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Sykesville election: Candidates for mayor, council answer questions

The Sykesville election is set for Tuesday, May 4, taking place at Town House, 7547 Main Street. Polls are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The position of mayor and three Town Council seats are at stake in Sykesville. Stacy Link and incumbent Ian Shaw are running for mayor; incumbents Alan Grasley and Leo Keenan, and Elizabeth Guroff, Keith Mathis and Frank Robert are running for the council. Their unedited replies to questions emailed to candidates in all municipal elections are printed below.

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Mayoral race

Stacy Link

Stacy Link
Stacy Link

Biographical information: I am an Occupational Therapist and Certified Assistive Technology Professional with an Executive Certificate in Home Modifications and have 24 years of experience modifying homes for increased accessibility for the disabled as well as those who are ageing in place. I am a national board certified Home Inspector. I have lived in Sykesville since 2005 but have been a Maryland resident since 1997. I’ve been married since 2013 to my one true love, whom I met in college. We celebrate 25 years together in September. I was a Sykesville Historic District Commissioner for two years prior to my eight years of service on the Town Council, where I am currently serving. I am the first female candidate for Mayor of Sykesville.

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Why do you want to serve in this role? I became a part of this community not when or because I moved here in 2005. It was when I developed an obligation to this community that I truly became a part of it. That obligation is simply to be there. We can expect that of each other. You should certainly expect that of your mayor. It’s time to embark on a new journey together. It’s time to break out a map—not the old out of date one that shows where we’ve been, but a crisp new one that shows where we might go—together. Do we need a thriving Main Street? Yes. Do we need robust services for our tax dollars? Yes. But we also need sustainable governance. Without each of these, a town- our town can disappear. As Mayor, I will elevate each Councilmember’s skillset and promote increased involvement so that each of the citizens will be more fully represented. My service to Sykesville precedes my tenure on the Council and it will continue long after it.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? Improving transparency by promoting sustainable governance and an effective means of information sharing between our government and the people we represent. This is how the rest of our best laid plans fall into place. I want to get to work right away on the connectivity portion of our Comprehensive Plan that we are soon to approve. Connectivity includes safe and more sidewalks, improvement to existing trails and finally connecting the southernmost part of the Linear Trail to our downtown. This has evaded previous administrations. But it won’t mine.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Food insecurity for our residents became quite evident during the pandemic. I supported and networked with Carroll COAD, (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) which took the lead on identifying those in need and organized food pantries across the county. Along these same lines, I worked closely with a newly created organization born during the pandemic, Neighbor-in-Need-Sykesville, to establish a COVID-safe means for connecting those in need with those who have what is needed--like household essentials. It may have been the pandemic that showed a spotlight on these needs but I suspect that for some, they existed before and will persist. As a citizen, I will continue with outreach and connecting those in need with available resources. As a council member, in May 2020, I fully supported the Town’s Micro Grant program for our small businesses that showed a pandemic-related loss of 50% or more in business revenues. I know that Downtown is the heart and soul of a community. And if you don’t have a healthy downtown, you simply don’t have a healthy town. As mayor, I will continue to promote investment into our economic development engine, the Downtown Sykesville Connection. Investment in our downtown is an investment in our strong residential property values. Strong property values are what make a town attractive to home buyers in the hunt for a place with a sense of community. Town pride is contagious and lends itself to social engagement, fosters neighborly support and volunteerism which cyclically promotes an even stronger community. Strong property value optimizes your equity in your home. Strong property values afford low crime, education and opportunity for our youth. Strong property value means few vacant homes and negligible derelict properties.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? The best thing about our municipality is its people. And what they tell me they love most is our small town feel and our unique and charming downtown, our parks and green spaces. I’d like to see a change in how town government engages with the community. I understand that this is my responsibility and not the other way around. I have confidence that informed residents are energized to take an educated and active role in caring for our community.

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What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? My leadership skills are quite different than the other candidate’s. I have a propensity to elevate the skillset of those around me to assure a 360-degree view in the decision making process. I always put my boots on the ground first. This is the kind of leadership that inspires volunteerism which fosters a feeling of ownership over the thing we all have in common: our community. Community is not a place on a map. It is not a group of people. Community is the intangible way a place and a group of people make us feel. Community inspires us to take action, to extend a hand, to answer a call. Community is something we participate in. Community shapes us as much as we shape it.

My hope for May 4 is that Sykesville will feel compelled to involve themselves in a process unlike that of the State and National level. The engagement of local people is critical to effective, sustainable and equitable progress. The attention to local values, knowledge and voices finds expression across neighborhoods, religions and partisanship. Let’s do something unprecedented here in Sykesville on May 4th. Let’s vote in record breaking numbers.

Ian Shaw

Ian Shaw
Ian Shaw

Biographical Information: 25 Year Town Resident, Lifetime Maryland Resident. I currently Work as an Associate Broker with Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc. in Columbia, MD since 2000. Served 4 Years on the Town Council, Past 8 Years as Mayor of Sykesville.

Why do you want to serve in this role? I want to continue to serve in this role to build on the success we have had over the past 8 years I have been Mayor. We have made great strides as a Town under my leadership and we have many important items that I have worked hard on that are going start to be implemented. Our 10 year Comprehensive Plan, Ongoing Warfield Development, South Branch Park and a thriving Downtown and Business Community.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? I would like to get started on some implementation of the 10 year Comprehensive Plan Goals as soon as possible.

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How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Our Town and business community has been hit hard by Covid 19. We have provided much needed support, Grants for businesses, Coordination with County and State Officials for residents and businesses alike. We have weathered this extremely difficult time better than some communities. But we are not through with this yet. We need to remain vigilant in helping every citizen who wants a vaccine to get a vaccine, as well as support ongoing efforts to assist our, small business community, residents and the Downtown Sykesville Connection.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? The Best thing about our Town, is the collaborative effort that has made our success possible. Everyone has pitched in to create a true sense of place in Sykesville. That is what makes our Town so special. I would like to see the State honor past commitments to improve our Main Street via the Streetscape Program and then have the Town take control of ownership. I think we could do so much more if we actually had an improved Main Street and the ability to control how we used and implemented changes to that space.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? I have extensive training and experience that sets me apart. Graduate of the University of Maryland Municipal League Leadership Academy, Approximately 150 additional hours of Maryland Municipal League Training, Served on the Municipal League Board of Directors, and Served as the Carroll County Chapter President of the Maryland Municipal League for 4 years, Currently serving on the Carroll County Opioid Task Force as the Municipal Representative, Served on Sykesville’s Planning Commission for 4 Years, Sykesville’s Budget Committee for 2 years, Served 4 years on the Main Street Economic Development Committee, and have FEMA training in emergency management as well as much more government service meeting with State and Local Leaders to work on issues for our community.

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Council candidates

Al Grasley

Alan Grasley
Alan Grasley

Biographical information: I was born and raised in Rochester NY. I attended college at the State University of New York at Alfred where I studied Computer Graphic Design technology. Since then, I have worked as a Printed Circuit Board Designer. Currently, I work at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel. My lovely wife Linda and I met at college. We have been married for 24.6 years. In 2003, we moved to Sykesville. We have two children Katherine, 18 and Matthew, 14. I have served on the Council for 8 years. I am currently the Council President and Business Liaison for the Town.

Why do you want to serve in this role? I want to see Sykesville continue on the path of low taxes and no debt as well as to be a thriving small town. Shortly after we moved here, I became concerned about the empty buildings on Main Street as well as the Town’s increasing taxes, high debt and a low reserve. I started attending Town meetings to better understand the process, and got involved in a few Committees. And in 2011 I decided to run for my first term to help ensure fiscal responsibility. We cut the tax rate and have paid down the debt to zero. We have supported Main Street in various ways through a Main Street Manager, financial support, resources, and movement from the Town House to Main Street.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? If I am elected, I look forward to getting to work on the Comprehensive Plan. I would like the Town to continue low taxes and no debt, maintain quality services and parks, and keep a vibrant Main Street. I want to continue to listen to all angles of issues to make the best decisions for our Town moving forward.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Like every other small town, Main Street was shut down during the pandemic. During the past year the Town and merchants have really come together to navigate the COVID – 19 restrictions and come up with creative solutions. The Town has been able to work with other government entities to help bring new ideas to fruition such as allowing blocking off parking on Main Street and space for more outdoor seating arrangements, as well as many more ideas and conversations about what is best for our merchants’ growth and survival during this difficult time. In addition, the community has come together and supported and continues to support our Main Street. I would like us to see us just get back to normal as quickly as possible.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? The best thing about Sykesville, it is a small community with great parks and small businesses. While I don’t want any big changes because I am very happy with our Town as it is, I do feel connectivity is so important to ensure we all can enjoy what it has to offer. The Comprehensive Plan will provide this and so much more to ensure a thriving small town. I am looking forward to working through this Plan.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? I have been doing this for 8 years, and that is 8 years of experience. I graduated from the MML Leadership Academy 2020 giving me a good sense of how Government can work for our Town. Just as I do at my work, I work hard to be a good listener so that I can hear all sides of an issue which helps me to make good decisions for our Town with the information that is provided. I understand the role of being a councilman, and look forward to another term.

Elizabeth Guroff

Elizabeth Guroff
Elizabeth Guroff (Jason Putsche)

Biographical information: My name is Elizabeth Guroff, and I am a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist who has lived in the Town of Sykesville for more than 18 years. I was raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, and moved away for college and work, but when we moved our children back to Maryland to be closer to their grandparents in 2003, we purposely chose Sykesville to raise our children. I feel strongly that my four boys are the incredible young men they are today because of that choice.

I have been in my profession for more than 25 years as a therapist, supervisor, and executive. I am currently a nationally recognized trainer and consultant in Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Oriented Care (TIROC), an approach to health care that recognizes the impact of past trauma on people and integrates that knowledge into an organization’s policies, procedures, and practices to develop new ways to interact and heal. In my current role, I have had the honor of working with national State public health officers as well as school systems, non-profit health care providers, and insurance companies all over the country to help change the way these organizations operate, deliver services, and treat their employees.

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Although I have long been involved in our community, this is my first time seeking elected office, and I look forward to bringing my passion for our small town to the Sykesville Town Council table. I offer years of experience in executive leadership, consensus building, community needs assessments, and developing innovative solutions to complex community concerns.

Why do you want to serve in this role? I am asking for the opportunity to sit at the Council table because I want to give back to the community that has given me and my children so much. I feel drawn to this opportunity at this time because I would like to help move the stalled Warfield development forward and to bring my expertise in community development and healing to our town at a critical time. It has been an incredibly tough year for all of us, and while I am supporting other communities to find new ways forward in the upcoming post-pandemic world, I want to do the same for our community.

I am the mother of four boys. My oldest is proudly serving our country in a submarine fleet in the Navy; two of my boys are in college; and my youngest is a freshman at Century High School. I want to represent the family voice on the Council and involve students and young adults in our decision making — that is why I am proposing we create a Youth Council to advise the Town Council and ensure the inclusion of that voice in our future planning. I think it is time for our community to embrace all voices in our present and our future, in order to continue with smart growth and development that is in line with our vision and values.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? I would like to explore the option of starting a Town Trolley this summer to allow residents access to Main Street weekend activities without having to worry about competing for town parking spots or having to walk up the hills from Main Street, since they do not all offer safe sidewalks at this time. I would want the Trolley to go to both Main Street and Millard Cooper Park activities. I would quickly explore the option of this being a low-cost or even free benefit for town residents.

Second, I would explore the opportunity to bring new high-speed internet providers to all town residents, including Main Street, to increase business opportunities and allow all residents better service to work from home and meet the needs of families today. As an example, we could look at Westminster’s recent addition of Ting.

Finally, I would begin the process of creating an advisory Youth Council. This would include doing research, making a presentation to the Town Council and residents, developing a charter, and funding and establishing our first Youth Council.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Sykesville has been affected in many ways by COVID-19. Main Street merchants have lost business, our town has lost tax income, and our families and children have been challenged and stressed by school and day care closures, as well as the illness and grief of lost family members. Part of our recovery must include external funds to support all groups impacted, and I have a strong history of seeking and securing grant funding for such needs. In addition, we must develop innovative community supports for our neighbors and merchants impacted negatively by COVID-19. This could include providing community meals, donating funds for rent and basic needs, job-search support, tutoring for our children, and outdoor opportunities for kids to catch up academically and socially.

But in addition to the things COVID-19 has taken away from us, it is important to note what we as a community have learned and gained during this difficult time. It is time to look towards the strengths we gained during this pandemic and start to work together to rebuild across our community. We rallied as a community, we supported our local businesses on Main Street (we did not lose any businesses and even saw a new restaurant open), we connected more with our neighbors, we found hobbies and enjoyment in staying local. We learned that we could spend more time working from home and decreased some of our commute times, and we did this with the grace and ingenuity that we bring to everything we do.

To move forward, we’ll need to continue supporting our businesses as they recover their fiscal losses and rebuild their staff and inventory; our children who have had a profound disruption in their academic careers and have become disconnected and dysregulated; our toddlers and babies who have lost a year of socialization and engagements with others; our parents and adults who have been working overtime to manage work and family needs; and first responders who have been working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy.

As a town and as a country, we have been through a traumatic experience. I would like to work to identify all the personal impacts on our community and start to look at innovative solutions to support us in our post-traumatic growth, so that in our recovery, we grow stronger and more connected to each other.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? The best thing about Sykesville is the people. We are definitely ‘The Coolest Small Town,’ and we exemplify community, small town values, and hospitality. I would like us to rise to the challenges of the post COVID-19 world and use our connections with each other to lift those who are struggling due to losses in the past year. I would like to see an improvement in accessibility to Main Street through walking paths, sidewalks, and a weekend Town Trolley route to allow all residents access to all our town as to offer.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? I am an innovative leader who has helped organizations and communities across our country to transform the way they work and profoundly improve their outcomes. I am uniquely positioned to bring that expertise to Sykesville at this critical and unprecedented time. The principles that guide me in my work are these: safety (physical, social, psychological, and moral); peer support and mutual self-help; trustworthiness and transparency; mutuality and collaboration; empowerment, voice and choice; and understanding cultural, historical, and gender issues. I will lead with our townspeople and amplify their voices and ideas to make Sykesville better for everyone who lives here and build a future worthy of our past.

Leo Keenan

Leo Keenan
Leo Keenan

Biographical information: I have lived in Maryland all of my life. I graduated from University of Maryland College Park in 1985 and the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1989. I moved to Carroll County in 1996, and settled in my home in Sykesville with my family in 1999. I have a solo practice law firm in Eldersburg, along with a real estate brokerage, Assist2Sell, both of which I have operated for the past 16 years. I have been a councilmember for the Town of Sykesville since 2007.

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Why do you want to serve in this role? I have been on the Sykesville Town Council for the past fourteen years, and hope to serve an additional four year term to continue with my work of making Sykesville the “Coolest Small Town in America”. I want to continue the progress that we have made on Main Street and throughout the rest of the Town.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? It’s tough for me to call it my “first week on the job” since I have been with the Council for the past fourteen years, but I hope to be able to help any new councilmembers acclimate to their new position.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Our small businesses were particularly hit hard by COVID-19. The Downtown Sykesville Connection was able to secure a State grant that helped the small businesses with rent relief. Both the Town and the DSC will continue to work to secure grants to assist both our residents and businesses.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what would you like to see changed? I’m sure everyone will answer this question the same way, but the best thing about Sykesville is the small town feel. It is what draws everyone to the area. We are tucked away in a quiet area, but close enough to shopping and commuter routes. The one thing that I would like to change is the lack of connectivity between the residential areas and Main Street. As an older town, there are very few sidewalks, and it is difficult to walk or bike to Main Street.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? As a fourteen year member of the Town Council, I bring a wealth of knowledge of the history and background of our process and decision-making over the years. As an attorney and mediator, I am able to help the Council resolve issues when there is a disagreement on an issue.

Thank you, and I hope that you will elect me to another term on May 4.

Keith Mathis

Keith Mathis
Keith Mathis

Biographical information: My wife Michele and I have resided in Maryland for all 37 years of our marriage. We have five children and five grandchildren. Four years ago we were looking for our forever home and found Sykesville, where we moved from Baltimore County.

After serving for 25 years with the Maryland State Medical Society as an executive and financial planner, I am now a Personal Financial Consultant at Fort Meade, helping soldiers learn the basics of budgeting and financial planning.

Why do you want to serve in this role? My wife and I absolutely love Sykesville. We want to be directly involved to support our town grow and thrive. We both serve as volunteers with the Downtown Sykesville Connection. I serve on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? I would like to help bring all stakeholders together for further discussions on the completion of the Warfield Project. There has been a stalemate as to how to move forward. The Town Council, residents and developers all want the project completed. The 2030 Town Master Plan mentions flexibility may be needed to complete the project. I will advocate going back to the table and reworking the plan to address current and anticipated future market conditions, housing and commercial space demands and availability.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Merchants have been affected by being closed for several months and then reopened on a limited basis. Many residents have been affected by a loss of income. I would like to see the Council and Downtown Sykesville Connection

Continue to work with businesses to draw more customers Downtown and to help merchants apply for state and federal relief grants. I would like the Council to move to lower or postpone property taxes for a year.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what would you like to see changed? Sykesville’s charming small town ambiance, vibrant Downtown, parks and recreation, hiking trails, wonderful people and neighborhoods are what drew us here. We need to create more parking spaces and increase town connectivity as outlined in the 2030 Town Master Plan.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? I have a Master’s In Public Administration and a Chartered Financial Consultant designation. A lifetime of working with businesses, professionals and others to balance budgets create financial plans, and working as a team member to mediate and negotiate the completion projects are some of my strengths.

Frank Robert

Frank Robert
Frank Robert

Biographical information: Created Upward Sykesville in 2007 to turnaround Sykesville with an Accountant, Lawyer and a MBA(me). We ran together to gain council seats and move Sykesville in a Positive Upward Direction. 2007-2015 Elected Sykesville Town Council. 2009-2015 Elected Sykesville Town Council President. I started the Widely popular Holiday Decorating Contest. Established the Sykesville Military Memorial honoring our Military and First Responders. Initiated the first Annual Golf Fundraiser supporting local groups like Little Sykes Railroad and our Police. I helped to rejuvenate the Parks and Rec Committee.

I moved to Sykesville from Catonsville in 1999 to intentionally raise a family and be involved with the community. Wife, Beth is a special Education Elementary Teacher at Piney Ridge Elementary. Both Daughters attended Piney Ridge, Sykesville Middle and Century High School.

I am a former Middle School Teacher, Coach, College Administrator, Medical Sales Rep and since 2010 Associate Director Mid Atlantic United Methodist Foundation helping Churches.

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Why do you want to serve in this role.? In 2007, when small towns were dying, we took on the challenge for this great turnaround. I want to keep us going. Upward Sykesville was Picked as the #2 most important event of the year, behind global warming and ahead of the proposed County Police force by the local papers. The Town is doing so many great things. I am passionate about keeping the town on the right track.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? If the current Mayor Ian Shaw and President Al Grasley are reelected, I have a list of citizen thoughts from my time knocking on doors. In addition to that list, I would like to work on a Town Employee Appreciation Day. Thank the Town Employees Day! Police, Public Works, Town House workers, and Post office. Our town employees are excellent and need to be thanked!

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Covid has been brutal on the isolation initially required especially on our Elderly Citizens. Our Medical facilities have been stressed and all of our Town Businesses and four Churches have had to adapt. Broadband has become even more important in connecting folks together. I would like to explore making Broadband even more accessible for Cooper Park and some of underserved areas.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? Best: The People of Sykesville want to be here and want to be a part of the Coolest Small Town with amenities. They expect good services (which they have) and want that great Carroll County Hospitality.

I would like to see better information flow to the residents. The decrease in news coverage for the town council meetings can be countered somewhat by televising the Sykesville Town Meetings which might improve communication. The town under Mayor Shaw’s leadership has received grants to obtain the necessary equipment to televise all of our future Town Council meetings “online” and on Cable TV. So that will be a positive change when that comes to reality. I would also like the town website to be more user friendly.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? In 2007, I had the vision to ask a Lawyer and an Accountant to join a team of folks to begin the transformation of the town in a positive way. The town is on track for continued positive success. I want to continue to guide Sykesville in a positive manner. I have the institutional knowledge from 2007-2015 to apply to the future of Sykesville. I have the skill of being customer focused. We want to be transparent and be responsive to the citizens’ needs while looking to the future and harnessing technology in a more helpful way. My current career is helping churches and nonprofits. So I might have some expertise that could be utilzed by the Downtown Sykesville Connection.

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