The Parable of North Beach
The year’s political babble has the tenor of a neo-Freudian emergency room. Lots of people in obvious psychic pain are loudly blaming government — not mom or dad — for all that’s wrong in the world.
So it was a refreshing change to visit the Calvert County town of North Beach, population 1,873, where government seems to work pretty well. So well that all three candidates in the non-partisan race for mayor say they’re setting their electoral sights on making a good town better. They don’t even have much ill to say about one another. What a surprise in a season of mud-slinging.
Elsewhere in our special issue, read all you need to know about a host of elections next Tuesday. Wherever you live, this issue of Bay Weekly is a good companion to take along when you vote.
Here is a glimpse of just one hot race — for North Beach mayor.
Mike Bojokles — a realtor and former-two-term town commissioner — is asking the town’s 1,100 registered voters for a second term so he can finish his plan to make an even better town.
Environment is the theme of his plan in progress. In February, he says, “after four years of negotiating with no fewer than nine federal and state agencies to obtain permits, dredging can finally begin to replenish and expand the town beach.”
A second part of Bojokles’ plan has been just as long in the readying. Now, he says, the feasibility study is complete and design and construction can begin on culverts to “bring water in and out to flush and restore the environmentally sensitive wetlands” near the town’s border with Anne Arundel County.
The third part of his plan, Bojokles says, is to proceed with the purchase of a privately owned Bayside beach between the town and Anne Arundel County.
“So the pieces of the puzzle are out of the box for the whole north section of town, and we’re starting to put them together,” he says. “We have funding for a living shoreline with a kayak and canoe launch and for a wetland trail. When complete, it’ll be great for ecotourism.”
Mark Frazer — a Calvert County dentist and former commissioner — was mayor from 1998 to 2006, when North Beach became Chesapeake Country’s model of a livable, walkable town. Frazer added what he calls “curb appeal,” by both tearing down and building up.
If voters give Frazer a third term, he says, he’ll make the town more livable. First, he hopes to make the Bayfront promenade he helped finish a little less popular with teen hangers-out by adding a community police officer, thereby “staying ahead” of potential problems with gangs and drugs.
This second campaign promise shows just how well North Beach is doing. Too much is put aside in the town’s rainy day fund, Frazer says. Typical is about 10 percent of a jurisdiction’s budget; North Beach’s is in the low 40s.
“I am going to use that money to help offset the town budget over the next four years,” he says. “Citizens in turn, would pay lower taxes. One thing town government can and should do is take less money from residents.”
Lynda Striegel, unlike Frazer and Bojokles, has never been mayor. But since her arrival, she’s been an organizer, founding the Bay Business Group that brought North Beach a farmers’ market and summer trolley connection to the region.
The lawyer and financial planner with a main street business is finishing a term on the council of the town that drew her because it was a good small town.
“We need to use small town charm to our advantage,” Striegel says, of her vision for a self-sufficient town. “We need core, non-seasonal businesses at town scale,” she says. Specifically, a hotel, a bank and a market. Maybe a dry cleaner and bookstore. A bank, she says, because “towns with banks are more prosperous” because of community lending requirements.
The financial planner in Striegel shows in another plank of her campaign platform. That’s overseeing the town’s role in the state-mandated upgrade of the water and sewage treatment plant the town shares with Chesapeake Beach and two Southern Anne Arundel County communities, Rose Haven and Holland Point.
“The entire upgrade is going to cost $1.9 million, with North Beach having at least a quarter share. We need to be active with the state and county to make sure we re getting our money’s worth — for the Bay and because that’s a lot of money for this little town,” says Striegel.
Political signs have sprouted in nearly every yard in North Beach, with mayoral signs abundant and pretty well balanced. In North Beach and across Chesapeake Country, your vote could well be the winning vote.