Three people are vying to be Emmitsburg’s mayor in an election set for later this month.

Don Briggs, the current mayor who first was elected in 2011, is running for election against long-time commissioner Cliff Sweeney, and former Mayor James Hoover.

The election is scheduled for Sept. 29 at 22 East Main St. in Emmitsburg from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Town Clerk Madeline Shaw said personal protective equipment will be provided for election judges, and extra precautions will be taken due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Only two voters will be allowed in the voting room at a time and they must be six feet apart,” Shaw wrote in an email. “All voters are required to wear masks and use hand sanitizer prior to entering. Our election judges will be wiping down surfaces after each voter and collecting pens for disinfecting after each voter. We even hired an extra election judge to stand at the door this year and make sure these guidelines are adhered to.”

Those who don’t feel comfortable voting in person can request an absentee ballot, either by visiting the town office or via the town website. They must return those by 3 p.m. on Sept. 28 either by mail or via the town office’s drop box.

A virtual forum will be hosted Thursday from 7-8:30 p.m. between the three candidates, hosted by Michael Hillman, editor of the Emmitsburg News-Journal. It will be on Channel 99 or online via a link on the town’s elections page.

The mayor earns $8,000 per year, serves a three-year term and will be sworn in during the town board of commissioner’s meeting on Oct. 5.

The Frederick News-Post emailed five questions to each of the candidates. Here are their responses, going in alphabetical order by last name.

Don Briggs, 76, mayor from 2011-presentWhy are you running for re-election?

I share our community vision for a special place to live where traditions and history are respected and new opportunities are welcomed to continue to grow the community in a balanced way. The pandemic challenges this vision. Continuity of leadership is needed and being mayor is a full-time job.

What do you feel your greatest accomplishments as mayor are?

Identity: Settling Town establishment date at 1785. Opening Brookfield Drive onto Irishtown Road. Taxes reduced 14 percent. Aggressively seeking grants ($593,000) for Main Street project, sidewalks connect town (for first time), renovation of pool/pool house, dog park, all-accessible playground. Development of cost saving renewable solar energy, LED streetlighting, electric car/public recharging stations. Active stewardship of 900-acre forest. Adding seven historic wayside exhibits. Boys and Girls Club is here. Ryan Homes is back in Brookfield.

What are the key challenges facing Emmitsburg right now?

Town pandemic management experience is crucial. The health and safety of our residents and staff is our number one priority. COVID-19 is a very serious disease. We are preparing for a possible surge in cases this fall. In spite of challenges we are stable place, continuing to attracting new residents and businesses, provide the day to day services, while giving much needed additional emphasis to overhauling water and sewer lines.

Brown water was a key issue late last year. How do town officials address this moving forward?

We have been systematically overhauling decades of overlooked maintenance of water and sewer lines. During the last years some residents suffered greatly from discolored water that spotlighted the complexity and expense needed to address our aging systems. We have a veteran staff and have brought in State and industry experts to assist in resolving and moving forward with the overhaul. To pay for this we are aggressively seeking grants from state and federal government agencies.

In 10 years, what does Emmitsburg need to look like?

Remain being that special inviting place to live, raised a family, or retire. Where we have balanced commercial and residential development that includes superb schools. Where our historic sense of place is cherished, intact and welcoming. Where our town vision is a shared one with our economic partners, FEMA, the Mount, and the Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton. Where we have an inviting public infrastructure of parks, sidewalks and activities for our youth and seniors.

James ‘Jim’ Hoover, 56, commissioner from 1998-2002, mayor from 2002-11Why are you running for mayor?

I am concerned that the town has not continued to properly maintain or upgrade the town’s infrastructure.

What do you feel your greatest accomplishments as commissioner and mayor are?

Completing the (then new) water treatment plant, securing 74 percent of the funding to replace the sewer plant, establishing and implementing family oriented programs and events, replacing several non-working fire hydrants, replace several sewer and water lines, creating a $1.4 million emergency (rainy day) fund, partnering with Mount St. Mary’s University to connect the two water systems, televising town meetings, and establishing the town’s first website.

What are the key challenges facing Emmitsburg right now?

The deteriorating infrastructure. For the past eight years the town has not implemented any new infrastructure projects. The town needs to establish an ongoing replacement plan for its infrastructure and equipment. We must plan and be prepared for our future before an emergency or crises occurs.

Brown water was a key issue late last year. How do town officials address this moving forward?

The town needs to evaluate the sewer and water system including its pipes and identify issues and concerns. Establish and prioritize a list of projects and identify a funding source.

In 10 years, what does Emmitsburg need to look like?

A quaint small-town with pride and small town charm and character. At the same time capable of providing the necessities and resources that its residents and businesses need and expect. With todays technology the town will need to continue to move forward in a digital environment but it does not need to leave behind its heritage.

Clifford ‘Cliff’ Sweeney, 55, commissioner since 1996Why are you running for mayor?

I spent 22 years learning the ins and outs of everything in the town: water and sewer making and processing, planning and zoning, parks, streets and roads and how the town runs day-to-day. l am ready to take Emmitsburg on its next journey to grow and become the best ‘small town America’ Frederick County has.

What do you feel your greatest accomplishments as commissioner are?

My best accomplishments as commissioner have been new water and sewer plants, finishing memorial and community parks, a new pool and pool house, all new sidewalks and bridges and bringing new development to town like Pennbrook, Southgate Emmit Ridge, Silo Hill, Brookfield and senior living, a new town office, new library and senior center and making the town go totally green with solar energy.

What are the key challenges facing Emmitsburg right now?

COVID-19: how to try to get back to as normal life as we can. Helping our local businesses survive. Trying to bring our youth activities back and schools and daycare. Trying to bring new businesses to town. Fixing our infrastructure problems like brown water and wild water problems, upgrading as much as we can.

Brown water was a key issue late last year. How do town officials address this moving forward?

Applying for grants to replace the pipes, getting low-interest loans to help offset the cost. We need to replace the three lines ASAP. We need the new lines for drinking as well as fire services to our residents.

In 10 years, what does Emmitsburg need to look like?

l think Emmitsburg should look like it does now, but with a few added things: new business on the east side of town for more town employment, and shopping so our residents don’t have to leave town. Our town town parks filled with our children playing Little League, soccer, basketball and football and a lot more community involvement.

Neighbors getting to know neighbors, everyone helping one another making Emmitsburg one of the best places to live.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(1) comment


Hoover claimed that no infrastructure has been addressed in 10 years yet Commissoner Sweeny clearly (as did Briggs) stated the numerous infrastructure projects including but not limited to: a big bridge that was the longest running bridge-construction on the Eastern seaboard (but she is a beauty), all sidewalks through town were replaced, center of town was redone and includes brick hardscaping (although left turn signals are desperately needed), and last but not least, so many of our quaint buildings on Main Street have participated in the improvement grants that have drastically improved the facades of many homes/businesses.

What I would have liked to have seen mention is the very high ALICE data for Emmitsburg. I believe it is the highest percentage in Frederick County. ALICE families are those "living just above the poverty line." Many of these families are single-parent, rent-stressed, have little to no transportation, children lack high-quality childcare, and are often one paycheck away from losing their livelihoods. That's a scary place to be and it should be a main focus of Emmitsburg. We need the families that choose to reside here to stay here. We need reliable transportation to Frederick. We need Level 4 & 5 Excels child care.

Emmitsburg is a great little town. More diversity would make it feel more welcoming. One man at the edge of town likes to portray his misery through political statements on a property he could never really make into a business and many town residents feel this anger-spewing has a huge impact on keeping out diversity and new homeowners. Properties on that side of town are very hard to sell because people are forced to read hate speech every time they leave and arrive home. Freedom of speech is great until it slowly strangles a small town.

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