Patty Washabaugh, 59, is running for the Mount Airy Town Council seat vacated by former Councilman Scott Strong. She is a six-year veteran town planning commission, where she and her colleagues review concept plans of development projects and make recommendations to council.
Patty Washabaugh, 59, is running for the Mount Airy Town Council seat vacated by former Councilman Scott Strong. She is a six-year veteran town planning commission, where she and her colleagues review concept plans of development projects and make recommendations to council.

She’s enjoyed her time on the Mount Airy Planning Commission. But after six years, including one as vice chair, Patty Washabaugh, 59, is ready to take the next step in her local government career. It’s time for her to have more say in the decisions that shape the town’s future, she said.

“I’ve seen a lot of things come in front of us and being on the planning commission, you recommend those developments and ideas to go to the town council,” Washabaugh told the Times in a phone interview. “But the Town Council, they’re the ones who have the decision as what is going to happen in our town.


“I would like to be a part of that vote.”

Washabaugh is one of three candidates vying for a seat on the Mount Airy Town Council vacated by Scott Strong in July. The special election is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 10, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company Reception Hall at 1008 Twin Arch Road.

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Washabaugh studied political science at Canisius College before getting her MBA from Hood College in Frederick. She and her husband settled in Mount Airy 27 years ago, drawn to the small town feel and the idea of their children walking or bicycling to school.

Washabaugh’s political science and business degrees, said Rick Blatchford, a 14-year Mount Airy resident who’s been on multiple commissions, are pertinent to local government — they’d be an asset to Town Council.

Despite working full time at Hughes Network System for the past 31 years, currently as a contract manager, Washabaugh found time to get involved in local initiatives — from zoning issues in her Twin Ridge development to education in Frederick County, and eventually to the planning commission, where she and her colleagues screened concept plans and considered development and infrastructure projects.

Washabaugh wanted to make sure the town grew responsibly, not exponentially, “and the best place to do that is the planning commission because that’s where everything” goes first before town council, she said.

“I just wanted to make sure I had a seat at the table,” the mother of two added.

It’s apparent that she’s relished the seat, earning the respect of her commission colleagues.

“When she speaks, everybody stops and listens,” said Lindey Brown, chairwoman of the planning commission.

Mount Airy special election candidate: Scott Sirchio

Scott Sirchio, 45, is one of three candidates running for the Mount Airy Town Council seat vacated by former Councilman Scott Strong. A planning commission alternate, Sirchio said he wants to ensure a prosperous future by prioritizing economic development and securing natural resources if elected.

She’s insightful, added Brown, who nominated Washabaugh for the special election. “She’s going to look at all the pieces and what’s best for the town … that quality is a rare one.”

Nevertheless, Town Councilman Bob King, liaison to the planning commission, opted to nominate one of her opponents, Scott Sirchio, who has less planning and zoning experience. He has been an alternate on the committee, meaning he doesn’t vote if all other members are present, for a year.

King lauded Washabaugh’s work. “She was a very valuable asset to this community,” he said, but, whereas Sirchio’s public service career is just hitting its stride, Washabaugh’s might be slowing down.

Washabaugh, however, views her experience as a plus.

She’s learned much from her six years on the commission. Lessons, the candidate said, that are invaluable to town council. Chief among what she’s learned is arriving at meetings with an open mind, leaving preconceived notions at the door.


“I’ve learned that you can look at everything on paper, and you can think a certain way, and you go into a meeting and all of the sudden you listen to the residents that have to live by or day-to-day they’re going to be affected by those decisions,” Washabaugh said, “and many times when I’ve heard and listened to residents, I realize that my views have actually changed.”

Mount Airy special election candidate: Matt McDonough

Mount Airy special election candidate Matt McDonough is young at 18 years old, but his message to residents is that of an old soul: Don't change Mount Airy. He wants to keep the town's population around 10,000 people. McDonough is opposed to residential development and big corporations coming.

From knocking on doors and listening to residents, Washabaugh’s reaffirmed qualities of the small town she knows — the same qualities that attracted her family to the approximately town of approximately 10,000 almost three decades ago.

“There are so many people that have lived in Mount Airy for many, many years, and they’ve seen a lot of changes, but they have so much pride in our town. They want to make sure that the small town charm is intact for future residents,” she said. “You do have a sense of community and that’s very apparent as I walk door to door and talk to people.”

Just like the town’s mainstays, she too has seen the town change. For better and for worse. There’s been much turnover in the businesses that occupy Main Street, she said, “There used to be an appliance store… a furniture store.”

Washabaugh saw the downtown fire that “really changed our town,” she said. “We persevered and we’ve come through it and I would like to keep the revitalization of downtown going.”

And downtown revitalization is one of Mount Airy’s key focuses going forward. Washabaugh has a vision. She talked about the downtown master plan, which will shape the revitalization initiative for the next 10 to 15 years. The vacant flat iron and bank buildings will be key, she said, adding that she’d like to see a restaurant or brewery or distillery find its home there.

Mount Airy special election candidates discuss main street, infrastructure

Matt McDonough, Dr. Scott Sirchio and Patty Washabaugh, the three candidates running in Mount Airy's first special election, fielded citizen-submitted questions at candidate forum Aug. 16. Sirchio and Washabaugh are on the town's planning commission, McDonough just graduated from high school.

Center Street, however, could be the revitalization nexus, she said. “We need to make sure that we focus on and we develop that area in a way that will actually enhance Main Street.”

Extending Center Street and adding an infrastructure more conducive to foot-traffic will draw people to downtown, “for people to really enjoy the restaurants and the retail spaces,” the experience planning commission member said. “In order for that to happen, we need to increase the retail and the restaurants that are on Main Street.”

Each step in the process has an impact on the next — a domino effect. And it calls for extensive planning and zoning knowledge, said Brown, the planning chairwoman. “Planning is not one of those things you can jump into… it takes time and perspective.”

“I don’t know anyone with more experience on the planning side that’s on town council, than Patty,” Brown added. “I don’t see her having a learning curve at all.”

Washabaugh would also bring a new perspective to the all-male Town Council.

Council has been “too much together on too many things,” Blatchford said. “I think Patty Washabaugh would lend some diversity for that.”

“It would be nice to have a better representation of women on Town Council,” Brown said, because “it’s a better representation of Mount Airy.”


Washabaugh has relished her place at the planning commission table, from which she’s made recommendations to Town Council.

It’s an important role, she said, but it’s time for her to vote on those recommendations from a Town Council seat.