Of the 14 candidates for Carroll commissioner, Republican incumbent Robin Bartlett Frazier seems the least interested in changing anything.
She says that the three current commissioners have a fine working relationship, that policies she has voted for will control growth, that the Piney Run treatment plant will satisfy South Carroll's water needs and that county schools are funded more than adequately. She said she's unconcerned about her many critics who believe otherwise.
"I like to believe that people study the issues and know what I stand for," she said in an interview last week in her office. "Personal attacks don't bother me, but it does bother me when misinformation is disseminated. If people take the facts that I am looking at, they will come to the same conclusions."
Frazier, 42, has been the focal point for much of the commissioner-bashing that has been popular in South Carroll during the past several years, but she remains a formidable candidate, with rock-solid support among party familiars and social conservatives. With about $15,000 raised, she's also well-funded compared with most opponents.
She promises that if county voters give her a second term, they'll get more of the same - staunch resistance to tax increases and restrictions on property rights, and an unapologetic effort to infuse government with Christian principles.
Frazier has a long pedigree with the county's dominant party. She attended her first Republican club meeting as a teen-ager on a date with her future husband, Donald. She later served as a delegate to the state's Republican convention and as a member of the Republican State Central Committee. In 1994, she was appointed to the county's planning commission.
In the meantime, Frazier moved from a career as a loan officer to life as a homemaker raising three children. This gave her an unassuming profile when she entered the commissioner race in 1998, but the power of the Republican network behind her became quickly apparent as she paced the field in fund raising. Frazier finished second in the primary and easily won a seat on the three-member board in the general election.
In one of her first controversial decisions, she voted with fellow commissioner Donald I. Dell to give the Rash family permission to rezone 145 acres of their 400-acre farm in Woodbine for a 50-home golf course community. Frazier said the rezoning fit the surrounding landscape, but the decision infuriated Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who said it ran afoul of his Smart Growth program by placing development amid farmland.
"Glendening is unusually vindictive," Frazier said. "He set up stumbling blocks, made mountains out of molehills and wasted a lot of time. But, in spite of that, we made great gains."
In subsequent years, she crossed state environmental and planning officials by supporting construction of a water treatment plant at Piney Run Park and by favoring a zoning law passed last year that many said would invite widespread residential development on county farmland.
The zoning law was scaled back this year, but the dispute over Piney Run rages on. Many South Carroll residents say a plant would ruin recreation at the park, and state environmental officials have withheld permission for the project.
Frazier said last week that she still believes the Piney Run plant is the best way to serve South Carroll's water needs. The lake has hardly lost volume during the current drought, and Frazier said that's a good sign that it could serve as a reservoir without becoming too shallow for boating or fishing. She said that regardless of who becomes Maryland's next governor, she expects state clearance for the plant soon.
"I believe in the project now more than ever," she said.
She has also defended her record on growth management, noting that Carroll's growth rate of about 2 percent a year is lower than those in surrounding counties.
She said laws designed to keep development from overwhelming roads, schools and other public facilities are working.
"We have not approved a single house without adequate facilities in place," she said. She also noted a recent change in county laws that will allow subdivisions to grow by 25 homes a year instead of 50. But, she said, the housing market will determine where and how rapidly Carroll grows, and she's against any overall limit on building permits.
Critics call this a laissez-faire approach to Carroll's greatest problem.
"Ms. Frazier represents a very narrow spectrum of our population which is quite self-centered," said Neil Ridgely, a Democratic candidate for commissioner and longtime Frazier antagonist. "She is adamantly opposed to the zoning and growth controls which would best serve the interests of all the population, opting instead for a free-for-all style of governance which evades both good planning and good common sense."
Frazier has also faced questions about how much her religious faith influences her policy making. She sings in the choir at Westminster's Church of the Open Door, Carroll's largest bastion of Christian fundamentalism, and she displays a plaque listing the Ten Commandments on the wall behind her desk at the County Office Building.
In 2000, she advocated banning recreation at county fields before 12:30 p.m. on Sundays because she believed such activities might draw people away from church services. The commissioners imposed the ban, but Dell and Julia Walsh Gouge, the third member of the panel, rescinded it after a public outcry.
Last year, Frazier successfully pushed for a character education program in the county offices. The program asks Carroll's 600 government employees to extol traits - kindness, loyalty, obedience, responsibility, for instance - that the commissioners deem critical for good citizenship.
The dispatches informing employees of a given month's trait feature drawings of animals associated with the traits. This month's features a bald eagle, designed to represent respect. Frazier got the idea for the program at a conference sponsored by the fundamentalist Judeo-Christian group International Association of Character Cities, an event she and two other employees attended at a cost of $2,200 in county money.
Her efforts toward banning Sunday recreation and adding character education invited derision from Frazier's critics, but she said she'll never back away from her religion or deny that it informs her policy decisions.
"It says in the Bible that God raises people up into positions of authority," she said in announcing her re-election bid. "I thank God and the citizens of Carroll County who voted for me."
Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.