Ahead of this spring’s municipal elections, the Carroll County Times has asked candidates to provide information on themselves and their priorities. Their responses are listed here in full.
Steven Colella is running against incumbent Greg Pecoraro, Kate Carter, Kevin Dayhoff, Ann Thomas Gilbert and Jessica Laird for one of three seats on the Westminster Common Council. Here are Colella’s responses.
What is your profession (and years experience), current employment (and how many years), education, community groups involved in (and in what role), past political experience, and years (approximately) you’ve lived in Westminster?
For the last eight years, my career has been dedicated to building stronger, more vibrant communities. An economic development professional by trade, I currently work as a business consultant for America’s Small Business Development Center, a non-profit organization that provides no- and low-cost technical assistance to entrepreneurs. I previously served as the Director of Economic Development for the Town of Sykesville and worked for Downtown Frederick Partnership, a designated Maryland Main Street, before that.
Although I am not a Westminster native, I was raised nearby in Mount Airy and have lived in downtown Westminster since 2015. I have never served in public office; however, my role in the Town of Sykesville gave me a strong appreciation and deeper understanding for many of the inner workings of local government. I previously served on the Board of Directors for the South Carroll Business Association (2016-2017) and currently serve on Westminster’s Historic District Commission (commissioned in 2016).
Why do you want to serve in this role?
I have spent the vast majority of my adult life working to build other communities for other people. While I take great pride in the hard work and accomplishments thus far in my career, when I moved to Westminster, I knew immediately that I wanted to give back and help this community grow to reach its potential. Westminster is a beautiful city, full of rich history, bright people, and economic opportunity – I am confident that, with experience and ideas from years spent improving other places, I have something valuable to offer toward a better future for the City of Westminster.
How do you plan to represent your municipality’s interests in the county government?
I have spent the last few years cultivating strong working relationships with various individuals at all levels of local government. Combined with my professional experience, if elected I will be able to get right to work representing the interests of our City to staff and elected officials at all levels of government in economic development, planning and zoning, and beyond.
Name something you would begin working to accomplish as soon as your first week on the job.
Main Street is inarguably the crown jewel of Westminster. Our downtown has been a hub for commerce and community for more than 250 years, and preserving the best of that rich heritage with a strong vision for a vibrant future is critical to our success. From day one, I will be working hard to ensure that our staff, commissions, and volunteers have whatever resources, training, and support we can give them to help serve our Main Street community – businesses and residents alike – to ensure that the core of our City remains safe and prosperous.
What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not?
One of the biggest challenges that Westminster faces is the current stagnation of economic growth – and a stagnant economy doesn’t just affect everyone’s bottom line. Strong, collaborative, and vibrant communities are inextricably tied to the overall safety and happiness of the community. I am confident that my experience as an economic and community development professional will be invaluable to our community as we strive to move forward and grow toward a safer, more prosperous Westminster.
What one thing would you most like to see changed?
Over the last decade, the City of Westminster has undertaken a number of innovative initiatives to help move our community forward; however, these efforts have, at times, been disjointed and incongruent. Westminster’s current strategic plan guides the City’s efforts from 2018-2021 yet the City has projects on its books with impacts stretching far beyond that timeline. A comprehensive, community-focused strategic plan with short-, mid-, and long-term priorities is imperative to ensuring that the City is able to make the most of the resources we have available to create a thriving place for our residents to live, work, and play.
What are your campaign priorities?
Prioritizing public health and safety to ensure that our dedicated men and women in law enforcement have access to the resources and training they need to protect and serve the community is paramount to our success. And by working together to implement the very best mix of traditional and innovative solutions, I promise to do my best to help make Westminster a safer place.
Government can often seem inaccessible to the very people it affects most. Policies are enacted with good intent but may be lacking in communication and consideration for those impacted. If elected, I will strive to engage with our council, our partners, and our community in a more compassionate, responsible, and transparent government that works for everyone.
Our most valuable resource as a community is each other - residents, business owners, and visitors alike. We must work in unison to protect our community, preserve the best of our rich history, and build a brighter future for ourselves and for generations to come. Local government is not the spectacle of politics on a national stage - it is a place for friends and neighbors to come together with the goal of making our home a more vibrant place to live, work, and play. And if elected, I pledge to keep an open door and an open mind, and to be a good partner in the work to come.
What is your position on current Westminster crime, both real and perceived?
Safety is paramount to the success of a community. Westminster, like many communities nationwide, is currently struggling with the impact of an opioid drug abuse epidemic, in addition to the more commonplace challenges that are typical of any city. We cannot sit back while residents, business owners, and visitors of our community feel uncomfortable or unsafe in their daily lives. If elected, I will work diligently to ensure that the work of our men and women in law enforcement remains a top priority, and that we support them in their efforts to make Westminster one of Maryland’s safest communities. I believe we need to act swiftly and decisively in this regard, pursuing innovative solutions and prioritizing every opportunity to reduce the threat of crime and to make our community a place where everyone feels safe every day.