Congratulations to Frederick Mayor Randy McClement.
On Aug. 4, he made a very public act.
He broke a stalemate on the city’s Board of Aldermen and voted against a proposal that would have given historic status to the brick building at 1781 N. Market St., the old Ebert’s Dairy building that is now home to Monocacy Brewing Co.
If the “historic overlay” had been approved, the brewery would have to submit to the Historic Preservation Commission any proposed changes to the building’s exterior.
Now, there are plenty of arguments on both sides of historic preservation. A certain amount of preservation is needed to preserve the buildings in the downtown historic district, which is one of the chief reasons Frederick is a charming and architecturally coherent magnet for visitors and residents alike.
The old red-brick industrial buildings dotted around downtown, on the east and north side of town also have some attractiveness and uniqueness to them and remind us all of Frederick’s industrial past. Some of that is worth preserving.
But putting historic overlays on every old building can go too far and could deter renovation and rehabilitation, depending on the individual building. The brewery does have a handsome facade, and that might be worth preserving.
But what we liked about the vote most was that the mayor acted, publicly. He took a leadership role.
Fancy that. It doesn’t happen very often, and we wish he would do more of it, honestly.
Now, true to Mayor McClement’s style, he didn’t actually make a public comment when he cast his tie-breaking vote.
That is classic McClement. He doesn’t wield a big stick. He speaks softly. He lets his city staff take the lead on most matters and rarely weighs in publicly.
We’re fighting hard our temptation to use the “leading from behind” phrase that Republicans have used as an unfair cudgel against President Barack Obama ever since the U.S. adventure in Libya.
But McClement’s style does remind us of that stereotype. He never seems to be out front on an issue, even though he may be active behind the scenes. We think he needs to be more out in front on issues.
Part of the job of being a leader — whether county executive, mayor or governor — is you have to be willing to take the brickbats from naysayers, earn a few bruises from being out in the public arena, take your hits and show people you can move beyond them.
We wish the mayor would do this on the proposed downtown hotel project, for example. He has largely left it up to his economic development director, Richard Griffin, to take all the heat from opponents of that project. Or he has left the explanation of the need for the project to its coalition of proponents — the Downtown Frederick Partnership, the Tourism Council, the Frederick Chamber of Commerce or the editorial pages of this newspaper, which is owned by members of the Randall family, some of whom also own the parcel on which the hotel might one day be built.
Now, before people start to squawk that we’re only writing this because we have a financial interest in the hotel project, grow up. This family would support such a project regardless of whether it owned the property or not. All of the Randalls believe that developing downtown in a proper way is good for the city and for the county.
But why can’t Mayor McClement be out front on the hotel project, or any number of other issues? The blight downtown, the Hargett Farm regional park and how to pay for it, are a couple that spring to mind.
These are major issues, and people want to know that their leader, the guy they elected, is in there getting his hands dirty, fighting for what he wants and for what the city needs. Part of leadership is being the public face of the city. Sure, you won’t win every battle, but people will respect you more, even if you lose a few rounds, and live to fight another day.
This story has been updated. The previous version incorrectly stated that McClement declined to answer when asked by a reporter after the meeting to explain his vote. The reporter did not approach him for comment after the meeting.