Avalon Foundation Moving Forward with 7,500 Seat Performing Arts Center

While it has always been in the back of the minds of the Avalon Foundation’s leadership to eventually find a new performance venue for their ever-growing number of concerts and attendees, board members and staff realistically assumed it would take decades before a building with of state-of-the-art amenities could become a reality.

That prediction changed dramatically six weeks ago.

Finally getting around to returning a phone call from a fellow attorney in Washington D.C., Avalon Foundation president, Denise Bode, was expecting to answer a minor legal question on land use in Talbot County, where she and her husband have a second home. What she received instead was the confidential notification that an anonymous client had committed to donate up to $35 million for a new performing arts center in Easton.

Perhaps more disorienting for Bode, as well as for Bob Rauch of Rauch, Inc., who had also been contacted about the proposed project, was the suggested timeline for both the gift and the construction schedule. The project would need to be fast-tracked and open at approximately the same time when the web giant Amazon would be opening their new East Coast offices in Virginia.

Being the professionals they were, both Bode and Rauch quickly discarded any thoughts of who the philanthropist was or why the peculiar timeline. Their job was to make the offer happen.

The following evening, Bode assembled the board’s executive leadership to outline the specifics of the offer. Within 30 minutes, a draft memorandum of understanding was approved, and by 11 pm that night, the project had been assigned to the Rauch team of engineers and architects.

But all that has not stopped the Talbot County rumor mill from its own speculation on the project’s donor and motivation.

Since Amazon announced their intention to move to the Washington, D.C. area, economists have projected a specific “Amazon effect” for the region. With the potential of thousands of affluent professionals flooding into the District, there will be a significant ripple impact for Talbot County as those families seek out vacation homes or weekend retreats.

Experts cite the example of Marin County as a good comparison. Marin, a mostly rural county just north of San Francisco, was invaded by newly-rich Silicon Valley executives seeking reprieve from the congestion of Bay Area. This phenomenon not only made real estate prices go sky high but dramatically increased funding for the arts.

In many take years, perhaps decades, to uncover the source of funding for the new performance complex, but those same experts suggest that the donor’s desire to significantly improving the Avalon’s capacity could well be linked to a savvy strategy to win over these tech millionaires early in the game.

Late last week Rauch made good on its first commitment of their contract by providing the Avalon board draft schematics of the facility and well as rough renderings of its interior, including some spaces already named for well-known VIPs in Talbot County.

This seemed to the Spy to be an excellent time to receive an official download from Denise and Bob on this remarkable turn of events for the Avalon and the community it has faith served for almost one hundred years.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information on the Avalon Foundation or to make a donation to their current capital campaign please go here.

Editor Note: Dear gentle reader, if you have been able to suspend your disbelief to the very end of this article, we must make it clear that this is entirely fake news to celebrate April Fools Day.



Mid-Shore Arts: When Art and History Meet with Jason Patterson

College towns are typically blessed with, and perhaps even a bit dependent on, the academic version of “twofers.” With each talented faculty member recruited, there is a good chance that an equally gifted spouse or partner will be part of the package.

Examples in Chestertown are endless of this form of collateral benefits. A recent case came to mind when the Spy announced that Sabine Harvey, wife of Washington College’s Dr. Michael Harvey, had been appointed to run Chestertown’s beloved farmers’ market. This was just the latest of Sabine’s remarkable contributions to Kent County agriculture and gardening.

And this is undoubtedly the case with the arrival of Dr. Meghan Grosse,  a professor with the College’s communication and media studies program. Dr. Grosse’s partner, artist Jason Patterson, agreed to make the move East from his native Campaign-Urbana in Illinois and now has his studio in Chestertown.

In the months that followed his arrival, Jason almost immediately became Kent County Arts Council’s first artist in residence. A few months after that, he was invited by Sumner Hall to exhibit his art (on display until March 24), and around the same time became a Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellow at WC’s Starr Center.

The Spy sat down with Jason at the Spy HQ in Chestertown for a quick chat about his work and the unique opportunities that come when art connects with history.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. More information about Jason Paterson’s art work can be found here.

A New Beginning: Mid-Shore Scholars with Samantha Martinez

If there is one thing that Talbot Mentors has proven since its inception in 2000, it is that every young person gains so much when an adult has their back. Statistically, this is undoubtedly the case, but nothing is more satisfying than to review the hundreds of success stories that have coming out of this unique Talbot organization to demonstrate how powerful that strategy can be.

These results were not news for Marshall and Loretta Blume. Marshall, who had taught at the University of Pennsylvania for forty-five years before retiring to Talbot County, had seen the dramatic results first hand at Penn with other mentoring programs that targeted college-bound youth in major United States cities.

The Blumes also thought the same methodology could be applied to Mid-Shore students who inspired to be the first of their families to earn a college degree. With a support network of volunteers in place, these motivated young people could successfully navigate the daunting process of pre-college preparation, college selection, and the admissions procedures.

With that in mind, the Blumes last year established Mid-Shore Scholars, dedicated to helping regional high school students fulfill their life goals. Beyond the funding of the project, the Blume also recruited a dedicated board of directors and the recruitment of Samantha Martinez as the organization’s first executive director to begin fulfilling its mission in early 2019.

Sadly, Marshall Blume passed away unexpectedly just days before the first four students began their weekend orientation. For a fledgling organization to lose its benefactor and visionary at the very beginning of its existence was a severe test for all involved, but there was never a moment of hesitation from the Blume family, the board, nor Samantha that this critically important program would move forward.

The Spy sat down with Samantha a few weeks ago at the Bullitt House to understand more about Mid-Scholars and its crucial first year.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Mid-Shore Scholars please go here






A Chesapeake Charities Case Study: Public Transportation on the Shore

“What is the difference between your organization and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation?”

It is quite likely Linda Kohler has been asked that question over one million times since she started working at Chesapeake Charities in 2005.

Throughout her day as its executive director, she graciously points out the Charities early mission of working with individuals or small groups, mostly with no resources at all, to create organizations that serve the public good.  And now, with close to one hundred nonprofits under the Chesapeake Charities umbrella, this story is compelling.

Yet, it is the other work of Chesapeake Charities that is equally impressive. Linda and her staff collaboratively work with those same organizations and others on mission delivery and funding.

A case in point has been Chesapeake Charities’ work with the United Way of Kent County. It took on a partner role with the United Way’s goal to identify the most serious challenges facing Kent County, and they successfully found funding for a professional assessment of needs. The results were four areas of major concern, including public transportation, generational poverty, senior care, and the implementation of Dial 211 public services hotline.

The Spy thought it would be interesting to drill down to the issue of public transportation as an example of this works.  Now that the United Way could confirm that getting to work, to health care, to school, or a community center was a problem,  the next step was to find transportation professionals to identify economically realistic solutions. And once again, Chesapeake Charities was there to help find the funds to do that critical first step.

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

Wendy Grubbs’ Campaign to Rescue the Old Dogs on the Shore by Val Cavalheri

573 Reasons to read this.

This story, I promise, has a happy ending. It’s about Wendy Grubbs, an ordinary person, and at the core, it’s a story about love. Yet, her story is unquestionably connected to and can only be understood by first hearing about two dogs named, Dubya and Samson.

Dubya (aka Dubs), estimated to be around 13 years old, was a surrender to Prince George’s County Shelter by his owner. He had rotten teeth and a cancerous tumor on his front leg.


Samson at approximately 14 years of age, had an unknown history, but the embedded rope scars around his neck speak of a rough start. He was adopted by a loving rescuer who shortly afterward died from breast cancer. The friend she entrusted him to had a cat that didn’t appreciate the new family member. Samson had nowhere to go.

What these two had in common was PetConnect Rescue, where Grubbs is a board member, who saw potential and hope for these two misfits and others like them. The rescue group which arranges and pays for medical services ranging from routine vaccinations and blood tests to treating serious medical conditions (such as broken bones) had recently launched a Senior Dog Program recognizing that seniors are usually overlooked due to their age and are most at risk to be euthanized.

The organization stepped in and fixed what could be fixed, removed or cleaned what couldn’t. “We try to give [the adopter] a dog who is in the best health a senior can be,” Grubbs said. “You’re going to get a dog that big things have been dealt with. Basically, you get a pretty healthy animal.” Since PetConnect doesn’t have a facility, they can only pull a needy dog from a shelter when they have someone willing to foster or adopt.

Dubya Before

Now, this is where the happy part is: Dubya was adopted a year ago and Samson four months later. They and three additional ‘flawed’ rescues named Jellybean, Stella, and Camilla live with and are loved by Grubbs.

Grubbs finds nothing unusual about her passion for saving animals in need. She’s had, since kindergarten, always had shelter dogs as family members. It surprises her, however, hearing people’s first instinct is not always to get a rescue animal. “What is the psychology of why people need to buy an animal?” Looking around her home, she said, “You can buy posters, or you can get original art. You can wear clothes that everyone else wears, or you can buy couture. I prefer original art, and I prefer my dogs to be couture—one of a kind.”

Despite the increase in her family size, Grubbs is not housebound, they are “totally manageable,” she says. Currently an equities markets specialist, she’s had a busy career in law and investment banking. She also spent a few years as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. There were always dogs running around the White House, she recalls, and their presence made the Executive Mansion feel like a conventional home. But her focus these days and uppermost in her mind is how to persuade people to give homeless animals a chance. “There are 573 senior dogs in shelters within 100 miles of Oxford looking for homes,” she says. “I want to convince people to think of adopting from a shelter as being the only option instead of an option. We’re still euthanizing 4 million adoptable animals per year, and it really breaks my heart.”

But an older dog? I asked.

These are some of the reasons they are so perfect, she said:

-You don’t have to worry about potty training. You have to show them where to go and also learn how they’re used to asking.
-They don’t chew your expensive things. Sampson sleeps in my closet. On my shoes. I don’t have to worry about picking them up.
-Oh yea, they sleep a lot.
-You don’t need to crate them.
-They don’t require tons of exercise. Dubya loves to go for a long walk, but the rest of them are super not interested.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges in this type of adoption. “Most times, I know nothing about them,” she said. “I have to figure out their favorite scratch spot. I knew nothing about Dubya. He doesn’t seem to like toys. In fact, he sat on a squeaky one and scared himself to death. I just go slow and try and figure it out.”

There are other times when a dog’s history is known. “When I got Samson, I got a bag of his stuff, and I cried over that. It was such a mixed blessing because I had all of this information about him, I had his toys. I was also heartbroken because his owner was so thoughtful and she planned for him. She put his favorite stuff in a bag. She was 40 years old when she died. I feel like I owe it to this person. And as for Samson, I am at least his third and definitely his last, owner.”

This reminded the lawyer in Grubbs to give the following advice. “If you have an animal, put their care in your will. Samson is a very clear example of doing it right and things going wrong. The owner left Samson with a friend, and it didn’t work, and there was no backup plan. So, you can leave a dog with a friend or family, but provide a Plan B in case they won’t or can’t do it. Plan B should be naming a rescue group in the will, so the dog doesn’t end up in a shelter and is euthanized because of their age.”

Dubya After

The hardest thing to talk about and the most significant objection Grubbs hears are people’s feelings about the animal’s end of life. “I don’t have the perfect answer, but let me tell you this, I think when you see a ‘before’ picture, like the one of Dubya, and they have this forlorn expression that says, ‘I did my best for my human and here I am, and I’m lost.’ And then you see them blossom, and you see them run and play, like he does every morning, with such vigor. Look, I know it’s going to kill me when he goes, but I feel like I’ve done such a good thing for him and I’m so rewarded as a person. They’ve been loved, and that’s such a powerful thing. They win, and I win.”

There are several ways to help organizations, such as PetConnect, rescue more adoptable animals.

The most obvious is, of course, adopt an older dog. For every Dubya and Samson, there are others like Shana and Smitty, a bonded pair who were found in a motel with a dead, overdosed owner. After all the loss they have experienced they cannot be split up.

Foster a senior while they wait for a forever home.
Donate to a needy shelter, cash, in-kind goods, etc.
Volunteer to help socialize a dog. Seniors who have had lives with people and end up in a shelter shut down. If they are socialized, they are more adoptable.
Contribute to a spay and neuter program.

Recently, Grubbs has been working on a new rescue model, raising awareness on a solution she feels is ideal: matching senior dogs with senior humans. Unfortunately, many shelters refuse to allow senior citizens to adopt. “Older folks are perfect adopters. If a dog is willed back to the rescue, then why wouldn’t an older person, who will spend most of their time with the dog, be perfect?”

There is much that can be done, but there are changes on the horizon. Best Friends, the largest coalition of shelters in Utah have a goal for no euthanasia of adoptable pets by 2025. As of January 1, 2019, a new law in California requires pet stores to sell only rescue animals. “I think rescues are morphing and people understand that these animals are family members. I want these animals to live with dignity, not curled up in a corner in a shelter somewhere.”

As for her future, Grubbs says she’ll be out there educating people that older dogs are worth it, “I don’t know how many more dogs I’ll take. I’ll take as many as I can. I’m a go big or go home kind of person, so I’m going to do what I can do and take as many as I can take. Hopefully, in the future , this will be less needed.”

She again mentions the numbers she can’t stop thinking about: 573. The number of senior dogs in shelters within 100 miles of Oxford that are looking for homes. It’s the reason she does what she does. However, she will probably be the first to admit she’s just an ordinary person with a desire to do something. But to Dubya, Samson, Jellybean, Stella, and Camilla, she is so much more than that. She is extraordinary.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Mid-Shore Food: Chesapeake Harvest Goes Online with Jordan Lloyd

Chesapeake Harvest, which has been incubated by the Easton Economic Development Corporation for the last several years, started out focused on preparing Eastern Shore farmers to expand their market reach by training them with best practices and food safety guidelines required for larger markets.

But from the very beginning, Chesapeake Harvest was also eager to help those farmers with marketing and sales strategies to satisfy not only wholesale demands, but develop creative new ways to open up retail and institutional opportunities.

One of those new opportunities has been the development of Chesapeake’s online farmers’ market. With the leadership of advisory board member Jordan Lloyd, his wife, Alice, Chesapeake Harvest’s Elizabeth Beggins, and EEDC director Tracy Ward, the team switched on their website a year ago to test the waters of this entirely new way to bring local food to local family tables.

Last week, the Spy sat down with Jordan at the Bullitt House in Easton to talk about this new program and its future.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake Harvest and to access their website please go here.


Ballerinas, Tights, and the Myth of the Conowingo Boogeyman by William Herb

Motherhood, apple pie, and the Clean Chesapeake Coalition! What kind of curmudgeon could possibly find fault with such righteous-sounding institutions? But as Neal Hagburg writes in his song, If it ain’t you: “You ain’t a ballerina just because you like to wear tights when you dance”. Wearing the mantle of a clean Chesapeake doesn’t automatically make you a protector of the Bay.

The Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC), organized in 2012, comprises Caroline, Cecil, Carroll, Dorchester, Kent, and Queen Anne’s Counties. Membership consists entirely of government officials from these six counties. CCC’s stated objective is “to pursue improvements to the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay in the most prudent and fiscally responsible manner-through research, coordination, and advocacy.”

I just viewed the latest video produced by the CCC. While I wholeheartedly agree with their purported desire to have a clean Bay, I find that the video is quite misleading, and serves mainly to promote the hidden CCC agenda of reducing pollution-management efforts (but not pollution) in its member counties, while continually raising the specter of the mythical Conowingo Boogeyman. This is “whataboutism” writ environmentally. You know: “Yes, we do pollute our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, but what about (insert Conowingo or your own favorite villain here)?” The parochial CCC view seems to be that preventing pollution locally is a waste of money, but it is money well spent if someone else foots the bill, regardless of culpability.

If the video is to be taken at face value, the only resource in danger in the Bay is the oyster, and watermen who harvest that particular bi-valve are the only stakeholders damaged by the Bay’s condition. Perhaps it is only Commissioner Fithian’s biases speaking. Yet he and the other Kent County Commissioners are willing to spend $25,000 per year of our tax dollars to promote such bogus ideas while, at the same time, proposing to eliminate fines for certain Critical Area violations. A clean Chesapeake, indeed!

The subject video is misleadingly entitled “The Conowingo Factor”, when in fact it should be titled “The Pennsylvania (and maybe New York) Factor”. I will admit that the new title doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but accuracy should count for something even in a time when truth isn’t truth. At the very end of the slick propaganda piece, after the talking heads are blessedly silenced, a text box does grudgingly grant that Pennsylvania is not doing enough to clean up the river before it reaches the Bay. Even that admission is prefaced by a cheap shot at Exelon for not taking part in a pilot dredging study begun by Maryland; a study with some promise, but one also fraught with pitfalls.

The Susquehanna River –the main tributary and source of the Chesapeake Bay–runs through New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland before emptying into the northern, top end of the Chesapeake Bay.     Map courtesy of Bay Journal

Let’s face it. Pennsylvania’s and New York’s contaminants are horrendous problems, and the CCC deserves props for pointing that out, as well as for flagging EPA’s blunder in failing to recognize the future impact of zero sediment trap efficiency of the Conowingo Dam and pond.

On the other hand, review the past tributary and Bay health scorecards and you will see that we residents along the Bay have not covered ourselves in glory when it comes to pollution. The best water in the Bay is just downstream from the mouth of the Susquehanna River. This relatively good quality owes no thanks to efforts by upstream states to cut sediment, nutrients, and other pollution, but rather is a testament to the free remediation that has been provided by the Conowingo Dam and pond for the past 8 decades. It seems that the CCC and many others simply want to disregard this happy coincidence. The power generation facility does not require clean water, but, as a by-product of its design, it has remediated the upstream mess for 80 years at no cost to the upstream polluters or the downstream beneficial users.

The same scorecards will reveal that when the relatively clean water enters the Bay, we Marylanders, including the residents of the six CCC Counties (C4), immediately begin to degrade it, and Virginians and DC residents are no better. Most of the contamination from the C4 is caused by agriculture, which does not have enforceable discharge limits (but which offers the most cost-effective way to reduce sediment and nutrient TMDLs). The Bay score stays low until the waterbody experiences flushing from the ocean via tides. Once again, a free remediation (natural, this time) helps clean up our misdeeds. We are all to blame for the quality of water in the Bay, and it is unconscionable to deflect the blame to others while trying to avoid our own responsibilities.

“The Susquehanna River, the Bay’s largest tributary, carries nutrient and sediment pollution from Pennsylvania and New York. Efforts to curtail a key nutrient, nitrogen, have fallen behind because of lagging cleanup progress in those two states, EPA says.” (Photo with caption from  Bay Journal article June 2016)

There are 3 major contaminants coming down the Susquehanna and all the other Bay tributaries: sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen. These are produced by processes and activities (natural or human) in the watersheds. Human activities predominate as causes of the contamination.

Assuming that cleaning up our own act here in Maryland makes sense, how should we view what is going to be happening in the near future when the Conowingo Dam and pond will no longer trap sediment as they have in the past? Let’s look at energy production as well as sediment and nutrient delivery to the Bay.

It is doubtful that there will be a significant impact on energy production. In a “run of the river” system such as Conowingo, energy production depends on the head (elevation) of water above the turbines, not on the scant amount of water stored behind the dam. Also, as previously noted, nutrients do not affect electricity production. So cleanup of other people’s pollution is not a driving economic factor for the owner and operator of Conowingo or for its customers and shareholders.

A reduction of nutrients in Bay waters will help promote the long-term increase in underwater grasses, which support fish, crabs, and waterfowl. (Photo by Dave Harp,  Courtesy of Bay Journal)

Nitrogen, which should be controlled at its upstream sources, is largely in solution, so the presence of the dam and pond have had no significant impact on delivery to the Bay, and if the dam’s sediment trap efficiency is reduced to zero, that will not change the situation.

Sediment is a huge problem. But the source of the problem is in the production of sediment in Pennsylvania and New York, and not a problem inherent in the dam and pond. The CCC makes much of the highly visible plume of sediment that passed through the dam following Tropical Storm Lee, but they conveniently neglect to mention that that plume would have been there without the dam or even if the dam had the trap efficiency of its heyday. Those extremely fine silts and clays pass through the Conowingo pond and dam like crap through a goose and remain suspended for miles downstream due to basic physics.

CCC also emphasizes the fact that 4 million tons of sediment were scoured out of the pond in Lee, but minimizes the fact that an additional 15 million tons came down from Pennsylvania and New York in the same flood event. They also tend to ignore the fact that 4 million tons of scour restored some of the sediment trapping capacity for future storms.

Phosphorus, which should be controlled at its upstream sources, is carried on the surface of sediments, and will be delivered to the Bay in increasing amounts if nothing happens at the dam. But the impact will look almost exactly like what would happen if no dam were in place at all. During its previous history of free remediation, the Conowingo Dam and pond captured about 40 per cent of the phosphorus coming down the Susquehanna.

The proposed pilot dredging study may provide some useful information. However, there are a number of questions that must be answered before large-scale dredging should be considered as a viable solution. Is there a beneficial use for 280 million tons of sediment contaminated with phosphorus, coal, PCBs, radio-nuclides from Three Mile Island, heavy metals, and other potentially hazardous materials? Is there any place, within practical distance, that will accept the materials? Will any beneficial uses offset the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers estimate of $4 billion for complete dredging?

If these questions can be positively answered, and the cost is considered to be acceptable, the question is: who should pay for the dredging? Is it billed to the potentially responsible parties in Pennsylvania and New York, the beneficiaries of the cleanup in Maryland (including the C4) and Virginia, the Federal Government (good luck taking money from the 1-percenters in the current political climate!), or a corporation whose main environmental crimes seems to be having deep pockets and tone-deaf ears to public sentiment?

The Boogeyman that we really need to address is the reduction of pollution from Pennsylvania and New York. That should be addressed and funded by those states (while we continue to do our share). Perhaps dredging is a viable solution. Perhaps Exelon should be a better corporate citizen. But I do not see where we, the public, should depend upon the largesse of private corporations to take care of what are public problems.

Likewise, I object to my county tax dollars being spent tilting at windmills, especially when CCC can’t even pick the right windmill. Furthermore, I object to my county tax dollars supporting what I consider quasi-extortion in squeezing funding from Exelon through threats from the State of Maryland by Governor Hogan and MDE Secretary Grumbles, aided and abetted by the CCC. And to my everlasting dismay, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an organization which I greatly admire, seems quite willing to trade its scientific integrity for a handful of silver.

Well, I guess $172 million a year to the Bay cleanup is quite a few handfuls; at least we know their integrity doesn’t come cheap). Of course, the 35,000 Pennsylvania farms in the Susquehanna basin could contribute about $4,900 each, or each resident of the basin could kick in a paltry $38 to raise the same amount. But it is much more politically expedient to deflect the blame to a corporation.

I can almost see the movie scene in my head. An Exelon executive is waking up one morning and finds a bloodied and beheaded American shad in his bed, along with a note saying: “Nice hydropower license you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

Come to think of it, if the penalty imposed on Exelon for not cleaning up the problems caused by the polluters in Pennsylvania and New York is $172,000,000 per year, perhaps Exelon should consider sending a bill to Maryland and Virginia (maybe Pennsylvania and New York, too) for reimbursement for its gratis efforts over the past 80 years. Fourteen billion dollars would be a tidy sum that could be “donated” to Bay cleanup efforts.

William Herb has B.S. (Forestry) and M.S. degrees (Forest Hydrology) from the Pennsylvania State University and did additional graduate school studies in the Environmental Engineering program at Johns Hopkins. He was a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in College Park and Towson, Maryland, where he specialized in sediment studies, including sediment trap efficiency and sediment production in urbanizing areas. He relocated with the USGS to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and worked on projects characterizing the hydrology and water chemistry in bituminous coal mining areas and statistical hydrology.  He moved on to Texas and supervised a team of about a dozen hydrologists and technicians in extensive hydrologic data-collection programs.

Bill then returned to Maryland as the USGS liaison to the Army Environmental Command (AEC) at Aberdeen Proving Ground.  He managed several divisions within the AEC, and also served as the Chief of the Army’s Northern Regional Environmental Office and the Department of Defense Regional Environmental Coordinator for Federal Region V.  After retirement from the USGS, he joined Booz Allen Hamilton and supported AEC and the Installation Management Command (IMCOM) in managing the testing of Army environmental software and took a lead role in hiring computer scientists and related staff for the newly formed Information Management Division of IMCOM.


The War of 1812, Frederick Douglass, and Wedding Crashers: A Spy Chat with St. Michaels Museum’s Kate Fones

Spy columnist Howard Freedlander often makes the point that most national news can be seen through the local lens of journalism, and the same could also be said for American history and perhaps the thousands of small-town history museums that are scattered around the country.

This is undoubtedly true at the St. Michaels Museum where the arc of American history and culture, from the War of 1812, the travails of St. Michaels resident Frederick Douglass, or documenting the filming of Wedding Crashers at Perry Cabin, all find the way to the doorstep of the museum on East Chestnut Street.

The Spy visited the museum last month to talk to volunteer board president Kate Fones about the museum and some of the nation’s most important moments in history.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the St. Michaels Museum, please go here

John O’Brien on Leadership and Self-Awareness in the Trump Era

Given the seemingly endless use of President Donald Trump’s Twitter account to attack political opponents and publically humiliate his own cabinet members, it is unfortunate that the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution does not include a clause that allows the country to formally intervene and send their CEO to a leadership training program before any talk about giving them the heave-ho.

But if the US did have those powers, it is quite likely the our Donald would have been sent to an executive leadership retreat which was run by John O’Brien.

For much of his professional life, Johnny O’Brien has had a very small niche segment in the leadership training industry. O’Brien developed specialized programs for the very elite corporate leaders of Fortune 500 companies. It also didn’t hurt that John had “walked the walk” himself for several years as the CEO of the Hershey School and its $14 billion endowment.

Given the national and local conversation we are now having on what leadership means, we thought it would be a good idea to have a check in with Johnny about the state of our union and its leaders.

This video is approximately five minutes in length.




The Late Ed Garbisch and his Legacy of Environmental Concern for Wetland Protection

The Eastern Shore has had a number of well-known environmental heroes which have spanned generations with the likes of the Gilbert Byron, William Warner, Harry Hughes, Rogers Morton, or more recently, Wayne Gilcrest, but for every one of these very special leaders are dozens of others who may never share this kind of public recognition.

One of those heroes passed away a few years ago.

Dr. Edgar Garblish, who spent half of his childhood on Eastern Shore, returned home in 1971 while on sabbatical from the University of Minnesota and found himself drawn to the remarkable healing properties that wetlands create for habitat along the Chesapeake Bay. In short order, Garblish resigned from his tenured position, moved his family back east to the old family home, and concentrated his efforts to research and develop techniques of marsh construction using native plants.

And by 1972, Garbisch had become founder and president of Environmental Concern in St. Michaels. There, he became one of the earliest proponents of a technique of marsh construction fine-tuned over the years known as “nonstructural shoreline control.” Wetlands were reclaimed or created using native plants, propagated in greenhouses at EC. Planting these many grasses produced a living shoreline to protect against erosion, provide habitat for animals, and also serve as a filtering system to help clean the polluted waters. Such work was and continues to be done by Environmental Concern up and down the east coast.

Before retiring from EC in 2005, Dr. Garbisch shifted his focus toward the educational side of wetland development, creating materials and programs aimed at everyone from professionals to the general public. The creation and preservation of wetlands are now recognized as a vital component of the global ecology. Planting his first marsh grass, Dr. Garbisch never thought his work would be pioneering. He simply thought it was useful and necessary for the world.

The Spy ventured out to St. Michaels to visit the Environmental Concern campus to talk to its current president, Suzanne Pittenger-Slear, about Dr. Garbisch’s legacy and the ongoing impact the organization he founded has had on restoring critical wetlands in every part of the country.

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

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