Sen. Ron Young, influential former Frederick mayor, retires
By Jack Hogan firstname.lastname@example.org Apr 12
Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat who represented Frederick County in the Maryland Senate for three terms but is perhaps best known for his 16 years as Frederick’s mayor, concluded a political career spanning more than half a century on Monday as the legislature wrapped up its 2022 session.
During his time in Annapolis, Young helped secure tens of millions of dollars for Frederick County by passing bills and pushing for support in the state budget for education, economic development, health, environmental needs and local projects in the arts and community service, according to a retirement announcement he made in November.
Young, 81, was first elected to the Senate in 2010 after defeating U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., who at the time was an incumbent Maryland senator seeking to win the District 3 seat for a fourth consecutive term.
He retained nearly 51% of the vote total to win reelection in a more closely contested 2014 race, and he scored his most decisive victory in 2018 with nearly 59% of the primary total, according to the Board of Elections.
But to lawmakers in Annapolis and officials in Frederick County, Young was known for his time as Frederick’s mayor. It’s the part of his career he’s most fond of, too.
“I like being an executive more than a legislator,” Young said.
Young began his career in politics in 1970 on the Frederick Board of Aldermen, when he was also a public schools teacher in the county. After serving one term, he was elected the city’s mayor, a position he would hold for the next 16 years and one that would ultimately cement his legacy in the county.
The defining project from his time as mayor came after severe flooding devastated the city and caused millions of dollars of damage in 1976. Young led the charge to construct the Carroll Creek flood control system and linear park that runs along it, which he modeled after flood mitigation infrastructure in San Antonio, Texas.
“He turned a tragedy into an opportunity,” said his wife, Del. Karen Lewis Young, D-Dist. 3A, whom Young has endorsed in the race for his Senate seat.
From the time Young took office in 1974 to when he was voted out in 1990, downtown Frederick went through a revitalization that local officials said was thanks, in large part, to its mayor at the time.
“He laid a foundation that the mayors that have followed him, I think, have a responsibility to continue to build on,” said Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor, D. “And that’s what we’ve tried to do in my time in office as well.”
In addition to Carroll Creek, Young invested resources in local business communities, helped bring a minor league baseball team to the city and oversaw the construction of the city’s first parking garages — the latter of which he said prompted some constituents to cuss him out frequently over the next couple of years.
Young was an advocate for the arts too, and his wife said he helped to kick-start Frederick’s local arts scene. He also served as president of the Frederick Arts Council, the Delaplaine Arts Center and the Frederick Festival of the Arts, according to state archives.
For all the growth he brought to Frederick, Young said the criticism he received over his decade and a half as mayor wore him down in his final term, and he became impatient with those who stood in his way.
“In my last four years, I think I was not as good at working with people,” he said. “I was tired, and I was tired of fighting.”
Sen. Michael Hough, R-Frederick and Carroll counties, said the Senate pair have had a productive working relationship during their time together in the legislature despite representing different parties and supporting each other’s opponents in elections.
Hough said he and Young got to know each other well in 2020, when they worked closely while serving together on the legislature’s Judicial Proceedings Committee.
“Even though we disagreed on votes and stuff, he’s got a very even-keeled, nice demeanor,” Hough said. “I think for somebody like me, too, it’s something I’ve learned about.”
Hough was also first elected to the legislature in 2010, though as a delegate representing District 3B, which encompasses communities south of the city of Frederick. He too is vacating his Senate seat, to run for Frederick County executive.
“If you’re going to come up with a list of the people that are like the top 20 most important people in Frederick County history, he’s in that discussion,” Hough said of Young.
In his final session, Young, along with Hough, sponsored a bill to boost funding for local elderly and handicapped transportation services that passed in the House of Delegates on Monday and awaits a signature from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Young spearheaded a bill that would exempt some Peace Corps members who grew up in Maryland from paying out-of-state tuition at public colleges and universities, and he led another effort to make parking a non-electric vehicle in a space reserved for electric vehicles punishable with a civil fine of $100. Both measures passed the two legislative chambers and await signature from the governor.
Young served on a number of committees and subcommittees. During his final session, he chaired the Executive Nominations Committee and was the lead senator on the Joint Subcommittee on Program Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation.
Before being elected to the state Senate, Young worked as deputy secretary for the state’s Department of Natural Resources and as deputy secretary and then- acting secretary for the Department of Planning.
Beginning in 2001, he served one term as town manager for Indian Head, a 1.2-square-mile town in Charles County that is home to fewer than 4,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Before being elected to state office, Young also worked as a commercial real estate consultant, as president for the local nonprofit East Frederick Rising and as a board member for a number of organizations, according to state archives.
As Young sat in his Senate office in Annapolis last week, just days from retirement, he appeared excited for his life outside of politics.
He’s already penned a book about his time as mayor and plans to continue writing about his career. He’s an avid painter, as evident in the numerous depictions of downtown Frederick that line the walls of his office. He aims to continue that, too.
And he has a bucket list he plans to start chipping away at after winding down from the session.
“It’s nice to reminisce,” he said. “But I’m always more interested in what I’m going to do tomorrow.”
Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan