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Union Bridge election: Town Council candidates answer questions

The Union Bridge election is set for Tuesday, May 11. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at town Hall, 104 W. Locust Street.

Three seats on the Town Council are on the line. The five candidates vying for those seats are incumbent Laura Conaway, incumbent Lou Ellen Cutsail, Charlene Johns, incumbent Amy Kalin and Cheri Thompson. Their unedited replies to questions emailed to candidates in all municipal elections are printed below.

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Laura Conaway

Laura Conaway
Laura Conaway

Biographical information: I am a lifelong Carroll County resident and a graduate of Westminster High School and Frostburg State University. I graduated from the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance administered by the University of Maryland, School of Public Policy. My husband and I bought our home in Union Bridge in 2000. I left my career in a large corporation to raise our six children, support my husband’s military career, and to serve as a community volunteer. I have been serving on the Union Bridge Town Council for the past 12 years.

Why do you want to serve in this role? I enjoy listening to residents’ concerns and helping to remedy issues they encounter. I love learning and sharing my knowledge that can help and benefit others. I like to connect them to resources that can serve their needs.

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What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? As a member of the town council, I am not in a position to make significant changes independently. I have responsibilities appointed to me, and also work on special assignments as delegated by the mayor. I will continue to work on these special assignments including the town’s 150th birthday celebration in 2022. I will do my best to represent town residents and their concerns in an official capacity and be a liaison to the local schools.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? Our community was greatly impacted by the pandemic after schools were closed and local children were not receiving school lunches. The closest available “Emergency Feeding Program” was located in Taneytown, which is far for those without transportation. I reached out to the school superintendent about opening a site at Elmer Wolfe. Two weeks later, Elmer Wolfe began serving meals, and currently serves 100+ children each week. I will continue to advocate for our children to be successful in their education in these trying times.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? I love our small-town community. Neighbors help neighbors and friendships grow and blossom. I would like to see our town grow responsibly without pushing the financial burden onto our current residents through higher water and sewer rates and tax increases.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? For the past 12 years I have maintained a Facebook page (@LauraAConaway) that I use to communicate with the community by posting announcements, delayed trash pick-ups, important county and state notices, and safety information. People are on the go and need be able to access information quickly. As residents ask questions, I will continue to post on my Facebook page and share the information to the public. I also enjoy running and pass residents while I am out.  I frequently stop to talk to them and listen to their concerns. I am always willing to speak with them and help in any way I can.

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Lou Ellen Cutsail

Lou Ellen Cutsail
Lou Ellen Cutsail (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Biographical information: I was born in Frederick County and lived in Johnsville until June of 1970, when my family moved to the Old Main Farm outside of Union Bridge town limits. I lived there until I went to college in Salisbury Maryland in 1978.  I moved back to Union Bridge in1983 and have lived in the town limits of Union Bridge since I met my husband in 1984.  We raised our three daughters in this town. I have spent the last 23 years working for a geotechnical engineering firm in their Frederick branch office; however, am currently unemployed and looking for a new job.  I was appointed to the Union Bridge council to fill the position of a council member who had moved out of the town limits in 2004 and have successfully run and been re-elected in 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017.  I am running again in the 2021 election to continue my efforts to look out for my fellow residents and to make Union Bridge a better place to live.

Why do you want to serve in this role? I started running for town council because my mother always said that “you have no right to complain about something if you are not willing to step up and do something to fix the problem” .  I truly believe this to be so.  I want to continue on the town council as there are things I have been working on that I have not accomplished as of yet.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? I have come a long way since I was first appointed to the council.  It would be fair to say that I was quite uninformed when I first came on the council.  Not having the traditional Public School elementary education, I had never learned about municipal government and how it works.  I have learned a lot  about municipal government, how it works, and the constraints that you have to deal with being a council member.  The first week on the job, I would continue working on the items I am currently working on and help to get any new council members informed so they can get right to work.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what you like to see done to help in recovery? COVID-19 has affected the way our municipality deals with the public and has added a list of items that our residents need.  The food pantry at St. James Church has helped to address one of those needs.  The food pantry is more than just a food pantry.  St. James food pantry on Monday afternoons is open for those in need to not only get food items, but also to get clothing, diapers, personal hygiene, toilet paper, and paper towels.  The also have perishable food items and when available fresh vegetables and fruit.  This is just one of many examples of our residents stepping up to volunteer and donate.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? The volunteering, donating, and having events like the Suicide Awareness events at Linbeau’s Railway Pub are all examples of the goodness of the community in Union Bridge.  I would like to see more economic development in our town and maybe even see a business start up in the surrounding area of the town so that there are more employment opportunities for the residents of our town.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? I bring a lot of knowledge and skills from my 20+ years working for a geotechnical engineering firm.  I bring the life skills I learned as a 4-H member in Carroll County.  I bring the knowledge that I acquired when going for my Elementary Education degree which makes it easier for me to help others learn and understand about the things we are doing on the council.  I bring the knowledge and contacts I have accumulated by attending the Maryland Municipal League summer and Fall Conferences.  I bring an unending desire for knowledge and the ability to research and find out necessary information.  Most of all I bring an unstoppable willingness and desire to listen to our residents and do what I can to help Union Bridge and the residents of Union Bridge to have a safer, better quality of life.

Charlene Johns

Note: Johns replied with the following letter rather than answering questions.

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Hello, my name is Charlene Johns, I am excited and proud to announce my candidacy for the Town Council of Union Bridge.

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I am looking forward to bringing new ideas to our town. Things I would like to see happen are to revitalize Main st., help bring more small businesses to town, improve our community parks and to bring neighbors together.

Over the past 2 years I have talked to several Economic Developers in other small towns. They have given me great advice on things to do to bring our town back to the thriving town it once was.

I have lived in Carroll county for over 25 years. My Dad and I operated  a school bus business for over 35 years. We contracted through the Carroll and Howard county Boards of Education.

I retired from busing and my husband of 49 years, Charles and I moved to Ocean City. After 7 years there we decided to return to Carroll county to spend more time with our 3 sons and 10 Grandchildren.  My oldest son purchased a vacant home on Locust st. and built a beautiful home for us.  I am currently driving a special needs bus for the Arc of Carroll county and my husband is my attendant.

When we moved to Union Bridge, I wanted to meet my neighbors. So I Joined the Union Bridge Ladies Auxiliary, were I served as Vice President and am currently serving as Historian. I also joined The Union Bridge Lions club, where I am in my 2nd term as President. I also joined Dream Big Union Bridge and opened the Gift and Thrift shop on Main St, which is now being operated by Dream Big.  Union Bridge is a great little town and I have made so many friends here. I would love to see Union Bridge return to the hopping little town everyone talks about.

It will be a great privilege to serve my community. I will listen openly to all concerns, with a goal of building a better Union Bridge. One that thrives economically and maintains our small town feel. We live in a great little town, lets work together to make it an even better place to live, work and play.

Amy Kalin

Amy Kalin
Amy Kalin

Biographical information: I am from Union Bridge and have been a homeowner here for 30 years. I have been happily married for 27 years and have 17-year-old twin daughters.  Our daughters attend our local Francis Scott Key High School and participate in sports and other extracurricular school activities.  I have been a Union Bridge business owner and stylist at Hair & Now for over 25 years, located at 8 North Main St.  I have been on the Union Bridge Town Council for the last 16 years and the Union Bridge Planning and Zoning Commission for 14 years.  I am a graduate of the University of Maryland Academy of Excellence in local government and I belong to the Union Bridge Plymouth Chapter #41, Order of the Eastern Star.  I attend, and am a member of, Uniontown Bible Church.  Additionally, I have been coordinating our drug awareness expo since 2015, now named Standing Together Against Addiction (STAA).

Why do you want to serve in this role? My reason for running for re-election is simple.  I love our small town with rural charm, friendly people, businesses, and good schools.  My primary focus has always been to do what is best for the residents.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? My goal is to continue the Union Bridge Main Street Revitalization.  My wish is to attract more people to our Main Street with businesses that support the residents’ needs.  We have a historic downtown with vintage appeal and lots of potential.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what would you like to see done to help in recovery? The economic impact has been very hard as in every other town during the pandemic.  We are all anticipating the day when the pandemic is over.  I would like to see everyone back to work as soon as safely possible to minimize the current financial burdens.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? The best thing about Union Bridge is we are good people with great community spirit.  We accomplish many tasks with volunteer efforts and town support.  I would like to leave a legacy of our town by beautifying while preserving our history.

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? I have a unique knowledge of the town, it’s history and people.  I would like to continue my efforts on the Union Bridge Town Council.  The council consists of dedicated community members who each play an integral part in projects and events in the Town. It is my goal to continue to do my part.

Cheri Thompson

Cheri Thompson
Cheri Thompson

Biographical information: Born in Fairfax VA, I have lived within the town limits for 21 years

Why do you want to serve in this role? I have been approached by numerous people who have asked me to run.  I want to help our town prosper.

What is something you want to begin working to accomplish your first week on the job? Get the citizens involved,  by keeping them informed by having the newsletter mailed to their homes.

How has your municipality in particular been affected by COVID-19 and what you like to see done to help in recovery? Numerous people have Iost jobs, people need to help support the local food bank to make sure people have food for their families.

What is the best thing about your municipality and what is something you’d like to see change? We have small town charm, I’d like to see Main Street store fronts cleaned up and occupied

What skills do you have to offer constituents that other candidates might not? I am a proven leader and I get things done. I believe in transparency and being open and honest.

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