With many of the kinks worked out in the implementation of charter government in Frederick County, Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater hopes to spend a second term focusing more on legislative priorities.
The 34-year-old Democrat represents council District 4 and filed earlier this week for re-election.
“I want to focus more on legislative priorities now that we’ve gotten charter government figured out,” she said of the reason she decided to throw her hat in the ring for another term.
Frederick County transitioned to a charter government in late 2016, three years into the sitting County Council term, which was Fitzwater’s first. She said she believes the transition was a success but that it took away from some of the issues.
“One of the biggest issues in Frederick County right now is a lack of affordable housing, or as some people call it, workforce housing,” she said. “For many reasons, people can’t afford to live here.”
Fitzwater explained that she wants to focus on developing partnerships and incentives with various partners to reach the goal of creating more affordable homes across the county.
She pointed out that she has introduced and helped pass several pieces of legislation to help with that already and wants to continue that momentum.
“I want to find more tools in our toolbox to help with affordable housing,” she said.
Another issue Fitzwater hopes to address and hopefully thwart in the coming term is the heroin and opioid epidemic as well as human trafficking crimes.
“Those are crimes really hidden in plain sight, and I want to continue working with our partners to make sure we are staving that off and keeping it from becoming a bigger problem in Frederick County,” she said.
With District 4 situated primarily in the city, Fitzwater said she also hopes to work more closely with city government officials on pertinent issues. She said she is excited to see progress on the East Street Corridor Small Area Plan, which identifies ways to market industrial and commercial development along East Street and residential development in surrounding areas.
“That’s my side of the city. I live right off of East Street,” Fitzwater said. “There’s so much opportunity for growth there — real estate, commercial, office, residential — and making that a potential gateway to the city. I’m excited for that moving forward and for working with the city in any way I can.”
As of Friday, Fitzwater was the only candidate running in her race, but she said she is campaigning as if she has an opponent, as she still may get one before the late Tuesday filing deadline.
“I want to earn the votes of our constituents in my district just as I did four years ago,” she said. “I’m out knocking on doors, talking with constituents. I try to go to [Neighborhood Advisory Council] meetings.”
All in all, Fitzwater said she is excited to run again and hopes to continue playing a role in shaping the direction of the community she calls home.
“I had my son Jonah during the last term, and my husband and I are committed to staying here,” she said. “I have a personal investment in making sure we have great schools and safe communities. I want to raise my family here, I want to be an advocate for people starting families, who have young kids.”
The County Council consists of seven members, five elected based on geographic districts and two at-large. They serve four-year terms and currently earn $22,500 annually.
Districts 3 and 4 make up the city, with the 4th District making up the east side and District 3 making up the remainder. Councilwoman M.C. Keegan-Ayer, also a Democrat, represents District 3 and also filed for re-election last week. As of Friday, she was the only one who had filed in her race as well.
The 2018 primary election is June 26, and the general election is set Nov. 6.