Craig Moe is serving his fourth term as mayor of the City of Laurel, a position to which he was initially elected in 2002; previously, he served six terms on the Laurel City Council, including a stint as president from March 1996 to March 1998.
By day, Moe is employed with the state of Maryland as deputy director, operations support, for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). He served in the MTA Police Force from 2003 to 2007, and as a special assistant to the police chief and as assistant secretary of state from 1999 until 2003. Moe has also serves on the governor’s Emergency Management Advisory Council/State Emergency Response Commission and the Interoperability Governance Committee; and, after serving for 10 years on the Maryland Municipal League’s (MML) board of directors, he was elected MML president in 2009.
He’s lived in what has grown to be a city of 25,800 residents for more than 25 years, beginning his public service when he joined the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department in April 1976. He eventually rose to president (the youngest member ever elected to that position) in 1983 and, later, fire chief; in 1986, he was elected president of the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association (and was, again), the youngest president elected to that position.
As mayor, he has worked toward getting the right balance of growth and quality development that will increase and protect the city’s revenues while minimizing the tax burden, and preserving the quality of life.
Moe has lived in Prince George’s County since 1959. Educated in the county’s school system, he graduated from Laurel High School in 1977.
What’s the latest on more mixed-use projects rising in the city?
The Hawthorne property [the former tractor-trailer facility on Marshall Avenue that includes the bowling alley] was sold to The Cohen Group and reapproved for development in late 2015. Their Phase 1 plan has been approved by our planning commission, and Cohen is securing funding. The project will include about 300 apartments, with retail and office space.
How do you describe the city’s financial health?
The city is required to have a balanced budget each year. We have maintained our property tax rates without any raise for several years; at the end of a given year, if there are excess funds, we transfer them for other uses. We are at .71 cent per 100% of the property tax.
What are the city’s financial ratings?
The state program we have been participating in for the last 12 years has a rating of Aa. Aaa is the highest.
What are your feelings about the news concerning the former Laurel Regional Hospital?
I’m looking forward to working with University of Maryland Medical System to move health care in our community and Prince George’s County into the 21st century. The city’s Work Group was formed within hours of us learning about proposed changes at Laurel Regional Hospital; [at that point] I started calling Laurel’s elected officials, and they responded. So did doctors, nurses and other employees at the hospital.
The community responded, too. Many of our citizens boarded buses to Annapolis, attended community meetings, sent letters and made phone calls — all to save the hospital and push for improvements and enhancements, to ensure that our health care needs are met.
What’s the latest concerning the city’s efforts to build a transit-oriented development at the Laurel MARC station?
The site itself is under the purview of the state. Part of the issue is that our city council and its president, Ed Ricks, have been working on picking out a spot for one stop, instead of two that are close together — though that was the case years ago, with a stop at Laurel Park and another at the train station. It’s my understanding that more information should be released very soon.
What are your observations about the updates to Laurel Park and the possibility of the Preakness Stakes coming to town (for at least a couple of years)?
There is a long, rich history at Laurel Park, and many, many members of our community have worked there. If the Maryland Jockey Club decides to move the Preakness here, we would work with Anne Arundel and Howard counties to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
If we get the race, it would affect the region, so coordination of police, fire and traffic control would be crucial.
How do you assess the Central Maryland Regional Transit (CMRT), and transit in Laurel in general?
I believe in a regional approach. When the Corridor Transportation Corp. started via the BWCC, it was just for the city; however, it gradually grew, because the riders know no boundaries. I think it’s important to keep the CMRT running and growing. Given the occasional gridlock on Route 1, it’s even more important to all of us to find ways to keep people moving.
What is being done to boost economic development efforts, notably with incentives for Main Street businesses?
The Main Street Business Relocation grant program, which falls under the auspices of our Community Planning and Business Services offices, is geared toward improving façades, and about five businesses have used the Storefront Retail Storefront Façade Improvement Program during the past few years.
We’re looking at ways to increase participation. Those programs could expand to other parts of that part of the city.
Is there any news on the redevelopment overlay zones?
We have not had any new applications for revitalization overlay zones. The only one I know of that may come up would be at the MARC station. Whatever developer comes in may want to do an overlay there, because it gives the developer more flexibility if they want to go mixed use.
What’s new with the master plan?
We were hoping that it was going to be approved by the end of July. The citizens’ committees have been working on it for the past eight months, and we have the changes and recommendations, so we’re now working on gaining council approval. During our work session in early July, a couple of questions arose, but nothing we think will hold us up.
A good example of what was discussed would be the lack of recreation space in the last plan; since, we’ve made an effort to provide more of it. We’re also working with a developer of the possible annexation of some parkland in the Contee Road area.
We’re hoping [that] strong participation from the public will lead to a smooth approval process, which I see as a good check and balance to see if we’re heading in the right direction.
How has the opening of the Inter-County Connector affected the city?
When our residents use it, it’s been a fabulous addition. However, the intersection where it connects to Route 1 has generated more traffic.
What are your most recent crime numbers?
For violent crime, we are down from 58 to 51 instances for this calendar year, from this past June compared to June 2015; however, property crimes are up during that same span, to 474 from 395. We’re mainly seeing smaller crimes, like smash and grab incidents and drug use.
Are investments forthcoming in the city’s police and fire departments?
Both are independent corporations, but we donate $140,000 per year to both organizations and have good working relationships with the departments, which fall under Prince George’s County’s domain.
We’ve made annual investments to the police department of about $10 million. First, several years ago we moved them from Main Street, where there was no room to grow, into a new building on 5th Street, where it can expand for the next 15-to-20 years. The department employs about 70 officers and 20 support staff.
We’ve also been using body cameras for almost five years. More than three-quarters of our patrol staff uses them. They’ve provided a good check-and-balance system for all concerned.
What would you like to see happening in Laurel five years from now?
I’d like for the mixed-use projects to be completed, but I’m mainly hopeful that it’s vibrant and thriving, while able to maintain its hometown feel.
We’re a smaller town within a metropolis, so we have big city problems. I hope we can continue to offer the services we are providing today due to an expanding tax base.
What’s next for you when your term expires?
I don’t know, but I love being mayor, and I’m here until November 2019. But know that there are no term limits here, which isn’t unusual in smaller municipalities.