In her seventh year on the County Council — with well over a decade of public school teaching experience — Jessica Fitzwater will formally announce she is running for county executive Wednesday evening.

Fitzwater (D) said during an hour-long interview Monday she is running because she is invested in the Frederick County community and wants to continue her collaborative approach as a council member in the county’s top government post.

Fitzwater is the first candidate of either political party to officially announce an intention to run for county executive. The primaries will be held June 28, 2022, and the general election is Nov. 8, 2022.

“It might be the teacher in me, that lifelong learning kind of approach that I take with my students,” Fitzwater said. “I seek out information, I ask questions, I take the time to listen to all sides. And I really feel strongly that we need a leader that will use that same approach.”

Fitzwater, 37, credits her parents for getting involved in public service — they aren’t necessarily political, but through volunteering and local outreach, they demonstrated the power of being involved in the community.

She said Livable Frederick — the county’s long-term planning document introduced by current County Executive Jan Gardner (D) — is a valuable “recipe book” to deal not only with traditional planning issues like growth, but also areas like affordable housing, public health disparities and expanding an already strong, diversified economy.

Representing County Council District 4 — the eastern side of Frederick, along with parts of Oakdale and Lake Linganore — Fitzwater has not shied away from controversial issues during her time in office.

She has been critical of the 287(g) program run by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R), where sheriff’s deputies are trained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s detention center and begin deportation proceedings if deemed necessary.

Some political observers have suggested the county executive or council members withhold or decrease funding from the sheriff’s office as a show of opposition to 287(g).

But the sheriff’s office is a separately elected office with autonomy over its own budget, policy and other decisions, Fitzwater said. So if a future county executive were to cut from the sheriff’s budget, that doesn’t mean Jenkins or a future sheriff couldn’t reallocate funds to the 287(g) program, she added.

Future action likely hinges on if Jenkins is re-elected as sheriff next year or if someone replaces him and what their priorities are. One of the options a future county executive and County Council could pursue is creating a county police force, thus taking some law enforcement power away from the sheriff.

“I am not close-minded to anything that would improve public safety in our community,” Fitzwater said of that latter possibility.

She also was involved in implementing Question D with the county’s firefighters union, which set up collective bargaining and a binding arbitration process. More than 70 percent of voters supported that ballot issue in 2018.

Fitzwater was happy with the process and corresponding legislation, noting it provides more opportunities for the county’s firefighters to negotiate at the bargaining table.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 3666 (IAFF 3666) announced recently they would continue to challenge the legislation in court. They note the ability for the county council to cut from a neutral arbitrator’s decision does not meet the requirements of the charter amendment.

“You never please everybody,” Fitzwater said. “If you go into running for office thinking you’re going to please everybody, you’re going to be very disappointed.”

Angela Spencer, former chair of the Human Relations Commission, has worked with Fitzwater on issues related to that group and has seen her in various other venues countywide.

Spencer, who lives in the Ballenger Creek area, said Fitzwater is fully invested in the community and looks forward to her campaign.

“I am very excited for her with this challenge she is about to embark on,” Spencer said. “I believe what Jessica has presented to the community over the years is a true investment … and genuine concern for everyone in the Frederick County area.”

Kavonte Duckett, who first met Fitzwater in 2014 and has run for County Council himself, pointed to Fitzwater’s collaborative approach as an asset to county government.

“She’s willing to listen across the aisle, and that’s a big piece, especially in today’s political climate,” Duckett said.

In many ways, Fitzwater said, her day job as a public school teacher has prepared her for this campaign, as the world of education is “highly politicized.” Many decisions about education are made by elected officials, stemming from the local Board of Education to county council members to state or federal representatives, she added.

“I learned very early that I needed to pay attention to what the decision makers were doing,” Fitzwater said. “If I wanted to stand up for my school and my students and my colleagues, I really needed to pay attention to what our elected officials were doing.

“And that’s what really got me interested in local government in the first place, because I wanted to know what was going on.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter:

@Steve_Bohnel

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

(64) comments

Comment deleted.
Comment deleted.
Hayduke2

Why would you say that about Leonard Keepers?

Comment deleted.
Comment deleted.
phydeaux994

That’s a terrible thing to say about LeonardKeepers piddle......where have you been? We’ve missed you.

matts853

I don’t see this happening for her. Better to hold on to her seat on the council for another 4 years, maybe even become council president, than risk losing a CE spot. 12 years on the council and undefeated in 3 races opens up way more political opportunities than risking a loss and being out of the game for a while.

mgoose806

I think she has a serious challenge when Kai Hagen enters the race.

KellyAlzan

Frederick county is turning blue. BUT, Fred Co is not THAT liberal. I don't see Ky having a chance. He's way too liberal. Fred Co isn't there yet

LeonardKeepers

the democrats wanting to take away our guns reminds me of what hitler did in Germany.what the democrats are trying to do is very dangerous,i saw a news blurb today the sleazy joe is pushing the democrats to pas gun control legislation.the democrats are doing just what the have been ding all song,rushing to judgement.

Comment deleted.
Awteam2021

That’s way harsh.

LeonardKeepers

i do not see the need for a county police force.we also do not and should not be a sanctuary county for illegals.

marinick1

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]LeonardKeerpers [smile]

stjohn42

I am not aware of anyone suggesting that this be a "sanctuary county".

shiftless88

stjohn; it's a right-wing scare tactic to continue to rally their low-IQ voters

phydeaux994

Exactly shiftless, same as Ted Cruze declaring yesterday “the Democrats just want to take your guns”, panicking the unEducated and deplorable’s.

MrSniper

It seems the worse that can be said about councilwoman Fitzwater is that she cares about residents that already live, work, & go to school in our community. That’s a virtue.

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:34

Don't go quoting scriptures, the audience you are trying to reach have not apparently read the bible, or else they wouldn't have said what they said, so you are wasting your time. See I've never read the bible....but I know that scripture well, send out good ripples so you get the good ripples back, but no one needs to command me to do that.

KellyAlzan

I’m craving for some pickles

Paul Sobus

Yes, the pickles of yester-year. Panzer Pickles from Baltimore! I grew up with these!

marinick1

[thumbup][thumbup]PurplePickles [smile][smile]

yogib

I AM SO PLEASED. Jessica is truly an elected representative of the people

bosco

Evidently Fitzwater wants FredCo to be a sanctuary county for illegals.

public-redux

I missed the part where that was said or even implied. A little help, please?

Look at who you are talking to...LOL

bosco

"She has been critical of the 287(g) program run by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R), where sheriff’s deputies are trained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s detention center and begin deportation proceedings if deemed necessary."

shiftless88

That's quite a leap from that statement to "she wants the county to be a sanctuary for illegals"

public-redux

I had read that already when I commented before. That doesn’t say she wants FredCo to be a sanctuary county. Do you have anything on point?

bosco

Ok. If the county no longer supports 287g, what is the result? Could it be "sanctuary county" if law enforcement is not allowed to check immigration status and notify ICE? You all probably believe that the border is not open even though 100 percent of minors are being allowed in, 80 percent of families are being allowed in, plus Biden is putting them in hotels to the tune of $86 million dollars and buying them bus and plane tickets to all over the US without even a court date to appear - to which 80 percent of them ignore anyway.

Sounds like an open border to me.

Hayduke2

In answer to the 287 g question, one should wonder why only 3 Maryland counties support this program? Does that mean all the others are sanctuary counties - GET REAL... As a matter of fact, only 148 jurisdictions accross America participate so the fear mongering about sanctuary counties is just a lot of nonsense.

public-redux

bosco, About 2,950 of the approximately 3,000 counties in the US do not have a 287(g) agreement. Do I understand you to mean that you regard 98% of US counties to be sanctuary jurisdictions?

bosco

public, 30 seconds on the google and this comprehensive list of sanctuary states, counties, and cities cropped up. I can't speak to the accuracy of the list, but it looks like there are more officially sanctuary counties than 287g agreements.

https://conservativemomma.com/2019/04/12/a-list-of-sanctuary-states-cities-and-counties-in-the-u-s/

With Hidin' Biden's open border policy, some of these jurisdictions may regret their decisions. Time will tell.

public-redux

bosco, But your argument is that the absence of a 287g program is exactly the same as being a sanctuary jurisdiction. Which, by your definition, means almost the entire US is sanctuary and pro illegal immigrant. Dumb.

marinick1

[thumbup][thumbup] Exactly right, bosco, as usual. [smile]

bosco

[thumbup][thumbup] marinick1.

Interesting........

KellyAlzan

I would like to thank everyone that has contributed to my campaign for sheriff so far. I love each of you. God bless.

Alzan For Sheriff

threecents

Tell us when the yard signs are ready.

C.D.Reid

I've heard of few things more utterly stupid than the idea of taking any law enforcement powers away from a sheriff. Don't these idiots know how to think, or does thinking just make their empty heads hurt too much?

saogirl52

She may be thinking about having a county police force as opposed to the Sheriff's office handling criminal and traffic matters. It's certainly not uncommon in MD. The Sheriff's office would retain control over courthouse security, summons service, and the jail. I'd like to hear more discussion about comparing the two types of police services.

KellyAlzan

We’re way over due for a county police force.

phydeaux994

👍way, way overdue.

KarlBickel

Saogirl52 and KellyAlzan, actually when it comes to county police departments in the state of Maryland, they are uncommon. Out of twenty-three counties there are only five county police departments. The first was Baltimore County, established in 1874. The last one established in Maryland was Howard County in 1952. Nationally, out of over 3,000 counties, the last I checked which was some years ago, there were sixty-eight county police departments. The largest county law enforcement agency in the country is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. According to the Maryland Association of Counties, a Charter Amendment would be needed to create a county police department. There would be many advantages but it would be an uphill climb in Frederick County, at this stage of the game requiring the support and cooperation of the sheriff, the county executive, and the county council after securing the necessary votes of the electorate.

KellyAlzan

Karl :

As sheriff, I support a county police dept because that will reduce my responsibilities.

saogirl52

Karl and Kelly, what are, in your opinions, the pros and cons of switching to a county police force? It appears to me that all the larger counties in MD have already made the switch.

KellyAlzan

The pro is that with a county police force the county government has control over the spending.

This 287 thing is what’s drawing awareness to the fact that the county can’t control the sheriff dept from the wasteful spending on 287.

My opponent, mr bickle, he wants to run a police agency. That’s why he posted them stats, to downplay the need.

Yes, the larger counties in the area have a police dept. Howard co, Balt co, MOCO co, pg co, Anne arundel co, fairfax co, Arlington co, Prince William co.

KarlBickel

Saogirl52- Switching to a county police department is not so much a matter of size. Keep in mind Baltimore County formed their police department in 1874. Howard County, the last to make the change in Maryland, did so in 1952 and was not very big at the time. Often it is when there is dissatisfaction with the sheriff. Among the major differences are qualifications. A county police chief is generally required to have a college education, professional executive training/education, executive management experience and law enforcement experience. For a sheriff there is only an age and residency requirement. Our current sheriff does not meet the minimum qualifications for a police recruit in most county police departments in the Washington, DC/Baltimore region. A sheriff is elected every four years. Though it may appear they are more accountable to the people as a result, that is not entirely true. You may have to wait up to four years to get rid of a bad sheriff. On the other hand, when you have a problem police chief, pressure can be brought to bear to get rid of them right away. With a sheriff, there is little to no oversight while with a police chief an executive and council can provide oversight and have more direct control over the budget. These are a few of the more important differences.

KellyAlzan

Adding a county police dept will help bolster the economy by the purchase of cruisers and police equipment. As well as the construction of the head quarters. And, the creating of jobs.

The time has come.

KarlBickel

KellyAlzan-moving to a county police department would not require any new equipment, cruisers or headquarters. The current law enforcement operation under the sheriff would become the county police department. The existing headquarters would be used and the sheriff would move his office to the Courthouse. Vehicles would get new decals, and there would be new shoulder patches and badges, etc. With a cooperative sheriff, It could be accomplished within the current budget allotted to the sheriff’s office.

KellyAlzan

I don't quite agree with you Karl. MOCO has a lot of county deputies out and about in cruisers. Additional will need to be purchased. Not a whole fleet, but at least 6, maybe 10.

KarlBickel

Once you win election Kelly [smile] I will be glad to work with you to demonstrate how it can be done without any additional cost to the taxpayer. Fredrick is different than Montgomery County in many important ways.

phydeaux994

The 287(g)Corrections Program is not a Law Enforcement Program, never has been. It would be nice if you educated yourself on the purpose of the Program instead of believing what Sheriff Jenkins tells you to believe. But of course that is what he and Trump count on from the unEducated and the deplorable’s. 🐑🐑🐑🐑🐑🐑baaa!

Hayduke2

Just a few thoughts. How about we get a sheriff who is not an elected position? How about we get a sheriff who isn't required to be political to get elected? How about we emphasize skills more than popularity or party affiliation?

KarlBickel

[thumbup]

KellyAlzan

trumpkins spent many many years grooming the county republicans for his run for sheriff

pdl603

CD, they want a county police force that is beholden to elected officials (i.e.puppet). The beauty of the current arrangement is that WE THE PEOPLE have a say who is the sheriff and how he serves and protects.

fnpreader123

Seems underqualified to me. 10 years as a public school teacher sounds like great experience to be on the school board, not help run the whole county.

RTCarpenter

" well over a decade "

KellyAlzan

Sherf Trumpkins was and still is under qualified. Trump too.

phydeaux994

Under qualified implies Jenkins and Trump have some low level of qualification. In this case Kelly, I would respectfully disagree with you.

KellyAlzan

Good point

Dwasserba

"In her seventh year on the County Council — ...."

artandarchitecture

Jessica, please tell us why you prioritize illegal aliens over actual American citizens in Frederick? We like our Sheriff, thanks.

I see you "championed the successful effort" to repeal English language requirements for Frederick. ?!

https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/5928/Jessica-Fitzwater---District-4

MrSniper

Not everyone likes the Sheriff.

KellyAlzan

so true mrsniper. As evidenced my Trumpkins super super narrow victory

Dwasserba

The ones who do, also like the plural personal pronoun.

marinick1

[thumbup][thumbup] artandarchitecture [smile]

stjohn42

Please don't speak for all of us. Many Frederick County residents have serious reservations about the current sheriff.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!