About Dave Wheelan

Maryland 3.0: TEDCO’s Startup Help on the Shore with Bill Bernard

For almost twenty years, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, otherwise known as TEDCO, has been the state’s s lead source for business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies.

And during their nineteen years of existence, TEDCO’s track record has been impressive. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have been helped in taking their products to market through mentoring, funding and networking.  That has led to over $110 million in investment dollars and over 350 and research programs funded since 1998.

But what does that mean for the Eastern Shore?

We asked that question to Bill Bernard, TEDCO’s new representative for the Eastern Shore, to get a better idea of how TEDCO works. Bill’s response was to give the example of a very young entrepreneur with a great business idea but who needed help getting that product to market.

Bill also cites his work with hotDesks, a program started by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center, to provide the tools (like 3D printers) and business consultation support through its Revolution Labs program.

It doesn’t hurt that Bill comes to this new position after a long history of entrepreneurship after a tour of duty in the Peace Corps and a career in marine biology with the Smithsonian Institution. His businesses have included an aquaculture company that operated in the Dominican Republic, and more recently, founding 3Di’s Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Division.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about TEDCO please go here

Profiles in Spirituality: Unitarian Universalism with the Mid-Shore’s Reverend Sue Browning

According to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s own data, the U.U. Church currently has just under 200,000 members in the entire United States, and about two hundred of them attend church in Kent County or Talbot County on any given Sunday.

In comparison, the Episcopal Church, another relatively small denomination, has about 3,500 active members in the same region, while the Catholic faith comes close to having 7,000 adherents.

These numbers may suggest that the Unitarians represent a tiny part of the religious fabric on the Delmarva, but those statistics do not account for the extremely high level of activism these small congregations — one in Kent and the other Talbot County — participate in during the year in their communities. In fact, when one factors in contributions that the U.U. Church make locally in such critical areas of concern for social justice, immigration, and the environment, one then can one see the full impact of the Unitarian Universalists on the Mid-Shore.

And one person who sees that impact on an almost daily basis is the Reverend Sue Browning, who is in the unique role of being the minister of both the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton as well as the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River in Kent County.

The Spy sat down with Rev. Browning to talk a bit about Unitarian Universalism as a faith, which is liberal by nature and characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” In other words, Unitarian Universalist members do not accept a creed per se but are unified by a shared search for spiritual growth.

We also talked to Sue about the important role that faith, unconventional as it may be in the U.U. Church, plays in the life of its members, the spiritual dimensions of aging, and the need to exercise one’s compassion and gratitude like a muscle which will only gets stronger with time.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Mid-Shore Unitarian Universalist Churches, please go here for Chestertown and here for Easton




Mid-Shore Arts: Monty Alexander Reflects on Jazz, Easton, and Hope

If Chesapeake Music’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival was just named to honor Alexander’s significant and lasting legacy as a jazz pianist over the last sixty years, that would be justification enough.  Monty’s accomplishments are well documented in the annals of jazz history, and the cumulative impact of his career would lend any jazz festival some important “street cred” with those that follow regional festivals around the world.

But when the Jazz festival’s founder, Al Sikes, drove up to New York City eight years ago to ask Monty if he would lend his name to a fledgling jazz festival in a pretty remote part of the Mid-Atlantic, Sikes knew that having a connection with the Jamaican-born musician was much more than honoring Monty’s performance career.

In many ways, it is Monty Alexander’s arc of experience in jazz over the last fifty years that makes it such an honor for Easton to host this annual event. Starting with small bars in Miami as a teenager, when he was first noticed by Frank Sinatra, and later been witness to every phase of jazz from the Mid-Century forward with friends such as Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, and or even Ravi Shankar.

The Spy caught up with Monty at Patsy’s, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite joints in Manhattan, to talk about his Jazz Festival, but also about where jazz is these days. In particular, his observations on the early roots of jazz, where its disciples would learn on street corners from the masters, to the current world of contemporary jazz artists, many of whom are more likely than not hold degrees from such famous conservatories like Berklee and Juilliard.

Monty also talks about the theme for this year’s festival, which, to his own surprise, focuses on spirituality. In this case, it is his attempt to amplify the important role of hope in our complex world, or, in his own words, his effort to, “see the donut and not its hole.”

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit here or call 410-819- 0380.

Senior Nation: The Artists of Londonderry

It makes sense to visit the Academy Art Museum and smaller art galleries in Easton and St. Michaels when one wants a sense of the local art scene on the Mid-Shore, but sometimes of the best examples of native talent can be found in the most unlikely places.

One of those is at Londonderry on the Tred Avon, just off of Port Street in Easton. This very special retirement community counts among its residents highly accomplished retired professionals in almost every field, from college professors to well known corporate leaders, but it has also attached some exceptional visual artists who continue to produce stunning landscapes, portraits, and few abstract paintings to the pleasure of the entire community.

Last week, the Spy took some time to capture a small sample of the kind of art now on display in the public spaces at Londonderry.

For more information about what’s going on at Londonderry please go here

Spotlight on TAP: Oscar and Felix Comes to Oxford

One of the most challenging aspects of being a community theater actor is to take on a role that is so well ingrained in America’s memory though a hit movie or television show that it becomes nearly impossible to reinvent that character.

And nowhere is that truer than when talking about to roles of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.  With such stunning performances from Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, and later, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, there seems to be little room for interpretation of these iconic characters.

But that hasn’t stopped Chestertown’s Bob Chauncey (Felix) and Cambridge’s Bill Gross (Oscar) from trying. While they are the first to admit that they have studied both the film and TV versions of this stage classic, their years of training as actors have allowed themselves to explore other angles to Felix and Oscar’s personalities through the lens of their own domestic lives and rediscovered the universal themes of the Odd Couple.

The Spy had a chance to sit down with them both at Bullitt House a few weeks ago to talk about their take on The Odd Couple, directed by Ed Langrell, as the Tred Avon Players continues their extraordinary year of comedy productions at the Oxford Community Center starting August 10th.

Evening performances of “The Odd Couple” are scheduled for Thursday (“Thrifty Thursday,” featuring two-for-one tickets), August 10; Friday, Aug 11; and Saturday, Aug 12, all starting at 7:30 p.m. A Sunday matinee on Aug 13 begins at 2 p.m. The following weekend, evening shows are set for Thursday through Saturday, Aug 17-19, at 7:30 p.m., with the run wrapping on Sunday, August 20, at 2 p.m.


Profiles in Education: Making the Case for Easton High with Principal Kirk Howie

There is something very reassuring when you listen to Kirk Howie, the relatively new principal of Easton High School, talking about his school and his roots. Born in Easton, with a father who taught at Easton High School, and now has one of his two daughters attending the same school, it’s not hard to believe Principal Howie when he says his job is “very personal” to him.

And that notion of being “personal” also comes through when Kirk talks about Easton High School’s students and teachers, or career development, college preparation, or even the remarkable successes of Easton’s athletic teams. Taken all together, Howie makes a strong case for Talbot County public education and the kind of exceptional diversity found in his high school which he thinks is a critical part of the learning process. He also makes a case for improving the conditions with the school’s workout and weight rooms, where he is leading an effort to raise $60,000 in private funds for a new coat of paint, better equipment, and space planning. He’s almost halfway to that goal.

The Spy sat down with Kirk last week at the Easton High School’s library to talk about his relationship with EHS, his hopes for its future, and why he is so proud of a school where his children attend.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Easton High School please go here

Editor’s note: Easton High School’s percentage of students for both two year and four year colleges is at 87%. 

Mid-Shore Arts: Working with Wood in Chestertown

Robert Ortiz has established himself as one of Chestertown’s most admired entrepreneurs, creating fine furniture that blends Japanese and Shaker traditions into something contemporary and distinctive. His two lines of furniture — named for his children, Daniel and Sofia — combine simple shapes and combinations of different woods.

A furniture maker for 30 years, Ortiz has had his studio in at 207 C S. Cross Street in Chestertown for the past 20 years. In addition to its primary function as a woodworking shop, it occasionally hosts concerts by the Pam Ortiz band, in which he accompanies his wife on percussion, guitar, and vocals. It has also doubled as “Olivander’s Wand Shop” during Chestertown’s Harry Potter Festivals.

Recently, Ortiz has launched onto a new aspect of his craft – passing along his knowledge and methods to others. Here’s what he told the Chestertown Spy about his new project in a recent interview.

Bob Ortiz with a table like those he shows his students how to build

“Since 2008 when the financial crisis happened, most people who have small businesses — if they’re not still recovering — are trying to figure out how to move into the future. . I spent about eight years trying to figure out how to survive in the furniture business, because like many small industries it’s completely different than it was prior to 2008.

I think of 30 years of making furniture as two generations.

“The first generation of people I made furniture for, they’re retiring, downsizing, moving into assisted living, in some cases passing on. I asked those folks, what are they doing with their artwork and their furniture, with their silver, china, and most of them tell me they’re taking it to second-hand stores. Their children don’t want it, their grandchildren don’t want it. The generation that’s replacing that older cohort are in a very different place than my parents or my grandparents were. They’re starting families much later; they’re moving through different careers, different jobs every year, so that stability isn’t there. They’re living with a lot more debt.

“So over the years, I’ve been asking myself, what’s the strategy here? Who wants furniture; who needs furniture? And the more I listened to people and read articles, I realized that there are two things going on. One thing is, that the generation that is just about starting to retire or recently retired they no longer want to buy art or craft: they want to make it. The other interesting thing is that their children and grandchildren are not buying hand-crafted furniture. So about a year and a half ago I came up with this idea that I call the Chestertown vacation workshops.

“Basically, it’s this: come and spend a week with me. It’s one on one, it’s not a group thing. Immerse yourself in the making of a beautiful object that’s useful. I’ve been making this line of furniture now for 20 years, and so my comfort with it, my ability to pass along what I’ve learned in those 20 years, is part of what the workshop’s about.

“I try to be real clear; this is not about starting a woodworking school. If you’re coming to one of my workshops, it’s about come, spend a week, we’ll go from soup to nuts. Picking out the wood, making the pieces, designing them, putting them together, and at the end of the week you get to take it home.”

Part of the Robert Ortiz Studio

Who are the workshops aimed at? Ortiz said, “I’ve had people with a little bit of woodworking experience, people with no woodworking experience. I’ve had men and women who spent their career behind a desk, who finally want to get out from behind that desk and make something. I’ve had several women who weren’t allowed to take shop in high school who finally said, you know, I’m going to make myself something.”

The Spy asked, “What kinds of skills are they going to need for the workshop?”

Workshop participant and project.

Ortiz said, “To a certain extent, when you come here, I don’t care if you’ve been a CEO, I don’t care if you’ve been a lowly worker – everybody is a private here, except for myself. The most important thing is for people to be willing and able to concentrate and to follow directions. The one skill that is really helpful is that you’re a problem solver. If you’re a good problem solver, it goes quickly. If not, we have to spend a little more time making sure that when it’s time to make a cut or put something together, that you’re able to do it right.

“Somebody who doesn’t have a lot of experience, or who has no experience, may wind up saying to themselves, well, gee, how am I going to take that workshop? Well, what I tell people is, you know all those people who are climbing up Mount Everest with a guide?  Most of those people – they’re not mountain climbers. They’re people who pay a lot of money to have somebody shepherd them up the mountain, hopefully they make it, hopefully they come back down the mountain and have a wonderful experience to talk about. Well, in my case, I’m shepherding you through the process of making a piece of furniture. My job actually ends up being to make all the test pieces to give the student the confidence that they’ll be able to make the cut.”

Ortiz takes a good bit of pride in the quality of work his students are able to produce. He said, “Back in October I had an alumni weekend. I invited everyone who had taken a workshop to come and bring their piece of furniture and have it out on the floor. It was during the studio tour that happens in Kent County, because I wanted other people to see what participants had made, and the quality of what people were able to achieve. On my website, I have lots of photos of things that people have made, and you’d be pretty amazed. And I had a CEO last week who told me his doctor told him he needed to find something to do as a hobby. So he hadn’t taken wood shop since high school. I was pretty amazed. He didn’t answer his phone once during the course of the week. So I think the most important thing is to leave your daily routine behind you and be able to immerse yourself in the craft and in all the nuances and all the focus that it takes in order to make something with your hands and make it beautiful.

Alec Dick of Chestertown making a table in an Ortiz workshop

“The process – most of these pieces take about five days. And in those five days, my hope is that people are willing to come into my world, see how I spend my day. And my day involves focusing on the work that I’m doing, focusing on the details, and trying to get my students, the folks who are taking my workshops, to focus on those details just as much as myself, so that at the end of the week they take home this piece that’s as good as, or nearly as good as, something that I’ve made.

“I mentioned earlier that older people are giving their furniture, their silver, their china to second-hand and thrift stores. The kids don’t want the furniture that their grandparents or parents bought. What he said took me by surprise and it opened up a door that I just wasn’t thinking was there. He told me he brought home the first piece of furniture that he made from the workshop, and in the course of a couple of weeks, his three sons came to visit. And each of them said to him, “I want that when you die.” So it became clear to him, ‘Well, OK, I need to make three pieces of furniture, one for each.’

“But what’s interesting to me is, now we’re talking about a heirloom that’s going to stay in the family, hopefully for several generations.”

Workshop participants and project.

Ortiz knows what that means. Among all the fine pieces in his shop, he showed the table his computer sits on. “That’s a table that my father made when we lived in a little apartment in Greenwich Village when I was a kid. My father had no workshop – he was a factory worker, he was a metal worker.  But that was a formica and metal table that he made. It’s always something that I’ve kept close by. And I guess to a certain extent the workshops are just a continuation of that. So – that’s what the workshops are about. The workshops are about legacy; the workshops are about coming and having fun; the workshops are about something, take it home, get to say every day, ‘I made that.’

The other thing that folks should know, I’m also willing to entertain other people’s designs. It sometimes costs a little more because I’ve got to figure out how we’re going to make them within the time frame.”

For more information about the workshops, and about Ortiz’s furniture, visit his website.

Furniture from the Daniel and Sophia furniture lines, made by Bob Ortiz in his Chestertown Studio:





Dry Bones by George Merrill

My knee is on the mend. The bones have realigned. I am happy to report I am out walking again. I didn’t fully realize how much I missed it until the rubber (my sneakers) hit the road. It felt like I’d been given a second chance.

On the walk I was reminded how hot Maryland summers are. It is mid-July. We have relatives in Georgia who claim Georgia’s the hottest place on the planet except maybe at its core. Not so. Maryland beats Georgia and the earth’s core hands down. It’s not just the heat, but also the humidity, which, if you’re inclined, you can wring it straight out of the air without any help from a cloth or sponge.

But back to my walk. Once resigned to the heat and humidity, I got into the delights of mobility and began looking around as I walked cautiously along the road. I felt like the child riding his bike for the first time without training wheels.

I usually keep my eyes lowered some in front so I see a short distance ahead. I scan the road that way to see any critters that might be joining me on my stroll. There are occasionally grasshoppers, once a turtle, ants and bees, especially wasps that seem to enjoy just hanging out on the road. And indeed I did see, of all creatures, a wooly bear. I’m accustomed to seeing wooly bears on my fall walks, but in July’s blazing heat, this was new to me. She was overdressed for the day wearing her dark brown and orange fur coat that I always assumed was to keep her warm in the winter. I will say, though, she undulated along happily, like a tiny balloon filled with water, and seemed to pay no attention to the heat.

I walked close the culvert that retained a few inches of water. I was soon to discover that it was the sanctuary to a host of good-sized bullfrogs. I was not aware of them at first. As I grew close to one, he squealed and “plop,” dove into the water. I note here that unlike what people imagine about bullfrogs, they squeal and squeak as often as they croak in that full basso profundo with its deep resonance.

All the frogs in the culvert were ready for me. As I approached the next one he squealed and jumped and so did about six others in succession the way dominoes, when set up a certain way, fall consecutively after the first one is toppled. It was fun to hear the “plop, plop” as I made my way up the road. I once read a published haiku that said nothing more than: “ A frog jumps in the water, plop.” The poet had a way with words.

I was doing famously – tickled pink about my newly healed bones – and was nearing my first half-mile. Then I began to ache in the most unlikely places – not as I half expected in my abused knee, but everywhere else. It began hurting in my right buttock, my thigh, and then down the front of my leg. My hip protested a little. Then I noticed my ankle ached some and suddenly, after eighty-two years of living in this very same body, I realized just how much I had wholly underestimated the number of moving parts that constitute my frame and sinew – particularly the bone and sinew from my hips on down.

Ezekiel’s proclamation, as celebrated in the famous African-American spiritual, Dry Bones, promises that at the resurrection “dem bones gonna walk around.” The spiritual explores in considerable detail how our bones are assembled one upon the other, which one is attached to which, but mentions nothing about how they will feel when first moved after not being exercised – in my case for over a month. Consider too, those who have been waiting for centuries to be raised from the dead; those first hours on their feet are not going to be any cakewalk. Maybe Ezekiel failed to mention synovial fluids, which, if included when the saints go marching in, would be sufficient to lubricate the long unused joints and mitigate pain as well.

I’m always surprised how it is that what I have so much of, I give such little thought to. My ability to move about easily – to jump, kneel and run – when I was younger I now look upon with nostalgia and some regret. The regret is that when I had it so good, I was hardly thankful for the abundance I was enjoying. Now that I have agility again, but in much more limited measure, I am far more grateful.

Gratitude is a peculiar emotion: it’s felt in inverse proportions to our blessings; there is less gratitude when we enjoy many blessings, while when there are fewer, our gratitude increases.

I’m grateful to be on the road again.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Catching Up on St. Michaels Plans with Commissioner Bill Boos

Bill Boos, the current president of the St. Michaels Board of Commissioners, came into his first elective office last year with minimal experience in local government but a tremendous amount in the private sector.

Most recently the owner and operator of Saint Michaels Yacht Sales, Bill settled in Talbot County after a long career in running both large and small companies, including the development of Radio Shack, Tandy Corporation, Blockbuster Video as well as the ownership of a number of golf courses.

With that kind of background, it is not surprising that Commissioner Boos would be focused on St. Michaels finances. And focus he did, by leading the charge for the first comprehensive “Repair and Replace” study of the municipality’s infrastructure needs over the next 30 years.

The results of that survey were sobering. The consulting firm’s report indicated that almost $18 million was required for the anticipated maintenance and improvement of the town’s buildings, sidewalks, streets and other essential capital projects to keep St. Michaels in tip-top shape.

The good news is that the town has over $7 million in reserves, thanks to St. Michaels selling its utility company to Choptank Electric a few years ago. The not so good news is that it will take some careful planning to use those funds responsibility without severely impacting tax rates in the future.

The report also called into question what the priorities would be for the town going forward. Did the residents want to start planning for an expensive plan to bury its powers lines underground or would it make more sense to replace the aging town offices and police station?

Those tough decisions have yet to be made, but in the Spy’s interview with Bill, he talks about the importance of financial planning as well as the Commissioners’ roadmap to reach a community consensus on how and what to plan for to keep St. Michaels one of the great gems of the Eastern Shore.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length

Senior Nation: When Dad is 106 Years Old with Nina and Peter Newlin

It seems unfathomable to imagine what it must feel like to be 106 years old. In the case of Shipley Newlin, You continue to wear your favorite shirt, you are still surrounded by loving children, and you can still make others chuckle around you using your unique brand of humor. But Shipley, who only just lost his independent living at age 102, is also aware that he is an infrequent exception in the world of mortality statistics.

That exceptionalism is also shared with his children. Nina, a curriculum administrator with the Kent County Public Schools, and Peter, an architect in Chestertown, also acknowledge the rarity of their family trait, which includes their mother, who still plays tennis at aged 97, and grandparents that were also in “Century Club” themselves.

In fact, the Newlin children (three other sons are scattered around the country) have never hesitated to celebrate their father’s longevity. They also encourage him to flex his memories and find other ways to engage the former mechanical engineer like trade jokes with him and laugh at his puns as all three of them carry on their day-to-day lives.

Now living with son Peter, and his wife Gail, Shipley and his “kids” gathered around the dinner table last week to reminisce and talk about what it’s like when dad is 106 years old and going strong.

This video is approximately three minutes in length.