Carroll County Commissioner
Kenneth A. Kiler
Manchester, Carroll County
I have worked all of my adult life in construction. I started at C J Miller, Inc, as a laborer, working summers while in school. I was Vice President at Miller from 1978 through 2004. I went to Stewart & Tate, Inc., in York, PA, as Executive Vice President in 2005 and continue there today.
I attended North Carroll High School. I have a BA in Math from Washington College. I took additional undergraduate and graduate classes at Western Maryland College; student taught and completed all requirements for Teacher Certification. I attended basic training at Fort Polk and advanced infantry training at Ft Sill. I graduated from Officer Candidate School in Towson, Maryland, and completed the Officer Basic Course in Field Artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
I have helped with other campaigns. In 2018, I ran for Carroll County Board of Education and was successful. I am currently President of the Board of Education and completing my four-year term. I filed as a candidate for County Commissioner in District 2, Carroll County.
Why are you running for office?
I was glad to serve on BOE for Carroll County. It was an interesting time to serve. We made some hard decisions to keep our students face to face in school. Much of this was due to the other board members, staff and our dedicated educators that were in the buildings. We worked hard to keep the academic achievement and social growth of the students as our first priorities. I feel I bring proven experience and leadership. I feel that the skills I have acquired through BOE, work and the variety of organizations should transfer well to County Commissioner. We need fiscal responsibility and transparency. We need to recognize that residents are our customers and business owner's success is pivotal to the success of our County. We need to work to maintain and grow Carroll County's great quality of life.
What do you see as the most pressing issue the county faces and how would you address it?
The most pressing issue is juggling a number of important issues, especially when developing the budget. County Commissioners need to look at many items while working hard to maintain the current tax rate. Maintaining and expanding the landfills, our infrastructure, funding our sheriff's office, developing new Fire and EMS staffing, funding fair compensation for the County employees, funding our school system and community college, internet availability throughout the county, controlling growth and continuing to fund our ag preservation program. A commissioner needs to manage these areas and more. During my years at C J Miller, we built landfills, added cells and closed landfills. We built and maintained roads and utilities. I was active in the development process. As BOE, I gained knowledge about our school system and the CCPS budget. After 44 years as a corporate officer, I have learned to listen to managers, delegate authority and make global decisions.
What plans do you have to help the county and its businesses successfully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic?
We need to continue to support our citizens and businesses. We need to relax existing protocols and use metrics that protect our most vulnerable and do not overwhelm hospitals. With the number vaccinated and with natural immunity, counting cases is no longer a relevant metric. This is a long climb back to normal. Like the country, Carroll County worked hard to protect our citizens. Our Health Department, County Government and CCPS worked to roll out vaccines better than most. However, we need to make sure we do not repeat the mistakes that we made. Studies have shown that lockdowns had little impact on COVID mortality. The collateral harm and unintended consequences outweighed that impact. CDC learned that cloth masks were not adequate protection. We needed to protect the most vulnerable while trying to avoid the unintended consequences to the less vulnerable. We must learn from that moving forward.
How will you tackle the issue of producing solar energy while preserving quality farmland in the county?
While solar farms are cheaper to build and operate than rooftop solar systems, they are not always the answer. We need to look at the loss of food production, the future maintenance of solar farms and the decommissioning of the panels as they lose efficiency. We also need to consider the community and residents. A large solar farm can look more like something appropriate in a commercial area than an agricultural area. If solar panels are incorporated into a large track of agricultural land and properly landscaped and earth bermed for esthetics, they could be a good source of renewable energy. As we transition to renewable energy, we cannot abandon all fossil fuels until the transition is more complete. We need to reduce our carbon footprint, but we need to stay smart and efficient as we do it.
What would you do to address broadband access in the most rural parts of the county?
Virtual learning showed us the many deficiencies in high speed broadband access in Carroll County. With students at home (and many parents working from home), we learned that many of the satellite internet providers were not fast enough with enough capacity. Even as students returned to the classrooms, some parents continued to want to work from home and rural broadband is also essential to modern agriculture. We need to require our cable and fiber optics lines to be extended to the lesser populated areas of the county. We need to find grants or money from sources like the Universal Service Fund to help fund this work.
What steps should the county government take to address opioid overdoses and deaths?
We have an excellent Sheriff's Department, great relationship with Maryland State Police, Drug Court and great Community Outreach with Tim Weber in the State's Attorney office. Mr. Weber does outreach to both high schools and middle schools. Middle schools were recently added. We need to consider elementary school also. We should also do outreach to families and parents. However, we still cannot keep up with the overdoses and fatal overdoses. We need to continue everything that we are doing. The HOFFA Foundation is a good source. We also need to slow down the flow of drugs into Carroll County by arresting and vigorously prosecuting the suppliers and dealers.
What role can the county government play to improve education in county schools?
Funding. Families come to Carroll because of the excellent school system. We need to work hard to keep it exceptional. The Commissioners and BOE members are meeting quarterly to foster communication. However, funding to the county schools has dropped the last few years. With COVID and ramping up other programs, money has been tight for the county. That situation is true for CCPS also. As times change, needs change. The two groups need to continue communicating and develop a better understanding of CCPS' changing needs. With the new Blueprint for Schools, CCPS should receive more funds from the State, but the funds will come with mandates for its use. We need to advocate through our delegation to modify existing formulas (that seem to punish CCPS) and get more state funds to CCPS. Similar to other departments and agencies, CCPS need to build a relation based on communication and trust.
What efforts does the county need to make to address systemic racism in government services?
Racism exists. It exists in Carroll County. No one is denying that. We also have to look at Carroll County's population. Our minority population is 14%. The largest minority group is two or more races at 6.1%. Those percentages are even smaller for 18 years and over. My family is more diverse than Carroll. I grew up and heard and saw Dr. King and others. Unfortunately, I feel much of his message has been lost. We need to work hard on equality and inclusion. Not separating and excluding. No one should be judged by the color of his or her skin or sexual preference. We need to listen to everyone and extend opportunities to everyone. This all starts with education and our communities. We need to listen to our minority groups. New families are moving to our county and we need to make them feel welcome, regardless of race/ethnicity.
What steps must the county take to improve public safety?
I feel the county has already been taking steps to improve public safety. My biggest fear is that we let influences from outside Carroll bring disrespect for police and the defund police mentality. All of us need to fully support our local Fire Departments, Sheriff's Department, Maryland State Police and all of our local law enforcement. We need to continue to support fair wages and benefits for them. While serving on the Board of Education, I learned that our SRO's were not only protection. They were mentors and role models, instilling a source of trust and stability. There are those in Annapolis, and other counties that oppose that program. It is successful in Carroll and needs to continue. Education and community involvement make everything better.
How is climate change impacting the county and what can be done locally to address the effects?
The United Nations defines climate change as long-term shifts in temperature and weather patterns. The UN states that these shifts may be natural, such as solar cycles and long-term patterns. Greenhouse gas emissions and other human activities are a factor. However, we must stay realistic. We were told in 2006 that we had 10 years to save the planet. Obviously, that was not true. When the predicted warming did not occur, global warming then became climate change. We do need to reduce our carbon footprint. At this time, we need to develop renewable energy sources while not abandoning fossil fuels. We need to look as how electric is generated. What happens when we manufacture and dispose of batteries? Are nuclear energy and fracking for oil and natural gas viable options? Our county is developing locations for solar panel. We need to continue to find economic solutions to renewable energy.
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