Perhaps County Council candidate Bob Caldwell said it best in his closing remarks. Pointing to the side of the room where the duo running for State’s Attorney were sitting, he quipped, “(Over there) we have passion, and (on this side) potted plants.”
Indeed, most of the interest in the event came out of a contentious exchange between State’s Attorney candidates Matt Maciarello and W. Seth Mitchell. But a total of ten candidates had something to say during the event, while three others submitted written answers to questions presumably posed by the moderator, PACE director Dr. Adam Hoffman.
Since it works out well for post length to discuss the six County Council candidates who showed (plus the three who submitted written statements) as one post and save the County Executive and State’s Attorney for a later post, I’m going to do it that way – otherwise I’m looking at a 3,000-plus word post. So you get a tease.
The format was a little bit different than most, with the candidates not only presenting their opening statements but also answers to two questions regarding ideas to deal with the surge in crime we’ve had locally and why voters should choose you over your opponent, all in one four-minute monologue. Once these questions were answered, the format allowed for a few questions supplied by the audience and closing remarks.
Instead of working in strict chronological order, I’m going to summarize what each candidate said in order of their contest. One weakness of the format was that opponents in some Council races did not necessarily speak consecutively; this summary will correct that. For the record, all but one County Council candidate was represented – Dave Goslee, Jr. in District 1 did not attend or submit the questionnaire, while both District 2 contenders Mike Calpino and Stevie Prettyman along with at-large hopeful Matt Holloway submitted written remarks read by Dr. Hoffman.
So I’ll begin with County Council at-large posts and run in alphabetical order through them and on to the contested district seats.
David Cowall began by noting the turnout, “reinforces my faith in democracy.” He went on to point out that, in reality, crime statewide and even in Wicomico County has declined, at least statistically. And while he was “impressed” with the cooperation between law enforcement officers (hereafter referred to as LEOs with the phrase ‘law enforcement’ similarly abbreviated), we should focus on repeat offenders. Yet “we need to emphasize the professionalism” of LEOs – “we don’t need Barney Fife as our deputy sheriff.”
He also promoted his background as a former Naval officer, cancer specialist, and director of Coastal Hospice, which he termed “an excellent model for government.” To him, it’s more important to educate than incarcerate.
In his closing statement, he added a touch of humor by saying, “I want to bring back beards for elected officials.” But he stressed the ideas of civility, integrity, and hard work and concluded, “I’m not a particularly partisan person.”
Bob Culver stressed his business experience numerous times during his presentations, making the argument that the county needs a businesslike approach to governance. (As you’ll read in the next installment, he and Joe Ollinger were on similar pages.) To him, the agriculture industry needs to stay as our number one job producer, along with an emphasis on tourism.
One interesting idea brought up by Culver was the thought of having part-time officers as Ocean City does during the peak season. They may not necessarily carry weapons or do the same functions as a regular LEO but could be useful in certain situations. But his “business voice” came out in comparing himself with his opponents on the revenue cap – we need to “do more with less” and “quit whining.”
Government should provide “more bang for our buck,” concluded Bob, and “we need to be able to stand up on our own” without needing as much help from the state and federal governments.
Matt Holloway was not present to give an opening statement, but stressed business growth and more certain punishment of offenders along with having the best equipped and trained LEOs as possible in his answer to the crime question.
He stressed that he was superior to his opponents because he was, “young, motivated, (and) can bring fresh ideas” to the table. Matt also asked us to consider his agricultural background and “business sense.”
Returning to the political fray after a four-year absence for “medical reasons,” Ed Taylor spoke about his efforts to reduce recidivism during the period as a consultant. Apparently his ideas worked, as Taylor claimed he helped lower the recidivism rate by 80% through helping to provide jobs and housing. Yet since he “wanted to be part of the solution” for a county which needs to “survive hard times,” he’s back for another try.
“We need to reestablish community substations,” said Ed, as he also stressed community involvement and stiffer penalties as ideas to combat crime. Describing his opponents as “good people…I don’t think I’m better than any of them,” he based his argument on election on his “fourth degree” (after a bachelor’s and two master’s) – a “PhD in politics.”
In closing, Taylor again spoke of his experience to help bring the nation, state, and community “out of the depression we’re currently experiencing.” He also claimed, “I will always be on the side of the FOP…they deserve LEOPS” (a pension plan for LEOs and the subject of a long-standing collective bargaining dispute.)
Turning to the district races, Sheree Sample-Hughes had a walkover in her District 1 race as the lone candidate to show up or respond. So she stressed her “passion to serve” and lengthy background in public service as a county and state employee before taking her elected position four years ago. Her job, as she saw it, was to “connect people to resources.”
As far as crime, Sheree saw substations as an “information source” but we also needed to stress code enforcement and juvenile services. Continual LEO training and dialogue would be beneficial as well. In a second term she wanted to build a stronger relationship with the judicial system while maintaining the dialogue she had with her district through regular community meetings.
And while she expressed the thought in closing that, “tough times are yet ahead,” thus far she’s “served with passion, vision, and energy” and pointed to graffiti legislation as one of her key achievements on the County Council.
Neither candidate for District 2 could attend the event, and while Mike Calpino wrote that while he couldn’t properly answer a request for specific proposals “on what I know little about,” he did take the time to outline an answer to the comparison to his opponent via a lengthy plan for county expenditures.
On the other hand, Stevie Prettyman begged forgiveness for not being able to attend and similarly punted on the initial question by saying, “I’m not an LE professional.” But she has supported their budget requests in the past and was an advocate of the former DRILL Academy – “I was disappointed that it failed.” And while it’s not an issue the county could directly address, she supports legislation allowing concealed carry.
In stating her case for re-election, Stevie wrote that she’s “not new to politics…I’m independent and do my homework.” With debate on the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning code looming, she believed her experience in dealing with these in the past would serve her district well – as an example she cited the Cove Road controversy.
While District 3’s Gail Bartkovich was present, she got a pass in the event because she’s unopposed. The last Council race in contention was the District 4 race. (I did not see District 5 Council member Joe Holloway present; he’s also unopposed.)
Bob Caldwell is no stranger to legislative politics, as he served a term on Salisbury’s City Council (and ran for mayor in 2009 as well.) It was part of his “history of public service.” Regarding crime, a subject that “all communities wrestle with,” he reminded us that “LE is reactive” and our court commissioners had a role to play in making sure the bad guys aren’t released on their own recognizance.
But Bob’s sense of humor served to lighten the event. Referring to opponent David MacLeod as a “friend of long standing,” he stressed their biggest difference was a difference in philosophy. But he couldn’t resist a zinger or two at his friend, joshing MacLeod about referring to “a checkered past (and) being one step ahead of the law” in his opening statement. (MacLeod was speaking about his time as an addictions counselor.)
He stated his case by returning to his root philosophy of “common sense and fundamental fairness” and asked the voters to consider who they trusted to deal with the unexpected which was sure to come.
David MacLeod worked in a similar vein, cautioning Bob that “I hope you don’t mind waiting another four years” for elected office. In addressing the crime issue, David opined that the “leading cause of all these problems is drugs” and as an addictions counselor, “I reduce demand, (LE) takes care of the supply.”
As for why he’s the better candidate, MacLeod put it simply that, “I sorta know what’s coming over the hill.” He warned us to be careful of preconceived ideas, because, as he later noted in his closing, “this is going to be a little bit bumpy.” His closing argument was that we should “go with experience,” both on the County Council and in writing grant applications.
MacLeod said in his presentation that things were, “interesting to say the least.” Certainly that applied to the other half of the forum where County Executive hopeful Joe Ollinger tangled with his incumbent counterpart Rick Pollitt while Matt Maciarello and W. Seth Mitchell sparred in the main event. That’s the subject of part two upcoming.