On Dec. 1, Jessica Fitzwater will raise her right hand and take the same oath of office as her fellow incoming council members.
But there will be one difference in her pledge before friends, family and elected officials: The book under her left hand will not be the Bible.
Fitzwater, who is Jewish, said she's not interested in replacing the Bible with a Torah. Instead, she is thinking of taking the oath on the Frederick County charter or some other government document that will represent her commitment to public service.
"I think it's more appropriate to swear my oath on something I will be upholding. I'm not upholding the teachings of the Bible. I'm upholding the charter or the Constitution," said Fitzwater, who will represent Council District 4.
Fitzwater said she has always supported the separation of church and state but only recently resolved on taking her oath of office on a nonreligious document.
That doesn't mean religion will be entirely absent from the ceremony, which will feature an invocation led by a priest and a benediction by Fitzwater's rabbi. Fitzwater said the event would have included prayer regardless of her preference.
"If there is a religious aspect to the event, I would rather there be more denominations included," Fitzwater said.
Explaining the absence
Commissioner Kirby Delauter was indignant this week about a Frederick News-Post article he felt portrayed him as unwilling to work with fellow council members.
The story about an orientation for the incoming County Council listed the five future council members who attended and noted that the remaining two, Delauter and Commissioner Billy Shreve, were absent. While the story didn't include any criticism about the absence, Delauter believed the "intent was to make it look like we are already becoming obstructionist, which we are not."
During his comments at this week's commissioners meeting, Delauter proceeded to provide a rundown of his movements the afternoon of Nov. 18:
Delauter said he and Shreve were tied up in a meeting called by County Executive-elect Jan Gardner that happened about the same time as the 3 p.m. orientation. The meeting lasted a little over an hour, after which time Delauter had to check in on his job, he said. He then headed back to Winchester Hall for a 7 p.m. public hearing held by the Board of County Commissioners.
He requested that The News-Post clarify the reason for his absence from the orientation.
Just as a side note, though, it is routine for articles to mention which elected officials are present at various meetings. Scroll through the newspaper archives, and you will see many stories noting that a commissioner wasn't around for some decision or other. The objective is not to point the finger; it's just to document which individuals are participating in a particular event.
On Thursday, Shreve noted that he did drop by Tuesday's orientation and sat in the audience for about five minutes before heading back out again. Since the meeting lasted almost four hours, I counted him as absent.
Neither Shreve nor Delauter returned calls requesting comment after Thursday's commissioners meeting.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.