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Return of the Native Shakes Up the City's Politics

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page C05

Ronald Young, a once and possibly future mayor of Frederick, was gushing recently about the big plans he has around town.

On the Village Green, a mostly vacant expanse where flags snap forlornly above a war memorial, he envisions people strolling along the sidewalks of a neo-traditional downtown of three-story buildings with homes and shops.

Richard Everson Jr., fishing for perch in Mattawoman Bay from a dock in Mattingly Park, chats with Indian Head's part-time town manager, Ronald Young. After three years in that job, Young wants to be Frederick's mayor again. (Photos Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

Over by the Potomac River, he envisions a boardwalk, marinas, and luxurious new homes along the bluffs. And on the banks of Mattawoman Creek, he stops to boast of a success: the new roof and white siding on the town's bait shack and boat-rental concession.

But this isn't Frederick, a city of more than 58,000 people. This is Indian Head, population 3,500, where Young has served as town manager for three years.

Now, at age 64, he wants his old elective office back, the one he held for 16 years, starting in 1974, when he became the youngest mayor in Frederick's history.

It won't be easy.

Hoping to challenge Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty in September's Democratic primary, Young tried to file candidacy papers Friday with the Frederick County Board of Elections. But his comeback bid hit a snag when the board turned him away, noting that he did not meet the three-year residency requirement set by the city charter.

Young, a Frederick native, lived outside the city after his tenure as mayor and moved back in May.

An effort by some members of the city's Board of Aldermen to reduce the residency requirement by changing the charter is mired in dispute.

Young has vowed to keep pushing to get on the mayoral ballot -- through a lawsuit, if necessary -- citing advisory opinions from the state attorney general's office that suggest the residency requirement is too long and would not survive a court challenge.

Even as he stepped willingly into a charter fight that has roiled Frederick's political scene for months, Young said his goal is to return civility to City Hall.

"There's constant fighting," he said recently in his Indian Head office. "In 16 years, I never had a public fight with one of my aldermen. I tried never to say no to people."

He said blame for the contentious atmosphere rests with Dougherty, a former ally for whom Young campaigned when Dougherty was running for mayor. Her governing style, Young said, is "my way or the highway."

Since taking office in January 2002, Dougherty has scoffed at such criticism, saying it stems from male resentment of a strong-minded woman at the head of city government.

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