Out and About (Sort of): Impressed by EU (local), Retiring Senator and Space Hero by Howard Freedlander

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Last week’s Talbot Spy interview with Hugh Grunden, CEO of Easton Utilities, offered a glimpse into a local utility that continues to impress this 40-year resident of a town improved by the presence of this non-profit company.

For the sake of full disclosure, Hugh and I are friends. Further disclosure: before we became friends, I found this local company the epitome of customer service.

Over the years, as a demonstration of my technological ineptitude, I repeatedly have called informational technology technicians at Easton Utilities for help. In each case, I was the recipient of incredible patience and professionalism. Not once have I been disappointed by an Easton Utilities employee.

And, yes, I have written numerous emails to Hugh thanking and commending the cooperative staff members.

In his Spy interview, Hugh Grunden spoke about customer service as the Holy Grail of the organization, for which he has worked 34 years. Knowing Hugh as I do (and have disclosed), I understand that his management style would ensure that customers receive prompt, courteous and skillful assistance.

During the interview, the Easton Utilities CEO referred, rightly so, to Talbot County’s demographic composition, specifically the large number of senior citizens living in this precious environment. He made this observation in the context of customer service, aimed at people who may or may not be proficient technologically.

I believe my IT skills were questionable even when I was younger.

There are many reasons to like living in Easton and Talbot County. One organization contributes mightily to our quality of life. Utility services—be they the core missions of water and wastewater, gas, electric, cable, internet, phone and Information technology—provide the unseen, unsung and invaluable infrastructure of our community. We cannot live fruitful lives without these services. Typically, we understand the value when something doesn’t work, or during an emergency.

Hugh Grunden is a skilled utility executive who is intensely focused on customer service. These words are not just a good sound bite. They are intrinsic part of the culture at Easton Utilities. And we all benefit.

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Though I’ve written before about the retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, I read last week about her final speech in the Senate chamber. She called for a revival of civility in the nation’s Capital. She’s not the only one in and out of politics who crave for less coarse and corrosive discourse.

In recent weeks. I’ve experienced social media “conversation” that is marked by vitriol. I’m referring to a Facebook page tied to a reunion at a major university. Though readers know that I did not vote for Donald Trump, I found myself trying to tone down rhetoric filled with hatred and criticism of the President-elect. While I may share dismay of our country’s future under the New York businessman, I am reluctant to sound like a sore loser unwilling to exercise some degree of civility.

Sen. Mikulski will be missed. She fought relentlessly and tenaciously for the citizens of Maryland. That was her hallmark. If your cause were her cause, you had a champion who viewed obstacles as challenges to be met and overcome.

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When I read about the death of 95-year-old John Glenn, former astronaut and U.S. senator from Ohio, I thought back to my junior year in high school. In February 1962. Though my global perspective was limited, I did know that our national morale was low. The Russians had beaten us to space in 1957. Our sense of superiority had diminished.

Attitudes seemed to have shifted dramatically—at least to this uninformed adolescent—when John Glenn piloted Friendship 7 three times in orbit around the earth and landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean despite life-threatening damage to the capsule’s exterior during reentry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Successful and, yes, heroic action by a battle-hardened U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, a fighter pilot in two wars, gave hope and inspiration to a country badly needing a psychological boost. This Ohio native embodied calm, fearlessness and expertise. The space program offered a view of the future and justifiable pride in American know-how and grit.

I hear sometimes that our country needs heroes. Maybe that’s true.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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