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Taneytown election takeaways: Winners represent 'new blood,' possible shifts on major issues

Taneytown election takeaways: Winners represent 'new blood,' possible shifts on major issues
Bradley Wantz will be sworn in as Taneytown mayor Monday, May 13. (Courtesy photo)

Beginning in the latter half of the Taneytown Mayor and City Council’s meeting on Monday, May 13, there will be a changing of the guard, with Mayor-elect Bradley Wantz being sworn in to replace Mayor James McCarron, who in Monday’s election was unsuccessful in his bid for a fourth term in office.

Wantz in turn will swear in two new council members: Daniel Haines, who at 21 is the youngest to serve on the Taneytown council, and Darryl Hale, who had previously served on the council from 1999 to 2007.

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Hale and Haines will be taking the place of Wantz, who chose to run for mayor over a second term on the city council, and Donald Frazier, who also ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor.

The three soon-to-be sworn public officials impact Taneytown in some key ways.

‘Young blood’

Several voters told the Times on Election Day that they wanted a change in leadership, with some even using the phrase “young blood,” and both Haines and Wantz represent youth.

“In terms of Haines he definitely is the youngest because the candidacy age was just lowered two years ago from 25 to 21,” Wantz said. “In terms of myself as mayor I suspect that I may be. I was trying to find the list of former mayors, haven’t been able to find that again to see if that is actually true, but it seems likely that I may be the youngest mayor. I’m 37.”

The two may also represent a broader cultural shift in the city, if their instincts are correct.

“I think that new leadership and youthful leadership was definitely in demand this election,” Haines said. “There has been a perceived status quo in Taneytown that has been maintained over the past decade, and in 2019 people got tired of that.”

“There was a lot of energy in this election,” Hale said. “Brad seems to inspire a larger part of the base and he won that way. Haines, for someone of his age, for the last couple of years he has been attending council meetings, he speaks very well and is articulate and I think he is going to do a great job.”

What that youthful energy could mean for Taneytown, according to Wantz, is more engagement from younger people who had previously been less involved in local government.

“There’s a demographic that has been ignored, I feel like, for quite a long time. Now we can start bringing them back into the fold and encouraging them to get involved,” he said. “You are probably going to see that happen with some of the boards and commissions, where we can find some of the younger people to get involved.”

That’s a goal that dovetails with one of Haines’ objectives in office, which is increasing communication between the city government and people of all ages living in the town.

“There’s a lot of people who told me, I don’t know where city hall is. I don’t know how to get to a meeting,” he said. “Even if you know where city hall is and you want to go to your first city hall meeting, when you walk into that front door at 7:30 p.m., unless someone else is walking in with you that knows where they are going, there’s no indication that the meeting is upstairs.”

Police chief vacancy

Lt. Jason Eztler has been the acting police chief in Taneytown since former Chief William Tyler pleaded guilty to federal machine gun charges in February, and the election results could affect how the city goes about choosing a permanent chief.

Both Wantz and Haines said they would like to hold an open, outside search process that also includes internal candidates such as Etzler.

“I think we owe it to the citizens of Taneytown to do our due diligence, to put the position out there and accept applications from anyone interested, and then to go through and choose the best qualified person,” Wantz said. “I would like to see someone who has a record of strong drug enforcement, who has a record community engagement. Someone who can, when necessary, act as a spokesperson for the police department and someone who is not afraid to be out there with their face and name in the news.”

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Wantz said that person could well be Etzler, but that the process is important to help restore trust in city institutions after Tyler’s exit.

Haines agreed.

“I think Taneytown, by and large, hasn’t really considered the perception of their decisions to the extent that they should. Lt. Etzler might be the man for the job,” he said, “but at the same time, how are people going to perceive city hall if we don’t even open up the hiring process at all?”

This is one area, at least, where Hale disagrees, noting that in addition to Etzler there is at least one other internal candidate with years of experience on the force.

“I am a trained police officer from the Marine Corps, I think we have that talent here right now,” Hale said. “The lieutenants on staff, they know the people, they know the city and they are competent and qualified.”

Civil War memorial

In October, Gettysburg-based sculptor Gary Casteel proposed constructing a national monument to the Civil War in Taneytown, along with a visitor center — a proposal greeted then with some optimism by McCarron.

Wantz opposed it then, and he still opposes it now as he prepares to take the mayoral oath of office.

“There are several reasons. It was some of the contents of the memorial,” Wantz said. “I spoke out previously about the inclusion of John Wilkes Booth, I don’t believe we should be memorializing an assassin.”

Wantz said that infrastructure is also a concern to him, if the monument would become a large draw to tourists.

“I am worried that if the numbers are where they think they are going to be, it will be huge inconvenience for our residents,” he said.

Haines was also concerned about infrastructure, as well as the historical significance of placing such a monument in Taneytown, rather than Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, or even Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, itself.

“What I am not opposed to would be working with Gary Casteel to put in a small monument regarding the fact that [Union] Gen. [George] Meade did have his camp here in preparation for the battle of Gettysburg,” Haines said. “Something to educate people on how Taneytown was relevant to the war, not how it might have been.”

Hale put is opposition succinctly.

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“A national Civil War monument should be in, or close, to Gettysburg,” he said. “Not a fan.”

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