When a candidate uses a sheep placard saying, “Vote for Baaa…ry!” he reveals something genuine about himself. This is no wolf in sheep’s clothing, but the real deal. A local sheep farmer from Darlington with deep roots in rural Harford County, who began his community service at the age of 16 with the Level Volunteer Fire Company, Barry Glassman cares deeply about agricultural heritage, economic vitality, education, public safety, accountability and people. His deep experience in governing comes from serving as a State Senator for six years, State Delegate for nine years, and County Council for eight years, while also working as a claims investigative specialist in the property and casualty insurance field. With broad perspective and leadership experience, Glassman plans to fulfill his promise to make changes and will hit the ground running. His connections to Washington, D.C., and statewide legislators bring a high level of leadership to the County Executive position. And, his connections to Republican Governor Larry Hogan should help with legislative issues in Annapolis.
Several key components of his campaign were addressed at the first County Council meeting on Dec. 2, including presenting a slate of cabinet positions and downsizing, or as he likes to say, “right-sizing” department personnel. The cabinet nominations include new and younger faces, as well as veteran employees, some promoted from within and others who have been reassigned to new positions. A key staff position, Director of Administration, will be filled by Billy Boniface (nominated), outgoing County Council President. “I did consider several people for this position, but he is a perfect fit for this role,” says Glassman. “He will be at the head of the culture change, bringing that country boy work ethic to the job. He’s a full time farmer and at the barn by 5:30 in the morning. He’s not afraid to work hard, and he has the skill set to help us accomplish our goals.”
Glassman is committed to making government smaller and quicker, supported by better technology. “We are looking for reductions in some departments and will ask the Council to approve an early retirement package to begin the process,” says Glassman. “We will be looking to reinvest a portion of the savings into the County pay plans and invest in technology to provide better services. The County has not kept pace with technology improvements. Services will not be affected by downsizing; there is no down-side to right-sizing.”
Glassman is young, energetic and eager to get to work. His legislative experience and connections to the business community grant him access to issues that impact doing business. In addition, he engaged both county employees and over 70 volunteers to work on transition teams and recommend structural improvements to the executive branch. He has a three-pronged approach to improving doing business in Harford County: introduce efficiencies through technology, drive economic development and streamline processes for existing businesses to do more business.
One of his first areas of focus will be creating and improving cross-department efficiencies, particularly in the Departments of Inspections, Licenses and Permits, Planning and Zoning, and Public Works. “We need to address redundancies,” says Glassman, “and enable staff to help businesses through the process. This may mean cross-training personnel to handle issues efficiently and help businesses navigate the process successfully in a shorter time period. And, with technology upgrades, we can create a more efficient electronic process to eliminate multiple reviews.”
The Office of Economic Development, led by Karen Holt (nominated), formerly the regional manager of the Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor, will be condensed into one location to better serve the goals of the department. “To build revenue and jobs, we need to create a modern, state-of-the-art, cutting edge office that will reflect well when competing for new companies,” says Glassman. Glassman’s goals include working with Aberdeen Proving Ground to leverage technology and capitalize on the knowledge base there to grow existing business and pave the way for innovation and business startups.
Glassman proposed to the County Council the functions of the Tourism and Marketing Division be shifted from OED to Visit Harford!, a nonprofit created earlier this year that established a partnership between OED’s Office of Tourism, the Tourism Advisory Board and the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, to promote economic development and tourism in the county. The funding for this depends on passing the long-discussed hotel lodging tax – the mechanism for which was approved in the last session of the Legislature. “Harford County is the only county in the state that does not charge a lodging fee. We need to work with the County Council to figure out how to go forward and then how to allocate the revenue among the three county jurisdictions (Aberdeen, Havre de Grace, Bel Air) and tourism groups,” he says.
“Additionally, Bret Schreiber,” nominated to be Director of Governmental and Community Relations, “will lead an initiative to explore an educational research park. He has deep connections to higher education through his prior position as vice president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association. We will begin working on what I call ‘upper level diplomacy’ utilizing regional resources and connections to explore and lead this initiative.”
A founding tenant of Glassman’s platform is to grow the county’s agri-business, with a focus on preserving the rural heritage of the county. He has stayed connected to farmers and is very involved with local 4-H programs. He would like to build an Agricultural Research and Exposition Center somewhere in the northern part of the county. One of his concerns is that while students are able to focus on agriculture in high school and college, there is a lack of well-paying employment opportunities at home. “One component of a new Ag Center will be to create a partnership with the University of MD/Ag Extension program and possibly connect with partners in Washington to do research. This would create a component to drive well-paying jobs and create opportunities for economic growth, combining Ag with STEM education.”
Glassman is an active participant in the farm-to-table movement, which continues to grow in popularity both locally and nationally, growing sheep and providing lamb for resale. “But,” he says, “We need to close the loop with farmers to make sure that they know about county programs and communicate the needs of the restaurants so they can provide locally sourced products. I worked successfully in the State Legislature on a ‘One-Licensing’ concept, and I’ve set up a transition team to review the regulations between vendors, restaurants and farmers – we need to make it easier to do business.”
Of deep concern to existing businesses and farmers is the so-called “rain tax.” He plans to challenge it and believes that there is a way to address the issue through other budget considerations. But, he says that they will likely need to wait until after the first budget in spring to see the numbers before making recommendations.
And, those “Baaa…ry” sheep placards? They’ve been replaced with “Thank Ewe.” I95