Our newly elected Talbot County Council’s first meeting on December 13 was an orderly and reaffirming event. New council member Dave Stepp’s opening prayer was followed by the pledge of allegiance. And once disbursements were approved, the Honorable Stephen H. Kehoe, Talbot County Circuit Court Judge, welcomed council members and invited them to become familiar with what goes on both in our courts and behind the scenes in order to administer justice in this county.
A letter of support for a new regional hospital was approved, and an update on the Automated External Defibrillator Program (AED) reaffirmed our good fortune. With 220 AED units throughout the community, this program is recognized as one of the best in the state. 123 units must now be replaced, but grants and community organizations are assisting in this effort.
Council members were then assigned liaison positions with the county’s boards and committees. There’s lots of business to conduct. Wye Mills spray irrigation field will increase in size from 2 to 12 acres. Talbot County is in charge, and residents will pay a monthly fee. With reimbursements and discounts confirmed, funding was also approved for a septic system pump for St. Michaels and grinder pumps for the Unionville, Tunis Mills and Copperville wastewater system.
Having lost county employees to other jurisdictions over the past year, a 2% mid-year Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for county employees will allow Talbot County to remain competitive. Vice President Pete Lesher noted that this expense is covered by county funds.
Lieutenant Darryl Caldwell of the Easton Volunteer Fire Department congratulated our council members and expressed his appreciation for the council’s support of the training center. He also suggested, with a smile, that he could be requesting funds at some point in the future.
Our county council will be busy, but this meeting was coming to an end. Closing statements, without exception, included everyone’s best wishes for the holidays. Dave Stepp would also express his appreciation for our faith in him and fellow council members. Lynn Mielke expressed her appreciation of this opportunity to serve and emphasized how blessed we are to have such outstanding county employees. Keasha Haythe is looking forward to the hard work ahead, with the assistance of county employees whose COLA raise is so well-deserved.
Council President Chuck Callahan offered his congratulations to fellow council members, reaffirmed his colleagues’ observations, and is looking forward to serving with them over the next four years.
Vice President Pete Lesher also welcomed fellow council members and is looking forward to serving with them; but “on another note,” he has been requested by constituents to “prepare a resolution to recognize the planning commission’s decision last year regarding the eligibility of the Lakeside development in Trappe.” He is working on that resolution and looking forward to receiving feedback before the council’s meeting on January 10, 2023.
On yet another note regarding the planning commission, a hearing concerning the appointment of a planning commissioner was held in Talbot County Circuit Court on December 14. Commissioners are appointed by the county council, but appointments are made once a commissioner’s term has ended and a vacancy has occurred.
Despite having been reminded that county code also requires terms ending on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday be extended to include the next weekday and a newly elected council would be sworn in before a vacancy occurred at midnight on December 5, our last council voted to appoint a new commissioner.
The requirement for a term’s extension might understandably have been overlooked in the past. After all, how frequently might a term end on a weekend or holiday? Our circuit court promised a decision within a week. We were also warned that this case could be headed to appellate court.
These are trying times. But in the process of being reminded of the efforts required in the maintenance of a democratic republic, we might have also acquired a new level of appreciation for the counsel of our native son, Frederick Douglass: “Welcome joy, welcome sorrow, welcome pleasure, welcome pain. You are all ingredients of life, and with you all, life is an inestimable blessing.”
Carol Voyles is a graphic designer/illustrator who retired to the Eastern Shore and became interested in politics. She serves as communications chair for the Talbot County Democratic Forum and lives in Easton.