As Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners met in open session Thursday for the first time in 2021, with Ed Rothstein taking over as commissioner president from Stephen Wantz, the nature of that transfer wasn’t lost on them in light of Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Rothstein, R-District 5, noted it during his opening statement.
“Yes, peaceful transition of power,” Wantz, R-District 1, said in response. “Powerful words there.”
The commissioners continued the county’s state of emergency for another 30 days, discussed the need for continuing mitigation measures to fight COVID-19, the status of vaccinations in the county and the decision by the school board to resume hybrid learning this week at what Commissioner Dennis Frazier called the “height” of the pandemic, a decision Wantz said was “interesting.”
The five commissioners representing Carroll County, which voted overwhelmingly to elect President Donald Trump in 2016 and again during his failed reelection bid in 2020, all began their portion of the weekly meeting by denouncing the actions of the Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
“I’ve been to many capitals around the world, from Kigali [in Rwanda] to Kampala [in Uganda] from Bucharest [in Romania] to Kabul [in Afghanistan] and Baghdad [in Iraq], where what we saw [Wednesday] in D.C. could be considered the norm at one time in those locations,” said Rothstein, a retired Army colonel.
The Capitol was overrun Wednesday by American citizens, many wearing hats and waving flags in support of Trump. The bulk of them began the day protesting lawmakers inside the building who were certifying Trump’s electoral defeat to President-elect Joe Biden, with many eventually breaching security and breaking into the building; live feeds showed what many news organizations described as “terrorists” going through the halls and offices of the Capitol, some armed and looting.
Hogan sent hundreds of Maryland state troopers and Maryland National Guard members to Washington on Wednesday to assist with law enforcement.
Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said he was in touch with Maryland State Police on Wednesday afternoon, offering his office’s support and services. He said Thursday morning the sheriff’s office’s SWAT and civil disturbance teams, as well as other personnel, were in place to “backfill” for those state police troopers called to D.C.
Early in the weekly commissioners meeting, Rothstein said he takes it as a compliment when people recognize him as “colonel” or “commissioner” or as a “soldier,” but that the best compliment for him is when he is called “an American.” As such, he described the events in Washington as “horrifying acts” and “pretty terrifying.”
“This is not us,” he said. “Please don’t be a victim to social media conspiracies or led to places you don’t belong.”
Wantz said he was in tears for most of Wednesday,
“I cannot believe we’ve gotten to this point in our country. It’s a sad, sad place that we’re in right now,” he said. “I just hope that we get to a place that the darkest day in our history is used to unify all of us and get us back to what we are, and that’s Americans.”
Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said he was taken aback by Wednesday’s events, but that he can only try to influence people locally to do the right things — in terms of coronavirus mitigation and otherwise.
“I want to ask everybody to start looking at what can you do positive for Carroll County,” he said. “What can you do to help us come together? Every citizen has something they can put together for that. This year’s going to be better for us.”
Frazier, R-District 3, who also stressed that everyone should wear masks, wash their hands, social distance and get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, said he struggled to find words to express his feelings.
“I have to condemn what happened [Wednesday] in Washington,” he said. “It amazed me that something like that would happen in this country.”
Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, was the last to speak on the topic. He also condemned what happened but offered a slightly different perspective.
“Across the history of the United States, this is the price we pay for having a free society,” he said. “It’s a bad thing, it’s very disturbing. But ultimately the greatness of our nation is that we can recover from this and that we shall recover from this and that we shall be a better nation than when we went into this.”
Bouchat went on to compare the transition that will take place on Jan. 20, when Biden succeeds Trump, to what happens regularly with the Board of Commissioners.
“I just ask people to step back, take a deep breath and allow things to unfold and allow the transition of power to take place. Even though I did not vote for the president-elect, he is our president and everyone must respect that, just as my colleagues are setting the example now,” he said. “We transitioned from President Wantz to President Rothstein. That is a wonderful thing.”