From U.S. Senator Ben Cardin – December 04, 2014
Mr. President, I wish to recognize an outstanding public servant of Western Maryland, Al Feldstein, who will be retiring at the end of this year after 42 years of public service. As Appalachian Regional Commission, ARC, State Program Manager for Maryland, Al has played a critical role in the success of countless projects and initiatives aimed at advancing economic progress and improving the lives of the residents of Maryland’s three Appalachian counties. His passion for his community is boundless, and his careful stewardship of public resources has consistently set a high standard to which we can–and should–all aspire.
An exemplary leader in public service, Al’s positions as grants administrator with Tri-County Council for Western Maryland and ARC State program manager at the Maryland Department of Planning enabled him to realize the importance of investing in Federal, State, private, and local economic development projects. He was committed to creating conditions for economic growth, many of which strengthened parts of the Appalachian region by constructing and improving basic public infrastructure.
Under Al’s leadership, several rural counties in Western Maryland have benefited from carefully targeted ARC investments in economic development–including the financing of high-speed telecommunications infrastructure to increase local and regional connectivity and affordability. These accomplishments have leveraged far greater support for workforce development and job creation in a region that continues to battle economic distress, high unemployment rates, and severe educational disparities.
ARC’s regional development roles–as advocate, knowledge builder, partner, investor, and catalyst–underlie the commission’s strategy to invest in people, basic infrastructures, and job creation and retention. ARC helps create economic opportunities by making its funds available for seed capital, gap funding, and investments in innovative programs. Although the Appalachian region has not fully achieved socioeconomic party with the rest of the Nation, greater involvement in the region–not only through funding but also public service like Al’s–will continue to help Appalachia’s communities take advantage of emerging economic opportunities and diversification.
Knowing that accomplishing the four goals of ARC’s strategic plan requires intense collaboration and civic engagement, Al was steadfast in working to achieve these objectives: to increase job opportunities and per capita income, strengthen the capacity of Appalachia’s citizens to compete in the global economy, improve the region’s infrastructure, and build the Appalachian Development Highway System.
In working to make the region more economically competitive, ARC’s model of development, based on community support, creates sustainable, lifelong solutions that likewise stress the value of service at all levels. The hundreds of annual projects funded by ARC, all of which address one or more of the strategic plan’s goals, further demonstrate the intrinsic significance of public service and its vital role in planning for a better future.
ARC approves funding for more than 400 projects annually throughout the 13-State region, including both highway projects and access road projects. The projects have invested funding and resources in a range of sectors that directly impact economic development in the Appalachian region, including child development, community infrastructure, transportation, arts and culture, career and technical education.
Maryland’s projects have included the formation of Allegany County Connect 2 Compete, created to boost educational achievement and attainment, and increasing health-care access through Allegany County Public Health Accreditation. Another federally funded program in Maryland, HRDC Head Start Facility, provides services to low-income families with small children, promoting school readiness, health, and parent involvement in an educational environment. In Frostburg, a project called Frostburg Grows: Grow it Local Greenhouse involves conversion of unused mined land into an innovative five-acre greenhouse and shade house complex, designed to create additional job opportunities, reduce food insecurity, and provide local and healthy food to the residents of Western Maryland.
As Hillary Clinton once remarked, “Aid chases need; investment chases opportunity.” Al internalized this message, focusing on the implementation and improvement of reforms to foster, protect, and fully benefit the lives of Marylanders. This dedication to public service helped define and differentiate the various communities he served, and illustrates the many, varied possibilities of public service–not limited to elected office. Serving on scores of local, State, and national committees only cemented Al’s involvement in civic life.
While Al championed community involvement and public service, ARC’s structure also ensures an active Federal-State-local partnership rooted in cooperation. One of ARC’s guiding principles is to support inclusive local decisionmaking, and to cultivate a collaborative problem-solving culture in which community achievements are made possible through collective efforts and investments. ARC’s development of new strategic plans relies heavily on obtaining citizen input on high-priority regional issues, promoting homegrown solutions. ARC awards program grants to State and local agencies, governmental entities, local governing boards, and nonprofit organizations: targeting the region’s specific needs, and executing plans that reinforce the necessity of teamwork and commitment.
Al, too, recognized the fundamental importance of working together to strengthen the capacity of interdependent elements: individual leaders, organizations, and the community as a whole. Working in tandem, broad-based leadership structures and institutions not only spur change but also encourage the establishment of new business and economic opportunities that can strengthen a community while diversifying its base.
Just as ARC’s strategy creates a framework for building on past accomplishments to help move Appalachia forward, so, too, did Al bridge his vision of the rich, fruitful past with his present–capitalizing on existing assets and acknowledging the importance of public service in improving communities. I ask my colleagues to join me today in recognizing the contributions Al made to the State of Maryland and to our Nation.
Above was reprinted from the Congressional Record – Senate, December 4, 2014
Published by Al