Joe Ritz is running unopposed to retain his seat on the Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners, but he still has plenty of vision for what the town of roughly 3,100 residents should look like in years to come.
Ritz, 44, would begin his third term later this year if he is elected. That election, along with a three-way race for mayor, is later this month.
Like the mayoral candidates, taking care of the town’s infrastructure—whether that be water and sewer pipes, roads or bridges—is important, Ritz said.
That became apparent when several residents in town experienced brown and discolored water late last year. Ritz said pursuing state and federal grants must be the first option, before looking to commercial banks for loans as a last resort.
Ritz added that he would like to see more businesses downtown and on the east side but also cited a need for more parking. He understands a municipal lot or parking lot might be tricky to build, given a lack of land. But officials should be creative when looking at those options, he said.
That includes trying to bring family-oriented businesses to the county’s northernmost municipality, and looking at what makes Emmitsburg unique, he said.
“There’s a lot of history here in Emmitsburg, so tapping into that,” Ritz said. “We have Ski Liberty nearby ... maybe even [get] businesses that are linked to our multi-use trails … so things that are unique to our location.”
Ritz noted town officials will need to be aware of Mount St. Mary’s students coming back on campus. So far, the town has been fortunate regarding case counts, but many students live in town, so officials will need to be alert, he said.
At the town square, motorists have needed to be alert at that intersection since it was modernized and part of the downtown beauty project. Ritz said he disagrees with Maryland State Highway Administration officials that changing traffic flow at the intersection would make it more dangerous.
He’s experienced challenges there with people making illegal turns and other issues.
“I know a lot of people are frustrated with it,” Ritz said.
Residents have also told him they desire a greater variety of fast food and other restaurants so they don’t have to leave town. Completing some of the town’s developments, including Emmit Ridge II next to Northgate, would help incentivize those businesses to come, along with increasing the tax base, Ritz said.
If Ritz, first elected in 2014, wins again, he will make $4,000 per year as a commissioner, said Madeline Shaw, Emmitsburg’s town clerk.
The election is scheduled for Sept. 29 from 7 a.m.-8 p.m., at 22 East Main St. in Emmitsburg. Absentee ballots can be requested by calling 301-600-6300 or by visiting the town’s election page on its website.