Four years ago, Hagerstown Mayor Robert Bruchey easily fended off a challenge from school counselor David Gysberts. But as the two square off in a rematch this year, a different result is a distinct possibility.
At the very least, the race is likely to be closer, because Bruchey has become the face of the proposed, and not universally popular, multiuse stadium on the fringe of the downtown core.
Gysberts says he might support a new stadium, but has been critical of the process, in which he says alternate sites have not been given their due, and the public has largely been shut out of the process.
Certainly there are plenty of other issues confronting the city, but there is little doubt that the stadium will be central in the minds of Hagerstown voters next month.
Gysberts is a thoughtful and impressive candidate. We agree with his assessment that the entire city — not just the downtown — has elements in need of revitalization, and we appreciate his comments about the condition of downtown buildings and the need for the city to help potential business owners in bringing them up to standards.
At 34, Gysberts might be a candidate of the future, and a good one at that.
But as we stand on the cusp of what might be the most comprehensive city project in memory, we believe Bruchey deserves the chance to finish the job.
We endorse the mayor with our eyes open to his considerable baggage. His personal business dealings and lack of candor at times are troubling. His style is more that of a bare-knuckle, arm-twisting throwback than a modern consensus-builder.
But there is also a good case to be made that a street fighter is exactly what the city needs in its corner. No one can question Bruchey’s devotion to the city, his hard work on its behalf and his ability to pull rabbits from hats.
In the late ’90s, it was Bruchey who stood up against virtually every mover and shaker in the county and won the University System of Maryland campus for downtown. Today, he is leading an improbable fight for the stadium, which, if properly played, could be the first domino in a wave of downtown action.
Bruchey has had at least a partial hand in the university campus, the arts school, library renovation, parking deck, the arts district and, now, the stadium. None of these projects has come with full public endorsement, but Bruchey doesn’t seem to mind. To him, they are parts of a plan to build critical mass that will allow Hagerstown to escape its lengthy doldrums.
Maybe this is a good plan and maybe it isn’t — but Bruchey at least has a plan, while most of his critics offer nothing as an alternative. And armed with nothing, Hagerstown will lose.
We believe Bruchey offers more than enough of a track record to warrant another term. Real leaders almost always seem to come with flaws, and there are many we must look past in order to give the mayor our support.
But, like these projects or not, there is little argument that Bruchey is capable of results.
Robert Bruchey for mayor.