Anne Arundel County Council
James R. Estepp
Odenton, Anne Arundel County
Vice President & Director of Operations, Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable and the Andrews Business & Community Alliance.
Associates Degree- Valedictorian: Essex County College, Newark NJ Bachelor's Degree (High Honors): Rutgers College, New Brunswick, NJ
I have never run for elected office, but I have spent the last two decades cultivating relationships with elected and appointed leaders at every level throughout the county and state so that I can hit the ground running if elected.
Why are you running for office?
Seeing the difficulty middle class and lower-income families have faced here in my hometown of Odenton and throughout the district during the pandemic convinced me that I cannot sit on the sidelines. Someone representing them must stand up and speak up on their behalf. I believe that we can work together to find common sense solutions to assist working people here in the county. As a father of five, I have a focus on the future, for every child, to improve lives every day. My experiences bringing seemingly disparate communities (faith-based, business, military, civic and elected) together makes me uniquely qualified to assist our communities in this challenging time. I want to work for this community, as it's their seat, and everyone in this community will have a voice in how government works for them.
What do you see as the most pressing issue the county faces and how would you address it?
This questionnaire does an excellent job of allowing a deep dive on the county's most pressing issues already, so let's talk about what matters most, taking care of our people. How do we improve the lives of the people in the district and in the county? We serve them. We pick up phones and answer emails. We give people outlets to discuss the issues that are most troubling to them, and we concentrate resources where they can create the most positive impact. Every person I have spoken to in Odenton, Piney Orchard, the Waugh Chapel corridor, Two Rivers, Laurel and Crofton talk about kitchen table issues. For us as a Council to get it right, we have to focus, not on what we think is the most pressing issue, but on what our communities think. I will never stop listening, and we will get it right in District Four.
Will you invest in projects to unclog the county's crowded roads?
Investment in public transportation and our roads is essential. We need to continue to make our Odenton MARC Station accessible, adding sidewalks and safe paths to reach it, while increasing our public transportation options, with additional routes and scheduling. With many of our greatest road challenges on our state highways, we must partner with state agencies to ensure that our roads are both traversable and safe. With so much of the buildup of traffic in District Four due to the significant increase in personnel at Fort Meade, we must also remind the federal government that such increases MUST be accompanied by federal infrastructure dollars to allow local governments to meet the newest residents and employees in the county and the travel challenges such growth inside the base creates outside of it.
What plans do you have to help the county and its businesses successfully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Local businesses are an essential part of the county's ecosystem. Having spent the last 18 years bringing businesses together with the community to forge successful relationships, I am ideally suited to aid all our communities, including the business community. We have to sit down with businesses in the county and treat like them are part of the community. We can learn what they need, gaining understanding of their challenges, while informing them of ours, and fairly considering how to aid them. A significant number of programs already exist through the Economic Development Corporation to assist with new and existing businesses. We must educate the business community to take advantage of these resources. We can also use our pulpit to highlight those businesses who positively impact the community, hire our residents and give back. We must use data to target federal dollars for businesses where they can provide the most impact.
What steps should the county government take to address opioid overdoses and deaths?
Partnerships are key to finding those responsible for the sale and distribution of opioids, as we've already seen this year, with a major ring taken down with elements in Anne Arundel and Baltimore City. Federal, state and inter-jurisdictional communication and partnerships are imperative to ending the criminal enterprises responsible for pushing product out. Locally, we have to educate the community on treatment plans and addiction risk factors. Treatment programs must be readily available and funded by county government. Growing the brand-new Safe Stations program in the county should be considered paramount, removing the stigma of drug usage, while providing medical care if needed and providing treatment care plans beginning almost immediately with Crisis Response teams in place. We must work with local providers to have them encourage alternative treatments, rather than opioids, when battling chronic pain.
What role can the county government play to improve education in county schools?
We must make certain the county follows the Blueprint for Education, meeting the local funding needs of the program. We must also encourage partnerships with local businesses to adopt schools and assist them in meeting their needs. We must work to change the culture and respect level we see for educators, administrators and staff in the community. Four of my in-laws are educators in Germany where they are revered for their impacts in the community and the work they do helping to raise our children. We must work with the public to encourage understanding of the demands our educators face in their days. As the father of a first grader and a 15- month-old, I will be depending on the success of the system for some time, and I will never stop working on its behalf, from a seat on the County Council, or in my community.
What efforts does the county need to make to address systemic racism in government services?
We must make certain, through analysis and civic inputs, to bring county resources and funding to chronically underserved communities. That is only step one, though. Follow-up will be essential, as will getting input from members of the affected communities. To provide lasting positive impact to the community, the changes must address every essential category impacting quality of life; schools, access to healthcare, public safety, economic and job opportunities, transportation and more. County contracts must be examined to make certain that there is equity in the process. We must encourage minority participation in bidding and encourage larger firms partnering with those who have been disadvantaged in the past. Existing programs should be comprehensively reviewed to ensure there are no unintended elements of racism in county government. Racism must not be tolerated in any form, inside or outside of government, and it will not be when I am on the County Council.
What steps must the county take to improve public safety?
Plus-ups in staffing for first responders are a must. We must also make certain we're competitive with our neighbors so that we're not losing staff to other jurisdictions. We must, as I have done throughout my professional career, bring the public and first responders together for frank conversations about how they can work together to best serve the communities they are a part of. County government can lead the way on this, providing facilities and fostering these conversations to create solutions together. We cannot improve public safety unless we hear from those most in need of these services. We must also find the funding to employ technology, whenever possible, to aid law enforcement. We must ensure our fire stations are adequately staffed and that their equipment is up to the demands of the job. This will be a team effort, and it will happen.
How is climate change impacting the county and what can be done locally to address the effects?
Before I go on, I want to thank both the County Executive and County Council for their work protecting the Chesapeake Bay and the county's natural resources. They have shown the state how to do it. I will follow their path, continuing efforts to protect our forests and avoid stormwater runoff into the Bay. Climate change is obviously affecting the county, a great deal in and near the Bay, and in smaller impacts throughout the county and our district. We have already seen, here in Odenton, with the Blue Oaks project, turning an abandoned shopping center into affordable housing, the county can work with engaged partners to better our community, and, in redevelopments such as this one, our environment as well. We will work on protecting our climate, legislatively, and through smart partnerships to ensure the future of our climate for all.
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