Hagerstown City Councilman Forrest W. Easton, whose name was to be one of five Republicans on the November general election ballot, has withdrawn from the city council race, according to the Washington County Board of Elections.
Easton, 37, of 24 Willard St., who was elected to the five-member city council in 2009, said there were several factors that went into his decision to withdraw from the race, including a recent promotion at work that will require more time and travel.
“That was probably the final decision-making process for me,” Easton said, “but overall, the underlying issue ... I’m no longer interested in living in the city of Hagerstown, for multiple reasons.
“I believe the city of Hagerstown is a wonderful place. I’ve been here for 14 years now. However, I think we’re at a crossroads and honestly, I don’t like the direction that we’re going in ... and if things don’t turn around and different decisions aren’t made, I’m very concerned about the city of Hagerstown and the direction it will end up.”
Easton filed a certificate of withdrawal with the elections board Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Director Sharon Mackereth said.
Mackereth said Election Director Kaye Robucci will contact the Washington County Republican Central Committee Thursday. Under election law, the central committee will have until Sept. 27 to fill the vacancy on the ballot created by Easton’s withdrawal, Mackereth said.
Ray Givens, chairman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee, said Easton’s withdrawal comes as a “complete surprise,” and the committee will have to come together to decide who to nominate.
“I’m at a loss,” he said. “I really am.”
Givens said he believes this is the first time a current city council member has withdrawn from an upcoming election this close to the election. The committee was set to next meet Thursday, Aug. 23, he said, but likely will meet sooner with the state’s elections board to make a decision.
Six Republicans were on April’s primary election ballot, with all but political newcomer Jeffrey Coney advancing to the general election on Nov. 6.
Givens said he did not know if Coney would be selected to fill the void on the GOP ticket, but he said when a decision was made, the public would be made aware.
When asked about his decision to move, Easton said not many people are moving into the city, and those who are do not have disposable income or do not work in the area.
“We’re becoming a bedroom community,” he said. “We don’t have a disposable income and it’s sad, to be honest with you.”
Asked if the progression of the proposed $30 million multiuse sports and events center project had anything to do with his withdrawal, Easton said it had no part in his decision.
Easton said he’s concerned with how much the project is going to cost the taxpayers, adding that every council member and the mayor also is concerned about that.
“And I believe that’s why this process is taking so long,” he said.
Calling the project a “huge leap of faith for all of us,” the burden of paying for the facility cannot fall solely on the taxpayers, he said, and all parties involved need to have a “fair shake” for it to be successful.
Easton said he believes the city’s tax rate is not balanced and it keeps some people from moving to Hagerstown.
The services and amenities available to Hagerstown residents are “second to none,” but when people have a choice, they often will opt to live in an area that costs less, he said.
“They’re moving there because they can build a bigger house, have more land for less money and pay less in taxes,” Easton said of areas outside the city. “It doesn’t seem like many people agree with me, but I don’t understand how else you explain it. When given an option, people choose not to have those amenities.”
Easton works for Service Coordination Inc., and recently was promoted to co-supervisor of the company’s Washington County office on Sweeney Drive.
Easton, who lives with his wife in their Willard Street home, said he’s not sure where he may decide to move.