Gun Wars: Wicomico Co. Sheriff Among Many Who Won’t Enforce Some Gun Bans

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Sheriff Mike Lewis considers himself the last man standing for the people of Wicomico County.

“State police and highway patrol get their orders from the governor,” the Maryland sheriff said. “I get my orders from the citizens in this county.”

With more states passing stronger gun control laws, rural sheriffs across the country are taking the meaning of their age-old role as defenders of the Constitution to a new level by protesting such restrictions, News21 found.

Some are refusing to enforce the laws altogether.

Sheriffs in states like New York, Colorado and Maryland argue that some gun control laws defy the Second Amendment and threaten rural culture, for which gun ownership is often an integral component.

They’re joined by groups like Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, both of which encourage law enforcement officers to take a stand against gun control laws.

The role of a sheriff

Lewis and some other sheriffs across the nation, most of them elected by residents of their counties, say their role puts them in the foremost position to stand up to gun laws they consider unconstitutional.

“The role of a sheriff is to be the interposer between the law and the citizen,” said Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer, an Anne Arundel County Republican. “He should stand between the government and citizen in every issue pertaining to the law.”

While the position of sheriff is not found in the U.S. Constitution, it is listed in state constitutions: Part VII of Maryland’s, for instance, Article XIV of Colorado’s, Article XV of Delaware’s, and ARTICLE XIII of New York’s. Nearly all of America’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected to their positions, whereas state and city police are appointed.

When Lewis was president of the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association, he testified with other sheriffs against the state’s Firearms Safety Act (FSA) before it was enacted in 2013. One of the strictest gun laws in the nation, the act requires gun applicants to supply fingerprints and complete training to obtain a handgun license online. It bans 45 types of firearms, limits magazines to 10 rounds and outlaws gun ownership for people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

After Lewis opposed the legislation, he said he was inundated with emails, handwritten letters, phone calls and visits from people thanking him for standing up for gun rights. He keeps a stuffed binder in his office with the laminated notes.

“I knew this was a local issue, but I also knew it had serious ramifications on the U.S. Constitution, specifically for our Second Amendment right,” said Lewis, one of 24 sheriffs in the state. “It ignited fire among sheriffs throughout the state. Those in the rural areas all felt the way I did.

Some New York sheriffs won’t enforce bans

In New York, the state sheriff’s association has publicly decried portions of the SAFE Act, legislation that broadened the definition of a banned assault weapon, outlawed magazines holding more than 10 rounds and created harsher punishments for anyone who kills a first-responder in the line of duty. The act was intended to establish background checks for ammunition sales, although that provision hasn’t taken effect.

A handful of New York’s 62 sheriffs have vowed not to enforce the high-capacity magazine and assault-weapon bans. One of the most vocal is Sheriff Tony Desmond of Schoharie County, population 32,000. He believes his refusal to enforce the SAFE Act won him re-election in 2013.

“If you have an (assault) weapon, which under the SAFE Act is considered illegal, I don’t look at it as being illegal just because someone said it was,” he said.

Desmond’s deputies haven’t made a single arrest related to the SAFE Act. Neither has the office of Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum of Ulster County. Van Blarcum said it’s not his job to interpret the Constitution, so he’ll enforce the law. But he said police should use discretion when enforcing the SAFE Act and determining whether to make arrests, as they do when administering tickets.

In Otsego County, New York, population 62,000, Sheriff Richard Devlin takes a similar approach. He enforces the SAFE Act but doesn’t make it a priority.

“I feel as an elected official and a chief law enforcement officer of the county it would be irresponsible for me to say, ‘I’m not going to enforce a law I personally disagree with,’” he said. “If someone uses a firearm in commission of a crime, I’m going to charge you with everything I have, including the SAFE Act. I won’t do anything as far as confiscating weapons. We’re not checking out registrations. People that are lawfully using a firearm for target shooting, we’re not bothering those people.”

Colorado made national headlines when 55 of the state’s 62 sheriffs attempted to sign on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of several 2013 gun control bills in the state. The most-controversial measures banned magazines of more than 15 rounds and established background checks for private gun sales.

A federal judge said the sheriffs couldn’t sue as elected officials, so Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and eight other sheriffs sued as private citizens. Cooke was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which a federal district judge threw out in June. He and the other plaintiffs are preparing an appeal.

“It’s not (the judge’s) job to tell me what I can and can’t enforce,” Cooke said. “I’m still the one that has to say where do I put my priorities and resources? And it’s not going to be there.”

Cooke has won fans with his opposition. He, like Wicomico County Sheriff Lewis, keeps a novel-thick stack of praise and thank-you notes in his office. He’ll run for a Colorado Senate seat in November and is endorsed by the state’s major gun lobby, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Wicomico Sheriff Lewis vs. Sen. Brian Frosh

Lewis, who is running for re-election this year, said sheriffs have a responsibility to push against what he sees as the federal government’s continual encroachment on citizens’ lives and rights.

“Where do we draw a line?” he asked. “I made a vow and a commitment that as long as I’m the sheriff of this county I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my law-abiding citizens of the right to bear arms. If they attempt to do that it will be an all-out civil war. Because I will stand toe-to-toe with my people.”

But Montgomery County Sen. Brian Frosh, Democratic floor leader of Maryland’s FSA and a strong gun-control advocate, said Lewis’ understanding of a sheriff’s role is flawed.

“If you are a sheriff in Maryland you must take an oath to uphold the law and the Constitution,” said Frosh, now the Democratic nominee for Maryland attorney general. “You can’t be selective. It’s not up to a sheriff to decide what’s constitutional and what isn’t. That’s what our courts are for.”

Bronx County, New York, Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who co-sponsored the SAFE Act, agreed that sheriffs who refuse to enforce laws they disagree with are acting out of turn. Constitutional sheriffs are not lawyers or judges, Frosh said, which means they are following their convictions instead of the Constitution.

“We had lots of people come in (to testify against the bill) and without any basis say, ‘This violates the Second Amendment,’” Frosh said. “They can cite the Second Amendment, but they couldn’t explain why this violates it. And the simple fact is it does not. There is a provision of our Constitution that gives people rights with respect to firearms, but it’s not as expansive as many of these people think.”

But sheriffs have the power to nullify, or ignore, a law if it is unconstitutional, Maryland Delegate Dwyer said. He said James Madison referred to nullification as the rightful remedy for the Constitution.

“The sheriffs coming to testify on the bill understood the issue enough and were brave enough to come to Annapolis and make the bold stand that on their watch, in their county, they would not enforce these laws even if they passed,” said Dwyer, who lost a reelection bid after his conviction and jail time for drunken driving and drunken boating. “That is the true role and responsibility of what the sheriff is.”

Rural versus urban divide

Some rural sheriffs argue that gun control laws are more than just unconstitutional— they’re unnecessary and irrelevant. In towns and villages where passers-by stop to greet deputies and call local law enforcement to ask for help complying with gun laws, they say, firearms are less associated with crime than they are with a hunting and shooting culture that dates back to when the communities were founded.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 1.22.51 PMEdward Amelio, a deputy in Lewis County, New York, shares that sentiment. There’s no normal day for Amelio, who has patrolled the 27,000-person county for eight years. But he usually responds to domestic disputes, burglaries and car accidents. That’s why he considers the SAFE Act unnecessary.

“We issue orders of protection and some contain a clause the judge puts in there saying a person’s guns are to be confiscated,” Amelio said. “That’s mostly when we deal with guns.”

Zachary Reinhart, a deputy sheriff in Schoharie County, New York, said he responds to a wide variety of calls, too.

“Our calls range from accidental 911 dials to domestic disputes to bar fights,” he said. “You can’t really typify a day at the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office. It’s all pretty helter-skelter.”

Violent crime also isn’t common in Wicomico County, Maryland, where Lewis is sheriff. He receives daily shooting reports from the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, which are not available for public disclosure.

“You always see ‘nothing to report’ in the eastern region, in the southern region, in the northern region, in the western region,” Lewis said. “But the Baltimore central region? Homicide after homicide after homicide.”

Even though there are few gun crimes in rural areas, Sheriff Michael Carpinelli in Lewis County argues that people need guns for self-defense.

“People rely on the police in an urban environment to come and protect you all the time,” he said. “People who live in a rural area also rely upon the police, but they realize that they live further out from those resources and that they may have to take action themselves.”

Duke law professor Joseph Blocher said gun culture has varied in urban and rural areas for centuries.

“It has long been the case that gun use and ownership and gun culture are concentrated in rural areas. whereas support for gun control and efforts to curb gun violence are concentrated in urban areas,” he said. “In the last couple decades we’ve moved away from that towards a more-centralized gun control.”

Lewis bemoaned lawmakers who craft gun-control legislation but are ignorant about guns. “They have no idea between a long gun and a handgun,” he said. “Many of them admittedly have never fired a weapon in their lives.”

But Klein, the Bronx County senator, said he does understand the gun and hunting culture in upstate New York.

“Growing up, my father was in the military,” Klein said. “When I was younger, I had a .22-caliber gun. In the past, I’ve gone pheasant hunting, quail hunting. It’s great,” he said. “I mean, there’s nothing that we do in Albany, especially with the SAFE Act, that in any way takes away someone’s right to own a gun for hunting purposes.”

Oath Keepers and Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association

If former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack had it his way, there wouldn’t be a single gun control law in the U.S.

“I studied what the Founding Fathers meant about the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, and the conclusion is inescapable,” said Mack, the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA). “There’s no way around it. Gun control in America is against the law.”

He knows his no-compromise stance has cost him and the CSPOA the support of some sheriffs and law enforcement organizations around the country. And it’s resulted in civil rights agencies labeling CSPOA an anti-government “patriot group.”

But Mack, the former sheriff in eastern Arizona’s rural Graham County, is not letting up. His conviction is central to the ideology of CSPOA, which he founded in 2011 to “unite all public servants and sheriffs, to keep their word to uphold, defend, protect, preserve and obey” the Constitution, according to his introduction letter on the association’s website.

CSPOA also has ties to Oath Keepers, an organization founded in 2009 with a similar goal to unite veterans, law enforcement officers and first-responders who pledge to keep their oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Mack serves on the Oath Keepers Board of Directors.

Oath Keepers is larger and farther-reaching than CSPOA, with active chapters in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and an estimated national membership of 40,000. Its website features a declaration of “orders we will not obey,” including those to disarm Americans, impose martial law on a state and blockade cities.

CSPOA grabbed media attention in February with a growing list of sheriffs — 484 as of late July — professing opposition to federal gun control. Detailed with links beside each name, the sheriffs’ stances run the gamut from refusals to impose a litany of federal and state gun-control laws, to vague vows to protect their constituents’ Second Amendment rights, to law critiques that stop short of promising noncompliance.

Only 16 of those 484 are listed as CSPOA members.

Too radical for some sheriffs, officers

Some sheriffs perceive Oath Keepers and CSPOA as too radical to associate with. Desmond, of Schoharie County, New York, is known around his state for openly not enforcing provisions of the SAFE Act that he considers unconstitutional. Still, he’s not a member of either organization.

“I understand where they are, I guess, but I just have to worry right here myself,” Desmond said. “I don’t want to get involved with somebody that may be a bit more proactive when it comes to the SAFE Act. I want to have the image that I protect gun owners, but I’m not fanatical about it.”

Mack is familiar with that sentiment. He suspects it’s hindered the growth of CSPOA.

“This is such a new idea for so many sheriffs that it’s hard for them to swallow it,” Mack said. “They’ve fallen into the brainwashing and the mainstream ideas that you just have to go after the drug dealers and the DUIs and serve court papers — and that the federal government is the supreme law of the land.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit that classifies and combats hate and extremist groups, included both CSPOA and Oath Keepers on its list of 1,096 anti-government “patriot” groups active in 2013. Both groups have faced criticism for their alleged connections to people accused of crimes that range from possessing a live napalm bomb to shooting and killing two Las Vegas police officers and a bystander in June.

Media representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center did not return phone calls and emails requesting comment.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 1.21.57 PMFranklin Shook, an Oath Keepers board member who goes by the pseudonym “Elias Alias,” said the organization doesn’t promote violence, but rather a message of peaceful noncompliance.

“What Oath Keepers is saying is … when you get an order to go to somebody’s house and collect one of these guns, just stand down,” Shook said. “Say peacefully, ‘I refuse to carry out an unlawful order,’ and we, the organization, will do everything in our power to keep public pressure on your side to keep you from getting in trouble for standing down. That makes Oath Keepers extremely dangerous to the system.”

The future of gun control laws

Self-proclaimed constitutional sheriffs hope that courts will oust gun control measures in their states — but they recognize that may not happen. Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of gun control legislation in Maryland, New York and Colorado have been, for the most part, unsuccessful.

In New York, five SAFE Act-related lawsuits have yielded few results: One lawsuit resulted in an expansion of the magazine limit from seven rounds to 10, but the rest of the measures were thrown out and are awaiting appeal; a similar lawsuit was stayed; a third was thrown out and denied appeal; and two additional lawsuits have been combined but are stagnating in court.

Plaintiffs in the Colorado sheriff lawsuit are preparing to appeal the decision of a federal district judge who in June upheld the constitutionality of the 2013 gun control laws.

In Maryland, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake last week upheld Maryland’s new bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

By Marlena Chertock, Emilie Eaton, Jacy Marmaduke and Sydney Stavinoha, Marlena Chertock, the lead writer on this story, is a journalism graduate of the University of Maryland.  Emilie Eaton is a News21 Hearst Fellow. Jacy Marmaduke is a News21 Peter Kiewet Fellow. Sydney Stavinoha is an Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation News21 Fellow.

The Easton Yankees: Baseball of Yore

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It’s summertime and thoughts turn to baseball, our national pastime.

When some of us attend Major League Baseball games at Camden Yards in Baltimore or Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC with children and grandchildren, we naturally think back to our childhood when watching baseball meant cheering our favorite players, nagging our parents to buy us food and more food and eyeing all the other people enjoying a ball game.

We may recall an incredible play at third base by Baltimore Orioles great, Brooks Robinson, or a home run by another Orioles hero, Frank Robinson. Mainly, we remember a time of innocence; baseball provided a soothing feeling in our lives.

Summer and baseball seemed synonymous. We eagerly awaited both.

Sixty-six years ago, the Class D Eastern Shore League had a presence in Easton. The Easton Yankees, a farm team for the famed New York Yankees, played at Federal Park on Federal Street on a field now occupied by St. Marks Village.

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Undated photo. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society

For parts of three decades beginning in the 1920s and lasting until 1949, Class D teams played at different times in Cambridge, Centreville, Crisfield, Dover, DE, Easton, Federalsburg, Laurel, DE, Milford, DE, Northampton, VA, Parksley, VA, Pocomoke City, Rehoboth Beach, Salisbury and Seaford, DE.

Easton teams carried names such as the Farmers, Browns and Cubs. From 1939-1941 and 1946-1949, it was the New York Yankees which owned and operated a minor league team on Bay Street.

In 1947, Easton was second to last place in the league with 45 wins and 90 losses. In 1948, the Easton Yankees occupied third place behind Salisbury and Milford and ahead of Cambridge, Rehoboth, Seaford, Federalsburg and Dover. Its record was 71 wins and 50 losses.

According to the “Eastern Shore League Record Book 1937-1948, “The Easton Yankees fielded the hardest hitting club in the league. They scored more runs and banged out more hits than any rival. A so-so mound staff, supported with none too stable defense, ate up the pennant mileage of the third place Little Yankees.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees.  Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

“Casualties also took their toll on the Easton roster. Don Maxa, who established a league record for the highest batting percentage of .382, was in and out of the lineup several times with ailing feet. Crawford (Dave) Davidson, a .352 hitter, and author of 21 homers, wrenched a knee during June. He was sidelined for four valuable weeks. Jerry Stoutland, considered by many as the league’s top catcher, rode the bench occasionally because of a sore arm.”

If the quotations sound as if a sports writer authored them, that indeed was the case. Ed Nichols, sports editor of “The Salisbury Times,” edited and published the lively and colorful record book.

In 1948, Walter J. Claggett, an Easton attorney, was the business manager of the Little Yankees. The caption under his picture, besides citing his college degree gained at Washington College and his law degree at the University of Maryland, said, “Walter is a fellow well met—congenial, cooperative, and always eager to talk baseball.

Raised in Baltimore, I never knew a rabid New York Yankees fan until I moved to Easton in 1976 and met Jack Anthony, who in the years since never has apologized for his loyalty to the sometimes hated Yankees. I learned not too many years ago the reason for this Eastern Shore native’s passion for the pinstripers. His father, J. Howard Anthony, preceded Walter Claggett as the volunteer business manager for the Easton Yankees.

Only one farm team remains on the Eastern Shore. And that is the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Single-A Baltimore Orioles affiliate in Salisbury.

The baseball tradition continues on the Shore. Not as widespread, however. While times change, baseball still rivets our attention.

Snapshot: A New Future for the Oxford Community Center with Director Donna Dudley

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While the Oxford Community Center has actually had a special history of service for over 30 years, with a $3 million plus renovation just completed last year, the OCC has joined a number of community centers on the Eastern Shore identifying ways to develop new audiences and uses for their buildings. Leading the charge for a new role for Oxford is newly appointed director, Donna Dudley.

Donna talked to the Spy about the need to expand and diversify the OCC’s programs and revenue sources for the OCC, which started in 1982 with their long term partner and tenant the Tred Avon Players, as a community stage. She also talks about the need for strategic partnerships with other arts organizations and the unique future the center has in better serving the greater Talbot County region.

The video is approximately five minutes in length.

The Final Blow Comes to Big Al’s

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While “Big Al” Poore of Big Al’s Market and his family have moved on, the building, empty as it was, was still a reminder of where some of the best seafood and crab cakes was to be found on the Eastern Shore.  That was until the Big Al’s building was formally taken down this week in St. Michaels.

The Spy covered Big Al’s in July of 2012, and we have reprinted below Kathi Ferguson’s short piece on family efforts to keep Big Al’s going and its unique charm. 

Big Al’s Market, the family-owned and operated local seafood establishment on North Talbot Street in St. Michaels, has recently undergone what some might call a facelift. Improvements have been made to the outward appearance but the tradition of quality goods and customer service remains unchanged.

In March of this year “Big Al” Poore and his wife, fondly known as “Miss Rea”, officially retired after over thirty years of owning and operating the business. As with many family shops, its future success lies with the next generation. “Mom and Dad were tired”, says Alan, Jr.  He and his brother Larry, along with Larry’s wife Sharon are now at the helm. Their goal? Continue to provide fresh, local seafood to many satisfied customers.

It all began as a wholesale business when Big Al steamed shrimp and crab at Kastel’s Marina in the late 60s. “Kastel’s was located where St. Michaels Harbour Inn and Marina is now,” explains Alan. “Before that, Dad did all of the steaming out of our house in Bozman.” In 1978 the Poore’s bought what was then a service station and Big Al hung up his sign. The family has been working it ever since.

Steamed crabs remain the specialty at Big Al’s, many of which are caught that day by Alan himself. A commercial waterman, Alan oversees the day’s streaming to ensure quality control through the entire process. He’s also been known to provide those crab-picking rookies with some helpful pointers! Other favorites are Miss Rea’s award-winning crab cakes, fresh oysters, clams, shrimp and crab meat. Rockfish, scallops, tilapia and flounder also top the list.

“We are so proud to be able to carry on the Poore family tradition,” Sharon says. “The challenge has been to maintain the feel of the place while keeping up with the times, but we needed our own niche. Any changes we’ve made have been not only necessary but positive.” One of the most recognizable is the curb appeal.

Most of the credit for that goes to the Poore’s oldest son, Kyle. “While most of us were concentrating on the inside, Kyle directed our attention to the outside and it has really paid off,” Larry Poore explains. Now there are bright umbrellas shading the patio, new picnic tables, a potted herb garden, and the family’s “newest addition” – the Big Al-sized grill and smoker tended to by Pit Master, Montia Rice. Montia has been cooking up BBQ ribs, burgers, salmon, chicken, brisket and more for customers to enjoy. “The BBQ has been a tremendous hit,” says Alan “We also love the fact that the picnic tables and wooden shelves for our herb pots were all built by students in the St. Michaels High School carpentry class,” Sharon adds. “It’s just another way that Big Al’s keeps it local so-to-speak.”

Upon entering the market, the old screen door slaps shut, leading the customer into a warm, open space, welcomed by a friendly greeting from the staff. Josh Poore, Sharon and Larry’s youngest son, was instrumental in redesigning the interior. “Not much was really altered, but Josh thought it would be a good idea to move some things around to better showcase what we have to offer,” Sharon explains. The Deli has also become a big draw, featuring homemade salads along with fresh burgers, subs, sandwiches and wraps. “When a customer walks in and tells me “we’ve heard about your deli,” I just love that,” says Alan.

Unique to the market is that all of Big Al’s seafood and deli items can be packed for travel or shipped for overnight delivery. They now carry a boutique selection of wine; Maryland brewed craft beers, gourmet cheeses, and prepared foods to go. Friday night dinner specials are very popular, and always first to be snatched up. Oh, and no need to worry – they still carry fishing tackle and bait.

This generation of Poores maintains the belief in what constitutes an old time family operated business – to know their customers and take care of them. “If you do that, they come back,” says Alan. “Our world’s gotten away from that and we need to get back to it. We also have some top notch employees who stick by us.” Alan smiles. “Mom and Dad laid the groundwork. Without them, none of this would be possible. Now, we are walking in their shoes.”

Looking ahead, future plans include expanding the “make it and take it” items, wine tastings, and building up the market’s internet business. In the meantime, Big Al’s is attracting locals and visitors alike while successfully continuing the family legacy.

Big Al’s Market, located at 302 N. Talbot, is open Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They can be reached at 410-745-3151.

Exit Interview: AAM Director Erik Neil on Departing the Academy

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It might strike some as counter-intuitive that Erik Neil, the outgoing director of the Academy Art Museum in Easton, would list education and community outreach before the Museum’s long list of exhibition successes during his four-year tenure as his most important achievements. And yet, when asked what he was most proud of, it was the AAM’s hiring of an education director that rose to the top of Neil’s choices. And the same holds true for the Museum’s significant programming investment for children and working with the Frederick Douglass Society before he talks about the hugely applauded art exhibitions like those of Rothko, Rembrandt and James Turrell.

As he leaves Talbot County for the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, one of the largest fine art museums in the South, Neil talks to the Spy of what he has learned from his experience at the AAM and about its future.

The video is approximately eight minutes in length

Profile: Selling the Big Homes at Auction with Dan DeCaro

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Just a few months ago, a three-section painting by artist Francis Bacon (Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, 1984) sold at auction at Christie’s for roughly $80 million. This staggering sum is perhaps the best example of what can happen when one matches a unique historic narrative with a particular asset and then add international marketing and human nature.

Even over time, there remains no serious alternative to a private auction when sellers of fine art, automobiles, jewelry, rugs, or antiques are seeking to find the best vehicle for the true market value of these assets.

But oddly enough, real estate, historically one of the first assets to be sold using the auction process, has preferred the broker/agent model for the better part of the last 100 years. With Hollywood depictions of bankers on the steps of distressed farmhouses not helping the image, houses going to auction has been stereotyped as the last resort for homeowners or their lending institutions. That “stigma” however seems to be lifting when it comes to large homes, and that includes the Eastern Shore big estates.

Local real estate expert Dan DeCaro has been leading the charge for the auction option for unique properties for over thirty-five years in every part of the country.

In his Spy interview, Dan talks about his own history with auctions, the marketplace for high value homes, and his own observations on the high end real estate sector.

In this video is approximately seven minutes in length

Celebrating a Decade of Plein Air in Easton

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Ten years ago, the founders of the annual outdoor art festival in Easton likely didn’t know that they were building the foundation of what would be one of the country’s finest art events. Yet, ten years later, Plein Air Easton is known as exactly that.

We begin to spy the painters around Talbot County each year in mid-July, popping up in the unlikeliest of settings – in the middle of a grain field, or perched next to a tombstone in a historic cemetery. Yesterday, one plein air painter was seen on a tiny bench at the edge of the busy intersection of Rt 33 and the by-pass – looking as if a sudden wind might blow her off into the marsh. Always willing to interact with the public, plein air painters are ambassadors of the art world, allowing everyday people to step up and watch them bring life to blank canvas. The festival captures this spirit of appreciation for the art form and for the culture that surrounds it.

painting by the bypass painting at easton point JOhn B. Sills in garden Jill Basham

On Monday evening, I had a chance to meet two Connecticut painters who rode out of the St. Michaels harbor to paint skipjacks at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum aboard Island Lady, Jake Flory’s handsome deadrise. Island Lady runs sightseeing charters and tours around local waters in Bay Hundred. On the boat, Len Mizerek and David Bareford set up their easels and began painting just as a large thunderstorm loomed large to the west. They took different approaches to starting the work in the 20 minutes before lightning and rain chased us off the water. Bareford began with the architecture of the painting, the long straight lines of the skipjack’s mast and the bulkhead. Mizerek started in with color right away, capturing emotion and spirit.

Len and David painting aboard Island Lady

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David B painting

Len Mizerek painting

“Easton has the best Plein Air event, period” the two agreed. They should know. They’re both renowned lifelong artists who have painted in this tradition at events all over the country.

Plein Air Easton selects 58 carefully juried painters in total, and this year, they come from as far as Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Canada, and as near as Easton and Trappe. Each painter selected represents the very best in the field. With almost $25,000 in prizes and opportunities to sell their work to hungry collectors, every painter in the event has a chance for a very successful weekend in Easton.

The festival continues through Sunday. It is headquartered at the Avalon Theatre, with speakers and demonstrations sprinkled throughout the community, from the Academy Art Museum to local shops and galleries. In its typical community-collaborative spirit, Rise Up Coffee has set up a pop-up cafe inside the Avalon Theatre. For the first time ever, the Theatre has been transformed into an information center and gallery, showing the work of all of the artists throughout the entire week.

There’s something for every art lover at the festival. From demonstrations and lectures to quick draw events in the heart of downtown, this week and weekend offer a continual stream of opportunities to get up close and personal to the art and artists. Organizers maintain an up to date map showing the painting locations of all 58 at all times.

Robert Barber

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blank canvas

The main events this weekend are the Quick Draw on Saturday from 10am – noon, with the exhibit and sale from noon – 2:00 pm. Last year, it was said that a painting was sold every 45 seconds during the sale. At 1:30 pm, the awards will be announced. Sunday’s Next Generation Quick Draw always attracts a crowd. Between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, art will be created, shared, exhibited and sold on the street in downtown Easton.

For more information about the festival, head on into downtown Easton and immerse yourself – it’s one of our region’s most fun weekends and one of the nation’s best of its kind. If you’re an artist, bring $10 and step up to join in the fun. Stop by to congratulate the good people at the Avalon Foundation, because this too, like so many wonderful local events, is the work of the Avalon Foundation.

To learn more without leaving your seat, click here.

Governor to Celebrate Groundbreaking of Eastern Shore Conservation Center

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Join Eastern Shore Land Conservancy for a groundbreaking with Gov. Martin O’Malley at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center on S. Washington Street on Friday, July 18. The event is open to the public.

O’Malley dedicated $1 million toward the historic renovation project in his FY2014 capital budget. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. at the site of the former McCord building and neighboring Brick Row, the buildings that will become part of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center campus.

Also speaking will by former Gov. Harry Hughes, Environmental Protection Agency Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin, and ESLC Capital Campaign co-Chairman Jenny Stanley.

ESLC since 1990 has helped protect more than 56,000 acres of farms, forests and wetlands. As the organization approached its 20th year, ESLC leaders realized Eastern Shore farms and forests are supported by and support Eastern Shore towns. The Shore’s unique rural communities can continue to thrive with the help of green infrastructure design, outdoor recreational opportunity, and access to local foods. ESLC has the resources and years of experience to recommend and implement good design and to help counsel community leaders about keeping towns great places to live, work, and play.

To that end, ESLC broadened its mission to include these things and is leading by example with the concept of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. ESLC will leave its home in the beautiful woods, near the Wye River, and put their stake in a vulnerable area of the Town of Easton. In addition to bringing ESLC staff and skills to the community, ESLC leaders envision a new day for the community and for nonprofit collaboration.

The historic McCord Laundry Building and Brick Row are part of Easton’s National Register Historic District. Though currently abandoned, they are beautiful examples of early 20th Century commercial architecture. The project is design to have a catalytic effect on the South Washington Street corridor, where the renovation of the dilapidated McCord building and Brick Row, which was damaged by fire, has the ability to reenergize an important connection between the northern and southern neighborhoods in Easton. What is now vacant and lifeless will be a vibrant hub of community, conservation and learning.

It will bring approximately 50 jobs to downtown Easton and will serve as an example for conservationists, urban planning, community design and redevelopment experts of what can be done to retain healthy, walkable and economically sustainable rural towns.

ESLC will relocate to the building, and nonprofit partners are signing leases to be part of this collaborative environment. It will house public space for educational programming, forums, concerts and meetings about issues concerning Eastern Shore residents and organizations. It will offer a café and outdoor public leisure space to encourage conversation and collaboration among the tenants, as well as among community members.

Most importantly, it will be the catalyst for nonprofit organizations to work to address common challenges to our beautiful home on the Delmarva Peninsula and to educate and inspire the next generation of community-minded conservationists.

Women Working on the Water: Jennifer Kuhn at the CBMM Boatyard

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It’s hard not to notice how happy Jenn Kuhn becomes when talking about her job running the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Boatyard. In a field that has historically been heavily defined by men, Jenn is becoming a new role model for girls and women as she leads dozens of volunteers to reproducing some of the Chesapeake Bay’s most beautifully designed wooden boats. In many cases, it is the first time many have worked with wood and tools.

In her chat with the Spy, Jenn talks about her relationship with boats and wood, her building projects, and her enjoyment at mentoring others eager to protect the cultural heritage of boat building on the Chesapeake Bay.

The video is approximately four minutes in length

Remembering Mike Menzies by Howard Freedlander

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My wife and I lost a dear friend. Talbot County lost an extraordinary leader.

Mike Menzies died of cancer Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at the age of 67.

As President and CEO of Easton Bank and Trust Co., past chairman of the Talbot Hospice Foundation and the United Fund of Talbot County and a member of the board of directors of the Mid Shore Community Foundation, Mike epitomized professionalism, civility and competence.

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Mike Menzies

In his eulogy about his brother on June 28 at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Oxford, Scott Menzies characterized Mike Menzies as “determined, deliberate and devoted.” And so he was. He was determined to run a successful community bank and give back to the community, he was deliberate in analyzing corporate opportunities and trends and planning for the long-term health of Talbot County non-profits with which he was associated–and absolutely devoted to the organizations he served so diligently.

During his four-year battle with multiple myeloma, Mike was always positive, always upbeat. I was convinced, as were others, that his attitude extended his life. Days before he died, when questioned about what gave him the greatest pride during his career, he hardly hesitated and pointed to his community service. He understood so clearly his responsibilities as a bank president and civic leader.

During his service as chairman of the national Independent Community Bankers Association, he spent a lot of time in Washington, DC, often called upon to testify before congressional committees, as well as the Federal Reserve. While he enjoyed the challenge, he often spoke about the overwhelming influence of the nation’s largest banks in influencing political decisions.

Yet, he seemed determined to convey the goodness of community banking. His message was deliberate in its arguments. He was devoted to banking as practiced in communities throughout our country.

Among his many affiliations, Mike was a 1999 graduate of Leadership Maryland, a statewide program for leaders in the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors. After learning about his death, a classmate wrote how Mike reached out to him when his wife died in 2007. Mike’s first wife died suddenly in 2004. This classmate wrote:

“He gave me a small paperback book to read and it helped me as I moved through the process of grief. I read and cherish the book and I give the same book to family and close friends who face the same journey we have taken. A very special man in my eyes.”

Mike Menzies left the world a better place. His family, friends and associates would attest to that.