Editor’s note: This is one in an series of profiles of candidates running for office in the April 3 primary election.
Saying he believes the City of Hagerstown is in need of “stronger, more bold leadership,” David S. Gysberts is making another run as the Democratic candidate for mayor in November.
Gysberts, who lost the 2009 mayoral race to current Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, will face off with the winner of the April 3 Republican primary, which pits Bruchey against challenger Brian D. Caron. He has no opponent for the primary.
The general election is Nov. 6.
Gysberts, 34, of 795 Hamilton Blvd., said the position of mayor doesn’t have any real power and the mayor is charged with getting “people rallied around an agenda that moves Hagerstown forward.”
“I’m not running against Bob Bruchey by any means ... I’m really running for the city,” Gysberts said. “I’ve been around since I grew up in Hagerstown, and we’ve been talking about these changes that we need for all these years and still nothing has happened.”
Gysberts, who has served on the city’s planning commission for five years and as chairman of Hagerstown’s Trash and Recycling Task Force, said he sees the past few years as a “failure of leadership at the top” to get people rallied around “an agenda, an action, a vision that everyone can get behind.”
A counselor at Poolesville High School in Montgomery County, Md., Gysberts said his experience and training as a mediator would help bridge the gap between “vastly different viewpoints” of those running for seats on the five-member city council.
If elected, Gysberts said the idea of developing a shared vision for Hagerstown is his top priority. A steady tax rate is the only positive thing he’s seen from Bruchey during his time in office, he said.
“What I see as the most important issue is getting a vision that everyone can share and then getting the right people around the table to make it happen,” Gysberts said. “I see that as pretty much all the mayor can do.”
With talk swirling about the possible relocation of the Hagerstown Suns, Gysberts, a batboy for the club when he was a child, said it would be a shame for Washington County, in general, if the minor league baseball team left the city.
“We’re always talking about incentives, and attracting jobs and businesses. Well, here’s a business that’s been here for 30 straight years,” Gysberts said. “If we were to let a team, or business, leave that had that kind of commitment to the community, what does that say about us as a community?”
While building a new stadium doesn’t seem practical, major renovations to aging Municipal Stadium are needed, as is an overall redevelopment plan for the East End, he said.
“There’s been an East End redevelopment project sitting on the shelf, collecting dust somewhere, that some committee years ago came up with,” he said. “It’s that kind of stuff that comes back to having a larger vision. How does it fit in with our overall vision of what we want for Hagerstown?”
Talking about the city’s downtown area, Gysberts said a “balance of income groups” should be the target to stimulate growth, and attract businesses and residents back to the City Center.
“Obviously, something like getting the board of education would be a great idea, a major employer, because you’d have that demand during the day,” Gysberts said. “Balance that with having residents there in the evening and you’ll have a real thriving town.”
A 1995 North Hagerstown High School graduate, Gysberts has a bachelor’s degree in sociology, philosophy and education from Salisbury University and a master’s degree in counseling from West Virginia University.
The mayor of Hagerstown serves a four-year term, earns an annual salary of $28,000 and is eligible for city health benefits.
David S. Gysberts
Date of birth: Oct. 28, 1977
Address: 795 Hamilton Blvd.
Education: Graduate of North Hagerstown High School, 1995; received a bachelor’s degree in sociology, philosophy and education from Salisbury University in 1999; and a master’s degree in counseling from West Virginia University in 2003
Occupation: Counselor at Poolesville (Md.) High School
Party affiliation: Democrat
Political experience: None. Lost bid for mayor in 2009; served on Hagerstown Planning Commission for the past five years