Milestone: The Wittman Post Office Celebrates 150 Years

This week, a large crowd gathered at the Wittman Post Office for a 150th birthday celebration. Wittman and the surrounding area is known as “Pot Pie” and local lore attributes this savory name to an elderly woman who cooked pot pies that she offered to watermen returning home after a long day on the water.  Another belief is when the local preacher of the church visited a parishioner’s home and was offered refreshments, he always asked for a pot pie.

At the celebration, historical memorabilia were proudly displayed. One plaque listed the names of the eighteen persons who have previously served as Postmaster.  The first Postmaster, from 1869 to 1875, was Mrs. Emily Wittman, whose family originally settled in the area in the 1860’s. 

A historical photograph from the early 1900’s showed the general store across the street from the current Post Office location.  Residents originally received mail at the general store. After the store closed, the Post Office moved across Pot Pie Road to its current location. Today the Post Office serves not only Wittman residents but also the communities of McDaniel and Sherwood. With the closing of the Asbury Methodist Church across Pit Pie Road, the Wittman Post Office is the unofficial gathering spot for the area’s communities.

Several dignitaries or their representatives attended the event to offer their congratulations. State Senator Addie Eckardt read both the Citation signed by Governor Larry Hogan, Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford and Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith and the Resolution from the Senate of Maryland; State Delegates Christopher Adams and Johnny Mautz read the Official Citation from the Maryland General Assembly; Mike Arntz represented Congressman Andy Harris and read his Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.  In addition, Postmistress Chris Henckel received new United States and State of Maryland flags. The United States flag once flew over the US Capitol building.

After the dignitaries’ presentations, Wittman’s oldest native resident and landlord for the Post Office, Mr. Clarence Marshall, 93 years young, cut the cake and the party began. Several previous Postmasters posed for pictures along with Postmaster Carl Starlipper from the St. Michaels Post Office on this momentous occasion.

Several tents with refreshments were set up for shade but the large crowd spilled out into the street. I enjoyed chatting with my neighbors and meeting new ones. As I walked home, I reflected upon how much I appreciated my neighborhood for its small size, congenial neighbors and its diverse mix of newcomers and descendants of original settlers that makes Wittman a very special place. 

 

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

 

Public Service Commission Can Overrule Local Government, Court Says

The Maryland Court of Appeals reaffirmed on Tuesday that the Maryland Public Service Commission is the final arbiter on the location and approval of solar projects larger than two megawatts—and can preempt local jurisdictions after giving “due consideration” to local zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans.

The ruling cites the historical “intent” of the Maryland General Assembly in passing public utilities law as well as recent amendments enacted in 2017 that reinforced the PSC’s  “decision-making” authority.

The court affirmed that it has always upheld the broad powers of the PSC given to it in statute by the legislature “to execute its principal duty of assuring adequate electrical service statewide.”

And while the court recognized local government as a partner in the decision process, “the ultimate decision-maker is the PSC, not the local government or local zoning board.”

The court did, however, note the PSC’s obligation to consider local land use laws when approving applications for solar projects that require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

Local zoning laws are “nevertheless a statutory factor requiring due consideration by the PSC in rendering its ultimate decision,” the ruling said.

The recent court ruling comes from a case in Washington County where local residents fought Perennial Solar, LLC ‘s application in late 2015 for a variance to build an 86-acre solar farm near the village of Cearfoss.

The Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals approved the application, ruling that the project conformed to the comprehensive plan.  Residents soon petitioned the Washington County Circuit Court to kill the project because it would blight the rural landscape.

But Perennial filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the circuit court on the grounds that state law gave the PSC final authority under the state’s Public Utilities Article, passed by the Maryland General Assembly, to approve the placement of solar energy generating systems. The circuit court agreed.

The Washington County Commissioners and a group of citizens appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which sided with the circuit court in affirming the state’s preemptive authority.

The Washington Commissioners brought the case to Maryland Court of Appeals in late 2018 on the grounds that the General Assembly had “prescribed a role for local government” through local planning and zoning that was not preempted by the PSC.

But the appeals court sided with Perennial, citing case law, the 2017 amendments to public utilities article, and bills that failed in the General Assembly to allow for greater local control.

“Our holding that the General Assembly’s intent to preempt local comprehensive planning and zoning on matters related to the ultimate siting and construction of generating stations is bolstered by the recent amendments to the statute, as well as our consideration of the proposed bills, which were rejected,” the court said.

“If the General Assembly intended to change the existing law, it certainly had the opportunity to do so,” the court said.

The recent ruling received a cool response from Queen Anne’s Conservation Association Executive Director Jay Falstad, who highlighted the PCS’s obligation to local jurisdictions in the ruling.

“Given everything we’ve heard about the great importance of allowing land-use decisions to be made by the Counties rather than by the State, we’re somewhat surprised that the Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that it’s the State, not the Counties, that will decide where in a County any big solar project is to be located,” Falstad wrote in an email to the Spy. ”But the Court is very careful to emphasize many times over that the PSC is legally required to listen to the County’s views and to give “due consideration” to how the County treats solar projects in its comprehensive plan and zoning regulations.  So, as an environmental organization that strongly supports solar projects when they are built in the right places, we at QACA will go on working at both levels, state and local, for good decision-making about solar in Queen Anne’s County and its neighbors.”

Though disappointed with the ruling, the Kent Conservation Alliance, through its attorney Chris Drummond, said the PSC over the past few years has actually been more proactive in working with local communities on renewable energy projects.

“The Kent and Queen Anne’s County Commissioners are surely disappointed with the Court of Appeals decision,” Drummond wrote in an email to the Spy. “However, the attitude among state agencies regarding local land use and zoning concerns seems to have changed in the past few years. Now, the state agencies that provide information and recommendations to the Public Service Commission actively seek local input and include those concerns in reports to the PSC. Recently, solar applications have been approved by the PSC with conditions that require compliance with local site plan and landscaping requirements. We will work to make sure that the state agencies continue to take local concerns and land use regulations seriously.”

Drummond filed an amicus brief in support of the Washington County Commissioners.

Maryland Association of Counties said the decision was a disappointment but said the organization would “continue to advocate for a county voice in the decision-making process” and that the 2017 legislation did not sideline local governments in the approval process.

“The court’s decision reiterated important parts of state law that require the Commission to give due consideration to the position of a local government on an energy generation projects,” said Les Knapp, chief policy counsel for MACo in an email to the Spy.

But the attorney representing the Washington County citizens group, William Wantz, was not as optimistic and said Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore would soon feel the encroachment of solar farms.

“The availability of farmland at reasonable cost will periodically result in a disproportionate concentration of solar farms displacing agriculture in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, where rural land prices are cheap.”

Free Family Law Assistance Available at Easton Library

On Thursday, August 1, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., in the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library, a lawyer will be available to provide free consultation to patrons on how to represent themselves and complete forms for divorce, custody, visitation, child support, name change, guardianship, adoption, and juvenile expungement.  For more information visit: ttp://mdcourts.gov/clerks/talbot/family.html This project is supported by a Family Division/Family Services Grant from the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts, Department of Family Administration.

Upcoming Programming at the Library July 29 to August 1

St. Michaels Library to Screen Children’s Film

On Monday, July 29, at noon, the St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library will show a children’s film on its big, professional screen.  All library programs are free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to attend this screening.  For more information (including the title of this film, which, due to licensing requirements, we cannot publish here), please call the library at 410-745-5877, or visit www.tcfl.org.

Joe Romano

Professional Magician to Entertain at Easton Library

On Wednesday, July 31, at 10:30 a.m., in the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library, professional magician Joe Romano returns to perform an act he’s calling “Take Me to Your Reader!”  Music, comedy, and sensational sets make this a show children of all ages are sure to enjoy.  All library programs are free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to attend this Romano’s show.  For more information, please call the library at 410-822-1626, or visit www.tcfl.org

St. Michaels Library to Offer STEM Story Time at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

On Wednesday, July 31, at 10:30 a.m., the St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library will offer a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) story time program at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for ages 5 and under accompanied by an adult.  Children will learn about how some items float and others sink when placed in water.

All library programs are free and open to the public, but pre-registration (by calling the St. Michaels library at 410-745-5877) is required to participate in this program and receive free admission to the museum.  For more information, please call the library at 410-745-5877, or visit www.tcfl.org.

St. Michaels Library to Offer Adult Arts & Crafts

On Thursday, August 1, from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., the St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Free Library invites patrons to bring their coloring books, Zentangle pens, or anything else that fuels their passion for being creative and come in for a program of adult arts and crafts.

Free instruction will be available for knitting, beading, needlework, and tatting.  Patrons may bring their lunch.  All library programs are free and open to the public.  Patrons do not need to pre-register to attend this screening.  For more information (including the title of this film, which, due to licensing requirements, we cannot publish here), please call the library at 410-745-5877, or visit www.tcfl.org.

St. Michaels Museum Walking Tours

St. Michaels Museum
Walking Tours
Saturday, August 3 & 17 at 10:00 am
“Frederic Douglass, as a Slave, in St. Michaels 1833-36”

This tour is given as a 90-minute walking tour on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month. The tour gives a view of the early life of St. Michaels’ most famous 19th century resident and the most important African American Abolitionist in the Civil War. The cost for the tours is $10 adults, $5 youths (6-17). St. Michaels Museum is located at 201 E. Chestnut St, St. Michaels, MD. For information call 410 745-9561 or check the website at: www.stmichaelsmuseum.org

St. Michaels Museum
Walking Tours
Saturday, August 10 & 24 at 10:00 am
“Historic St. Michaels: its People, Places and Happenings”

This tour is given as a 90-minute walking tour on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays. It highlights St. Michaels during the 19th Century. Stories will be told by viewing many restored structures from that era and describing lives of famous and typical residents of these times including Frederic Douglass. The cost for the tours is $10 adults, $5 youths (6-17). St. Michaels Museum is located at 201 E. Chestnut St, St. Michaels, MD. For information call 410 745-9561 or check the website at: www.stmichaelsmuseum.org.

CBMM Invites Families to Boatshop Program

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md., will offer another summer session of its Family Boatshop program on Saturday, Aug. 3. Participation is limited, with advanced registration needed.

Families participating in this 9am–4pm program are invited to join carver and master model maker Ed Thieler to learn the basic skills needed to carve their very own nameboards. Materials and basic tools will be included, and guests are encouraged to bring a bagged lunch.

This program is limited to children 10 years of age and older, who must be accompanied by an adult. The cost includes one child and one adult and costs $75, with a 20% discount for CBMM members. Registration for additional children is $20 per child. Scholarships are available for participants in the Talbot Mentors program; to learn more about this partnership, contact Shipyard Education Programs Manger Jenn Kuhn at jkuhn@cbmm.org. Registration for all participants is available at cbmm.org/shipyardprograms.

CBMM’s Apprentice for a Day Shipyard Programs take place year-round, offering demonstrations, workshops, intensives with visiting master craftsmen, on-the-water experiences, and customized programming. Programs take place on weekends and select weekdays, and include a variety of programs for every interest and age. To find one that’s right for you, visit cbmm.org/shipyardprograms.

Bay Hundred Senior Center’s New Leader: Ann DeMart

Ann DeMart wasn’t looking for a job. For the past few years, she had been freelancing while taking care of her mom, who had Alzheimer’s. Before that, in the corporate world, she specialized in healthcare marketing, writing, and program development both on the east and west coast. So, when a friend suggested she apply for the position of Manager of the Bay Hundred Senior Center, she thought why not?

Four days later, the job she hadn’t been looking for was hers’. “I hadn’t really expected to get a job, particularly one that I liked so much at this point in my life. But it was just the timing and kind of a combination of what I can do and what they were looking for,” says DeMart.

The Center, open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, is located in the new Perkins Family YMCA in St. Michaels. It offers active seniors, age 60 and over, opportunities for socializing, learning, exercising, recreation, and community engagement. Giving seniors in the community more choices is high on the list of priorities for DeMart. “We’ve got a really diverse group of seniors in the Bay Hundred area. You know, we’ve got people who are born here, and watermen, and farmers, and we have retiring CEOs.” Her goal, she says, is to bring this diverse group together through programs ranging from basketball games to needlework and everything in between. The Center also serves lunches at noon on the days they are open, giving seniors another opportunity to interact with others.

DeMart did emphasize that they’re not taking away from the programs already locally established. Instead, their mission is to emulate the successful Brookletts Senior Center in Easton while enhancing the benefits and services currently offered through the community center and church groups in the Bay Hundred area.

It is the unique differences, however, that make the Senior Center a paradigm to the community, town, and possibly even the state. It started when two organizations joined forces to open one building instead of competing for funding dollars. The collaboration of Upper Shore Aging and the YMCA of the Chesapeake was innovative but took on a new character when the facility was built behind the St Michaels Middle High and Elementary Schools

Since they opened in early June 2019, the Y and the Senior Center have been working with the school system to arrange for projects that involve the students. This alliance is the first example of a multi-generational program in the state of Maryland, and a model for future programs.

“Starting in the fall we’re going to have interns who will come in and work with the seniors,” says DeMart. “One student has already offered to teach Spanish.” The school will also be able to reap the benefits of the partnership. “Take their theater performances: we can go on and watch the shows or dress rehearsals. We can help their history projects and science projects. Seniors can give them oral histories of their lives. I love that this is intergenerational, which I think benefits everybody.”

Undeniably, the school is a great asset, but another advantage of the alliance is that the ultra-modern and spacious Y facility has plenty of equipment and room for classes and programs. Already, the Center has attracted talented members of the community who volunteer to teach activity and courses in art and dancing. Then there are the musicians who come to entertain, drawing large and appreciative crowds.

Some of the volunteer interest from the community is thanks to DeMart herself. She’s a member of the Art League, on the Talbot County Arts Council, on the board and marketing chair of the Chesapeake Forum (formerly Academy for Lifelong Learning at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum). The welcome news that some Chesapeake Forum courses will be held at the Y is one DeMart helped to make happen. “There are a lot of people who aren’t able to exercise, she says, “but they’re still exercising their minds. I saw classes attended by people in their nineties, and they were sharp as can be. Intellectual curiosity doesn’t have to die.”

For now, DeMart’s emphasis is on growing the number of seniors enrolling in the Center. Membership is free to eligible individuals, and membership to the YMCA is not required to participate in the Bay Hundred Senior Center programs and activities. Members’ spouses who are under the age of 60 are also eligible. Since opening, over 200 people have already signed up, which seems to be an indication that the community is excited about all that the Center is offering.

Ann DeMart wasn’t looking for a job, but sometimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all.

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.

New Leadership and A New Home for Mid Shore Community Mediation Center

There was plenty to celebrate at Mid Shore Community Mediation Center last Wednesday, July 10th as volunteers, staff, community members, and local government representatives alike came together to welcome Jenn Williams as the newly appointed Center Director and officially open the Center’s new location on Brooks Drive in Easton.

Williams grew up on the Eastern Shore, graduated from St Michael’s High School, and currently resides in Royal Oak. She attended Hood College and earned her master’s degree in Conflict Resolution from Salisbury University. Williams began working at Mid Shore Community Mediation Center in 2012, where she partnered with leadership in the Dorchester County Public School System to create a nationally recognized school-based mediation program, the Peace Team. The Peace Team Program is a service that enables professionally trained mediators to provide mediation services to students, staff and families, both in community settings and in school buildings during the school day. This school-community collaboration is a model for other districts throughout the state and will continue into its 9th school year this Fall.

Williams describes herself as ‘conflict competent’ and loves the work she does: “I’ve combined my academic foundations with the practical tools I gained in basic mediation training to, I hope, become an effective conflict interventionist. It is both so humbling and rewarding to support people through difficult conversations. To hold space for people to communicate freely, to be able to listen to those people without judgment or agenda it’s really an incredible experience.”

Dr. Lorig Charkoudian, Director of Community Mediation Maryland and Maryland Delegate, was on hand to help open the new building and welcome Williams. Charkoudian said, “Jenn is a skillful, experienced mediator and an entrepreneur. I’m delighted to welcome her in her new role as Director and look forward to what she will achieve.  I know it will be good for Eastern Shore communities.”

Williams, along with her staff team, Jessica Basom and Abby Hastings, both also graduates of Salisbury University’s Conflict Resolution Department, have big plans for the Center.  New programs are reaching people re-entering their communities from incarceration, as well as individuals who are in recovery from substance abuse addiction.  According to Williams, “Research on the impact of mediation for people leaving incarceration shows that even one session reduces the likelihood of recidivism (re-incarceration) by 10%. It is our hope to have similar impacts on individuals and families in the recovery process. “

Colleen Kennedy, a Substance Use Disorder Specialist working in the Caroline County Detention Center, is enthusiastic about the impact of the addiction recovery and re-entry mediation initiatives, “I have already seen the Mid Shore Mediation program act as a catalyst for individuals in recovery to begin their healing process during a lonely and difficult time.  This program benefits not only the individuals reentering the community but also the community as a whole.”

These new programs join the Parenting Plan, Adult Guardianship and Community-focused mediations the Center has been offering since 2005. On average, the Center holds more than 400 mediations each year.  Most mediations are facilitated by community members who have volunteered their time and skills to undergo professionally training in order to effectively facilitate conversations. Of all the situations brought to mediation, 8/10 achieve resolution through the process and, regardless of whether an agreement was reached, nearly 85% of mediation participants say they were able to express themselves and feel heard during mediation.

Mid Shore Community Mediation Center is a not-for-profit organization offering no-cost mediation for residents of Dorchester, Caroline, and Talbot counties. Community Mediation is voluntary, confidential, and non-judgmental.

To request mediation, become a volunteer mediator, or donate, visit www.midshoremediation.org or call (410)820-5553.

Organist Wesley Parrott to Play at Bill Wharton Memorial Service July 14

Wesley Parrott, a prominent Philadelphia organist and Easton native, will play at a memorial service for Dr. Bill Wharton on Sunday, July 14, at 4 pm.

The service and recital at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church will honor Dr. Wharton, who was the church’s organist for 52 years.

Dr. Wharton, who died May 19 at age 75, was beloved in the community. In addition to his long tenure at St. Mark’s, he also was a music teacher at Easton High School and Chesapeake College and participated in countless programs, workshops and performances throughout the community.

Parrott has served as organist in several Philadelphia churches, including St. Mark’s Episcopal and St. Mary’s Episcopal, where he collaborated on the design of the Patrick J. Murphy and Associates pipe organ.

Currently organist at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, Parrott also is liturgical musician at St. Frances DeSales in West Philadelphia.

Parrott studied organ with prominent musicians at the Curtis Institute for Music, University of the South, the Eastman School of Music and University of Rochester.

While a student, Parrott won three national level competitions in organ playing and was a finalist in the Grand Prix de Chartres in France. His recordings are available through the Organ Historical Society.

Parrott has performed at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia, on the Wanamaker organ at Macy’s in Philadelphia and the National Cathedral in Washington and others. He has accompanied many choirs and soloists in the Philadelphia area and was accompanist for the Princeton Singers during their tour of England.

Parrott’s mother, Millie, is an Easton resident, and has been active member of St. Mark’s.

For further information, contact:
Scott Clausen, Director of Music & Worship
St. Mark’s UMC, 410-822-0001

CBMM to Host Free Sunday Funday

The public is invited to join the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for a free Sunday Funday on July 21, from 1—4pm. This event will include an afternoon of music, lawn games, and friendly competition.

Bring your friends for a round of giant Jenga or cornhole, or perhaps test your balance on the slackline. Sailing and rowing small craft will be available for rent, and the Mt. LeConte Jug Band, a grassroots Americana group from Spring City, Tenn., will be playing from 2–4pm. Sunday Funday is a great way to connect with old friends and meet new ones, all while enjoying excellent music and games.

This event will take place on CBMM’s Fogg’s Landing, with participants welcome to bring their favorite food, beverage, or game. Grills, coolers, and ice will be available for use. No registration is required.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving and exploring the history, environment, and culture of the entire Chesapeake Bay region, and making this resource available to all. Every aspect of fulfilling this mission is driven by CBMM’s values of relevancy, authenticity, and stewardship, along with a commitment to providing engaging guest experiences and transformative educational programming, all while serving as a vital community partner. For more information, visit cbmm.org.

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