatives of Carroll County can ensure its citizens’ needs are addressed, rather than relying on Maryland’s House of Delegates.

“The board president should have same level of contact with the governor as county executives in other counties do. It is the Carroll County government that speaks for the county, not our state delegation,” he said.

“The accountability of laws, budget and consequences rests with the Board of Commissioners, and that's who should be communicating the needs and our priorities.”

Other recommendations were aimed at the Board of Education, with advice to stop “asking for the moon” during budget season and prioritize student achievement over its “top-heavy administration that gives too much deference to the unions, the state of Maryland and educational organizations.”


In discussing the budget, Howard said infrastructure and the Not in Carroll initiative deserve special attention in the future — but not without the fiscal responsibility the current BOCC has shown in the past four years.

And he hopes the 61st board will embody the same spirit as the 60th, as the county recently earned a AAA rating from all three rating agencies for the first time.

“Leaving with a triple-A bond rating tells me not only did we get a lot done, we did it in a fiscally responsible manner,” Howard said.

Rothschild, who is also leaving office, said he appreciated Howard’s sentiments.

“It’s no surprise you and I have had a love-hate, love-hate, love-hate relationship,” he said. “I feel like we have sharpened each other like iron on steel, and I think I am a better man because of you, and I hope that you feel the same way about me.”

After eight years serving on the Board of Carroll County Commissioners, Richard Rothschild’s tenure is up, and he took 20 minutes at Tuesday’s meeting to share his reflections on American government, God, and schools.

He also said the raw debates between the five commissioners within the past eight years have been “the best demonstration of government.”

“You get to see men and women at their best and sometimes at their worst, but at least you get to see it all,” Rothschild said.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, also extended his thanks to Howard.

“Doug, I came to this job four years ago because the 59th board, I thought, ‘We can do better than this.’ You have helped improve that image,” he said.

“I think we’ve gone through a lot the last four years, but it’s always been collaborative, something we can discuss, talk about. As you said, we get stronger whether we agreed or didn’t agree.”

And Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, told both departing commissioners he learned a lot from them, and that they played a vital role in educating him as a commissioner when he joined the BOCC from the Westminster City Council.

“Thank you both, Richard and Doug, for the eight years of service to the citizens of Carroll County. I think you both have done a tremendous job, and I really believe after working with you for four years that… you really have the best interest of Carroll County at heart, and I really think you believe what you're pushing forward is the best for Carroll County,” he said.

“It’s not [that] you have your own agendas — you go with what you think is best. We’ve argued and agreed many, many times. In the end it’s made us stronger, and made the board better, and I think we’ve made better decisions because of that.”

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