Monrovia resident Steve McKay wants to switch seats in the Frederick County Council chambers.
McKay, best known as the president of RALE and a frequent commenter at council meetings, will seek election to represent District 2 in 2018.
The Republican will step down from his position with RALE to pursue the office, but the organization will carry on, McKay said. RALE, or Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, was formed five years ago to voice opposition to the proposed Monrovia Town Center and several other developments in the county.
McKay has been a staunch opponent of the amount of development approved by the former Board of County Commissioners between 2010 and 2014. And while he thinks the current County Council has taken a more measured approach to growth, he’s concerned about what the council could look like in 2018.
“I look at it from the standpoint of public service,” McKay said recently. “When you’re going to be as critical of others doing that job — as I have admittedly been — then you have to be prepared to step in and do it yourself.”
It’s McKay’s first time seeking elected office.
While he’s always considered himself a Republican, McKay said that political designation shouldn’t matter as much at the local level.
“I think the point to remember is that development isn’t a partisan issue. It’s a money issue. It just happens that the last Board of County Commissioners, who were all Republicans, embraced development so strongly,” McKay said. “If you look at Montgomery County, long run by Democratic legislators, they’ve also long been controlled by development interests, in my opinion.”
In recent years, McKay has advocated for changes to the county’s ethics laws to reduce the campaign finance influence of developers.
He applauded recent compromise legislation between Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) that could take effect before the height of the 2018 election season, if passed quickly by the General Assembly. The compromise bill requires nonelected members of some county boards to step down if they run for office to avoid outside influence and expands a prohibition on campaign donations to County Council members from people related to pending development projects. It wasn’t McKay’s ideal version of the legislation, but he’s glad to see a bill moving forward.
“That’s compromise and that’s what you have to do,” McKay said. “... You need to be able to accept the fact that someone else has some of the answers. You don’t have all the answers. And in the best interests of the community as a whole, you compromise.”
For his own campaign, McKay said he will not accept any donations from developers.
Ultimately, McKay said, his campaign boils down to three things: development, ethics and “government that works.”
That means, he said, he would work with other council members and Gardner to solve problems. “I don’t think being a member of the council should automatically mean an adversarial relationship with the county executive under the standard of checks and balances. And we’ve been seeing that. I really dislike that,” McKay said. “You know, this is local government. Those two branches need to work together for the betterment of the community.”
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.
District 2 includes southeastern portions of the county, including Libertytown, Monrovia, New Market, and portions of Urbana and Mount Airy.
The district is currently represented by Councilman Tony Chmelik (R).
The 2018 primary election is on June 26, and the general election follows on Nov. 6.