About Dave Wheelan

The Spy Columnists: Howard Freedlander

There have been more than a few lucky moments in the Spy’s nine years of existence but none more so than the serendipitous formation of a unique team of volunteer public affairs columnists who now grace its pages every week. These highly respected leaders in their lifetime careers, gifted with intellect, imagination, and passion, spanning from the political left to right, has been one of the most significant assets of our hyper-local and education-based news portals.

The commentaries of Howard Freedlander, Craig Fuller, George Merrill, David Montgomery, and Al Sikes have considerably enhanced our community’s civil debates on the most pressing issues of our times. And while the written word is their chosen medium, the Spy, a great believer in multimedia with now over 2,000 video productions, has been grateful that they have agreed to be interviewed as our country enters into one of its most important elections in recent memory.

We continue this series with Howard Freedlander, who retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Unlike most of the Spy’s weekly columnists, who generally stick to national or even international topics and themes, Howard has taken a decidedly local bent as well.

That might be due to the fact the Howard, and his wife, Liz, have lived and worked on the Eastern Shore since the 1970s. With a major in journalism and political science from the University of Pennsylvania, Howard rejected a life in the private sector and came to the Mid-Shore to become a reporter for the Star Democrat, with subsequent assignments working as editor of two Caroline County newspapers before becoming the editor of the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.

Howard would move on to senior positions with the Maryland National Guard and eventually work for Nancy Kopp, Maryland State Treasurer, as her chief liaison for the state’s powerful Board of Public Works , where state agencies, universities, non-profits, cities and towns justify contracts for services, capital projects and land acquisition.

These multiple layers of experiences with both the Mid-Shore and the State of Maryland have understandingly led to a strong bias on the importance of community, local government, and citizenship. It also may have come from his admiration for his mother, who was a progressive political force in the city of Baltimore’s Democratic Party and a delegate to Maryland’s ill-fated Constitutional Convention in 1967-68.

In either case, Howard’s commentaries every week resonate with a unique sense of respect and sometimes concern for these Mid-Shore institutions, as the Shore, like the rest of the country, is doing some serious soul-searching on what this region will be like, and should act like, in the 21st Century.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length

District One in 2018: A Spy Goes to Harford County to Meet Barry Glassman

This Election 2018 profile is the third of a six-part series on the intricate makeup and character of the 1st Congressional District of Maryland. Each month, the Spy will be interviewing different 1st District residents from the Western Shore to the Lower Shore, both Democrats and Republicans, to discuss their unique sub-region of one of the largest congressional districts in the country, and the issues and political climate of those communities.

When Barry Glassman was attending Washington College in the early 1980s, he mirrored a world that ranged from the unbridled optimism of Ronald Reagan on one end and the cultural acceptance of TV’s right wing teen idol, Alex P. Keaton, on the other. Not burdened with memories of Watergate or the violence of the 1960s, Glassman, and his contemporaries, eagerly welcomed the Reagan era’s full throttle patriotism and America’s new, and much more hip, form of political conservatism.

From those early beginnings in Chestertown, where he sought his first political office as the president of WC’s Student Government Association, Glassman made politics a career choice that has taken him to become a Maryland state delegate, senator, and now the County Executive of Harford County.

A few weeks ago, the Spy drove over to Bel Air to talk the County Executive Glassman about his native Harford County, its role in the 1st District, as well as the increasingly polarized nature of national politics and what it means to be a Reagan Republican in the era of Donald Trump.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length. 

Mid-Shore Profiles: Lyon Distillery Company’s Jaime Windon

From the moment the Lyon Distillery Company opened its doors in St. Michaels five years, the Spy has had an great interest in its unique progression. Founded by Jaime Windon and Ben Lyon at the very end of 2013 on a small side street of the historic town, Lyon has become not only a successful and award-winning rum business but an extraordinary role model for young entrepreneurs throughout the Eastern Shore.

With a passion for rum and a special love for a small town lifestyle, Jaime and Ben had a conviction the Md-Shore community would be willing to support this kind of enterprise. Five years later, Lyon is not only highly sought after locally but is now building a national following as well.

But what makes Jaime so unique is that this busy CEO also has invested significantly in her community. In her Spy interview, she talks about the importance of St. Michaels in making Lyon successful, but also from the perspective of an elected commissioner for the Town of St. Michaels. Jaime also talks about what it takes to build a successful business as well as a town.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Lyon Distillery please go here

Where the Journey Ended: Frederick Douglass in Anacostia

There are many good reasons why historians and educators spend most of their time talking about Frederick Douglass before the Civil War. Almost from his birth in February of 1818 on the Mid-Shore to the Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Douglass caught the imagination of the entire western world with his powerful story of rising from slavery to become an internationally acclaimed writer, journalist, and abolitionist.

And yet, Douglass lived almost three decades longer after the war was over; just as active, just as relevant, just as impactful but from the riverfront community of Anacostia and the simple elegance of Cedar Hill, his twelve acre estate some six miles from downtown Washington. It was from this unique community that he pursued his advocacy work, writing and the publication of the New National Era, a weekly newspaper covering Reconstruction and other issues on justice.

But Anacostia was also where Douglass actively engaged in community affairs. He was principally responsible for bringing mass transit, via train service, to the mostly African-American community, while also cultivating local DC leaders at his home for improved city services for his adopted home. It was also a place where he felt the most at peace, frequently socializing with his neighbors, some of whom were reported to be old friends from his days in Talbot County during his slave years.

While the Mid-Shore is reminded frequently about Douglass’ life on the Eastern Shore, it is only when one visits Cedar Hill that the visitor can fully understand his life and times.  That is why the Spy took a side trip to Anacostia a few weeks ago to explore his remarkable family compound with the help of one of the site’s stewards, National Park Service’s Delphine Gross, and local historian and journalist John Muller, to fully appreciate this American hero’s remarkable journey.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For those interested in visiting Cedar Hill, and you should, please go here for hours of operation and other events at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site please go here. To obtain a copy of John Muller’s “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.:: The Lion of Anacostia” please go here

Doubling Down: WC’s Board Chair Larry Culp on the Future of Washington College and Chestertown

It isn’t all that shocking that Larry Culp, Washington College’s chair of the school’s Board of Visitors and Governors, would talk enthusiastically about the long-term future of the liberal arts college or the town where it has resided for 238 years.  Governing board leaders, particularly those who are graduates of those institutions like Larry at WC (class of 1985)  are instinctively optimistic about the institutions they lead as well as the municipalities where they are located. It is almost a part of the job description for such positions.

But what is not in the job description, particularly in the case of Washington College and Chestertown, is how much Culp has not only “talked the talk” but made substantial investments in both the school and the town to show his confidence in both; a “doubling down” on the two places he loves the most as well as a conviction that they can not only successfully recover from Great Recession but be in a real position to thrive in the years ahead.

Culp has the background to support those aspirations through a career that eventually led him to become president of Danaher Corporation at the age of 38, ranked 144 on the Fortune 500 and be listed on the Harvard Business Review’s top 50 best-performing CEOs list. Now a visiting lecturer at Harvard Business School (HBS), a board member of General Electric, T. Rowe Price, and Wake Forest University, Culp continues to maintain his interest in leadership and the ultimate question of what makes good companies and good schools.

And all of these experiences, including the use of HBS’s famed “case method” (Culp is an alum of HBS) and Danaher’s acquisitions of dozens of companies during his twenty-year tenure, has led Culp to a unique understanding and appreciation of what he calls “high performing” institutions, whether they be high tech corporations or small liberal arts colleges.

It is this familiarity with what makes a company/school successful that has turned Culp into a significant philanthropist for Washington College and Chestertown.  Larry and his family have made numerous million-dollar contributions to WC since joining the College’s board, with such diverse donations as the school’s scholarship endowment, the establishment a chair in WC’s psychology department, or more recently, the funding of the school’s “Food Lab” in downtown Chestertown.

These investments, however, have not stopped at the property lines of the College. In recent years, the Culp family has quietly made significant commitments to the Sultana Education Foundation and other nonprofit organizations in Kent County.

This faith in Chestertown has also included the purchase of the building occupied by the now-closed Lemon Leaf restaurant and JR’s Tavern on High Street as well as the beloved Stam’s pharmacy and ice cream fountain a few blocks down the street.

In all three cases, Culp is now making ambitious plans to reactivate those venues over the next two years with “best in class” dining, an unpretentious neighborhood bar, as well as, to relief of hundreds of sweltering Chestertownians during the summer months, a unique homemade ice cream establishment with such an unusual twist which is so hush-hush the owner would not describe the master plan on camera.

In Larry’s first interview with the Spy, which also served to inaugurate the Chestertown Spy’s new “Head’s Quarters” and studio on South Queen Street, he talks candidly about the serious challenges that face both Washington College and Chestertown still face, but also of the extraordinary opportunities that exist that could very well make WC a “top 50” liberal arts college but also move Chestertown into being one of the best known East Coast destinations over the next decade.

This video is approximately fifteen minutes in length.

The Spy Columnists: Al Sikes

There have been more than a few lucky moments in the Spy’s nine years of existence but none more so than the serendipitous formation of a unique team of volunteer public affairs columnists who now grace its pages every week. These highly respected leaders in their lifetime careers, gifted with intellect, imagination and passion, spanning from the political left to right, has been one of the most significant assets of our hyper-local and education-based news portals.

The commentaries of Howard Freedlander, Craig Fuller, George Merrill, David Montgomery, and Al Sikes have considerably enhanced our community’s civil debates on the most pressing issues of our times. And while the written word is their chosen medium, the Spy, a great believer in multimedia with now over 2,000 video productions, has been grateful that they have agreed to be interviewed as our country enters into one of its most important elections in recent memory.

We continue this series with Al Sikes; lawyer, businessman, former chair of the Federal Communications Commission, and, lest it be forgotten, serious jazz aficionado and founder of the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival,  Al is a proud native of Missouri, and particularly so of being a product of the town of Sikeston, some two hours south of St. Louis, which was founded by his ancestors and remains today a vibrant community with most of the extended Sikes family still in residence.

A graduate of a Westminster College, made famous for the historic Winston Churchill speech on the emerging cold war with the former Soviet Union, Al was brought up in the then prevailing tradition of Midwestern conservatism.  Mentored by Senator John Danforth and Missouri governor Kit Bond in the 1980s, Sikes eventually left the state-wide media company he had created to join the Ronald Reagan administration and then to serve as the Chairman of the FCC under George H.W. Bush at the beginning of the digital age of communications. He finally ended his full-time career with the Hearst Corporation as its leader for new media & technology and settled on the Mid-Shore with his wife, Marty, over ten years ago.

In his Spy interview, Al talks candidly about his concerns about the current Trump-led Republican Party, the consequences of creative destruction, and his conservatively cautious view that there will be brighter days ahead.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length. Al Sikes is the author of Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

BAAM Booming: The Future Plans of BAAM with Derick Daly

It’s hard to tell what was in the minds of Derick Daly and his wife, Dina, when they conceived the idea of Talbot County’s youth education program, Building African-American Minds, otherwise known as BAAM, but it is unlikely that the original concept would have included the creation of a BAAM campus that would consist of a “state of the art”academic building as well as athletic center.

But given BAAM’s unique track record since it launched in 2004, which has positively impacted hundreds of young boys in and around Easton, it now looks in hindsight as almost inevitable that this highly respected project would evolve into a remarkably sophisticated and financially stable institution worthy of these kinds of capital investment.

The Spy sat down withDerick last week to review the current status of BAAM’s strategic plan, the groundbreaking the athletic center, and the vision and design of the new academic center.

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

Port Street Perspectives: The Neighborhood Service Center with Corey Pack

It seems only natural given all the zoning, governance, and commercial interests at stake with a future Easton Point, that there has been an extraordinary focus over the last year or so on that rare piece of Easton waterfront and how it will be used in the next decade or so. But as anyone one from the Easton Economic Development Corporation will tell you, the segment of Port Street between the Easton By-pass (Route 322) and West Street is just as complicated and filled with an equal number of opportunities as well.

For within that one-mile zone consists of a community that has existed long before Port Street lost its historic purpose of providing a transportation axis between the town’s waterfront and the merchants located downtown.  It has also become one of Easton’s most diverse neighborhoods.

And one institution that has been there for decades has been the Neighborhood Service Center, which exists to improve the quality of life both socially and economically for low-income residents in Talbot County. The spy had an opportunity to talk to the president of that service agency’s board, County Council member Corey Pack.  In our interview, we discuss both the current and future vision for Port Street and the unique opportunities and challenges it brings to its residents, and to Easton at large.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. The production was co-sponsored by the Easton Economic Development Corporation. For more information about their mission or on the Port Street project, please go here

Grants in Action: St. Martin’s Ministries and Women & Girls Fund Getting Women in the Saddle

Over the last several decades, there have been countless studies done on the positive impact of teaching horseback riding skills to a full range of emotionally or intellectually challenged children. From those who have Down’s Syndrome, autism, or physical disabilities, these young people have shown extraordinary improvements in confidence, patience, and personal self-esteem after working with horses for even a short period.

St. Martin’s Ministries in Ridgely, who provides families, and particularly women and children, with the basic needs of food, clothing, and housing for the Mid-Shore region, wanted to use this technique to accomplish similar results for their residents and have been able to recently team up with Talbot Special Riders with a grant from the Women & Girls Fund this summer to make that happen.

The Spy sat down with Beth Spurry, who has served on the Women & Girls Fund Board of Directors for more than a decade, and who currently co-chairs the Fund’s grant committee, to talk about how such a small investment can yield such positive results.

We also talk to the St. Martin’s new executive director, Deborah Vornbrock, about the organization’s mission, and its partnership with Women & Girls Fund, to provide this unique opportunity for women at risk.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about St. Martin’s Ministries please go here

This is the eighth in a series of stories focused on the work of the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore. Since 2002, the Fund has channeled its pooled resources to organizations that serve the needs and quality of life for women and girls in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. The Spy, in partnership with the Women & Girls Fund, are working collaboratively to put the spotlight on twelve of these remarkable agencies to promote their success and inspire other women and men to support the Fund’s critical role in the future.

Dennis Powell and his Cast Iron Pans: ​A Manufacturer Comes to the AAM Craft Show​

While the Mid-Shore’s Dennis Powell has agreed (and is honored) to be one of the featured artists at the Academy Art Museum’s famed Crafts Show this coming October, he still recoils slightly at being called an artist or even a craftsman.

That’s because his product, the simple American cast iron pan, is the result of an intensive manufacturing process that involves approximately 180 workers in a Pennsylvania foundry to produce his small run of some of the most remarkable cooking skillets in the world.

It also might be due to the fact that Powell started his company as the result of trying to solve an engineering problem rather than one of aesthetics. When his grandmother’s skillet from the 19th century finally cracked in 2013, his journey began to recreate somehow an ancient process in manufacturing cast iron pans that would have a surface similar to his grandmother’s; so smooth that scallops could be sautéed without seasonings or oil.

Dennis Powell has taken several years of study, and more than a few bucks, to follow this passion. With the support of an encouraging spouse, he started a project that would eventually bring a product of near perfection to market in 2016  as Butter Pat Industries, which offers for skillet sizes for some of the best-known chefs in America as well as “in the know” home cooks.

The Spy sat down with Dennis near his Easton Airport office to talk about cast iron, engineering, and the distinctive art and craft (Sorry Dennis) that comes with pan manufacturing.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum’s Crafts Show for 2018 please go here