Governor Hughes by Howard Freedlander

Governor Harry Hughes

The death of former Gov. Harry R. Hughes on Wednesday at 92 leaves a void in Maryland’s political landscape. He represented honor and humility. He was a gentleman who treasured his Eastern Shore roots.

I last saw Gov. Hughes on November 13 when I was invited to join his former staffers to celebrate his 92d birthday at a lunch at his home outside Denton overlooking the Choptank River. Though perhaps he didn’t hear all the chatter, he seemed to enjoy the good cheer and stories about past political battles. I was impressed by how loyal his former staffers remained to a person whom they clearly liked and greatly admired.

This Denton native served as governor from 1978 to 1986. He beat all odds and some derision to win the Democratic primary and then the gubernatorial election by 400,000 votes. He determined at the outset to restore integrity to the State House after his two predecessors, Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel, had faced legal charges for their behavior in office.

In recent years, I had seen more of Harry (as he was wont to be called) at lunches in Easton with former staffers and, not so happily, at Shore Medical Center in Easton. He grappled with pneumonia as he aged and found himself frequently sitting in a hospital bed awaiting friends bringing him unhealthy but welcomed food.

Whenever I visited Harry in the hospital, he was typically low-key and reserved. He expected no special treatment from the nursing staff. He was always friendly and down-to-earth.

As a member of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s board of directors, I learned how beloved the former governor was in the land preservation community. He was a longtime friend and former chair of ESLC.

A few years ago, the organization named its conference room in honor of Gov. Hughes. He was pleased and honored. He harbored no sense of entitlement.

During his two terms as governor, Harry Hughes became particularly known for his environmental record. He brought together the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, to establish a regional program focused on the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. This compact still exists.

In a controversial but beneficial decision, he placed a moratorium in 1985 on the harvesting of rockfish. Commercial fishermen were furious. Science proved Harry right. The moratorium remained in place until 1990 when the species bounced back enough to allow a limited harvest.

Harry Hughes practiced politics with class and civility. He inspired a return of integrity to the Maryland State House.He extolled a workmanlike approach to governing our small but complicated state. He forswore showmanship.

You will be missed, Harry. You made a difference. You sought to build a legacy based on results and ethics.

And you did.

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.



A Conversation with Easton Council President John Ford

As a result of feedback from Spy readers over the last few months, we begin today a series of interviews over the next year with Talbot County and town council presidents. By providing a platform to highlight particular issues and opportunities through these conversations, it is hoped this new format will encourage more civic engagement.

We continue our new series with a discussion with John Ford, president of the Easton Town Council.  In our first conversation, John talks about Easton’s economic development (including prospects for a downtown grocery store), zoning for Easton Point (a critical part of the Port Street projet), multiculturalism, and filling the Council vacancy of Pete Lesher, who recently won an election for the Talbot County Council, among other topics.

This video is approximately eighteen minutes in length. For more information on the Easton Town Council please go here

A Conversation with Talbot County Council President Corey Pack

As a result of feedback from Spy readers over the last few months, we begin today a series of interviews over the next year with Talbot County and town council presidents. By providing a platform to highlight particular issues and opportunities through these conversations, it is hoped this new format will encourage more civic engagement.

We continue our new series with a discussion with Cory Pack, president of the Talbot County Council.  In the case of Talbot, it must be said that they have started the year with a jam-packed agenda. That is one reason our first chat with Corey lasts more than 20 minutes. The Spy is committed to making these updates as brief as possible, but in our first one with President Pack, we thought it best to have an extended version.

In our first conversation, our talk ranges from the extension of sewers, the Frederick Douglass Park, short-term rentals, dredging in Tilghman, the St. Michaels Family YMCA, and other topics that should have a real interest to county residents.

This video is approximately twenty-two minutes in length. For more information on the Talbot County Council please go here

Easton Business Alliance Moves forward on Arts & Entertainment District

The Easton Business Alliance is currently working with the Town of Easton to pursue a Maryland Arts & Entertainment District for a 113-acre section of town in and around Easton’s historic downtown. The district will offer tax benefits to qualified-residing artists, arts and entertainment enterprises, and developers renovating or building new construction for arts organizations.

“This state designation is something that we’ve been piecing together for quite some time,” Easton Business Alliance director Ross Benincasa said. “To know that we are finally in the home stretch is a great feeling.”

Benincasa presented to the Easton Town Council during a working session the evening of February 18, focusing on the benefits of obtaining the Arts & Entertainment District designation and what it can do for areas in need around Easton’s downtown.

“Overall, the designation comes at a low cost to the Town, while supporting the development of new arts programs and enterprises in Easton,” Benincasa said. “We see the tremendous economic impact the arts have in Easton and Talbot County, both through businesses and events, and it’s time for us to formalize a plan to continue that growth into the future.”

The proposed Easton Arts District would include income tax benefits to qualified-residing artists who create and sell their work in A&E districts, as well as property tax abatements to developers who renovate or build new spaces for arts and entertainment enterprises, including affordable live-and-work environments.

If passed, the Easton Arts District would fill a void in Talbot County, currently the only county on the Eastern Shore without a designated Arts & Entertainment District. According to Benincasa, the high-interest development areas within the proposed district include mixed-use locations along Dover Street and in the East End community, as well as along Brookletts Avenue.

To learn more about the proposed Easton Arts District, please visit

A Conversation with St. Michaels Commissioners President William Boos

As a result of feedback from Spy readers over the last few months, we begin today a series of interviews over the next year with Talbot County and town council presidents. By providing a platform to highlight particular issues and opportunities through these conversations, it is hoped this new format will encourage more civic engagement.

We start this new series with a discussion with William Boos, president of the Town of St Michaels Commissioners. While the Spy and Bill talked of many subjects related to St Michaels during our first interview, it was the Spy’s editorial choice to highlight Bill’s comments about the town’s plans, and some serious misunderstandings, on its intention to build a new town hall in the foreseeable future at Fremont and Canton Streets.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Town of St. Michaels please go here.


ESLC’s Jim Bass Reports on Eastern Shore’s Preparedness for Rising Seas Levels

Given the nature of things – literally – it won’t be surprising for the Eastern Shore to have several studies prepared in the decades ahead that record and evaluate the dangers facing its rural communities as sea levels continue to rise throughout the century.

With the Delmarva Peninsula being one of the country’s most vulnerable landscapes for flooding and erosion as the result of global warming, there is an ever growing concern on the part of local government staff, conservation organizations, agricultural associations, and state agencies on what is being done, and what could be done, to prepare the Shore for this extraordinarily dramatic shift in climate.

One of the first of these has just been prepared by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy with a new study to assist local governments to plan for the impacts of sea level rise. Titled “Mainstreaming Sea Level Rise Preparedness in Local Planning and Policy on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” the study is centered on sea level rise projections for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the years 2050 and 2100.

This report was written on behalf of the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership  – a regional workgroup of local government staff, partners from the State of Maryland, academic institutions, and nonprofits for that very reason.

The ESCAP assists communities in reducing climate vulnerabilities and risks; collects and shares information among communities and decision makers; and educates members, residents, and elected leaders on risks and adaptation strategies. It also serves to raise the visibility and voice of the Eastern Shore and rural regions in conversations about adaptation and resilience.

The Spy sat down last week with Jim Bass, ESLC’s Coastal Resilience Specialist, who helped manage the study, last week to find out what the significant takeaways were and what must be done in the future to protect and defend the Mid-Shore from this dangerous new future we face.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information regarding this study, ESCAP, or ESLC’s coastal resilience program, please contact ESLC Coastal Resilience Specialist Jim Bass at study is available to view and download at

Panuzio Steps Down as Chair of Talbot County GOP

Nick Panuzio, who has served as chair of the Republican Central Committee of Talbot County since 2009, has stepped down.

Panuzio’s service as the chair of the local Central Committee caps a long and distinguished career in politics and public service.

Under his leadership of the Central Committee, the number of Republican candidates winning local elections in Talbot County increased greatly. During his tenure, Governor Hogan received almost 70% of the votes cast in Talbot County in the 2014 gubernatorial election and 77% of the votes cast in Talbot County in 2018 on his way to a historic re-election.

Panuzio began his political career by winning an election to serve as mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He won by 9 votes, running as a Republican in a city where 70% of the registered voters were Democrats. He also served in the Connecticut state legislature and ran for governor of Connecticut in 1974.

Panuzio moved to Washington DC after being appointed by President Gerald Ford to serve as the U.S. Commissioner of Public Buildings for the General Services Administration. He was responsible for the construction, leasing, management and protection of all federal buildings including several Presidential Libraries. He was also responsible for overseeing a national program on the utilization, re-utilization of government-owned real property as well as disposal of excess properties.

Following that presidential appointment, he served as an advisor to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Panuzio also served as the CEO of a public affairs consulting firm in Washington DC.

Panuzio’s career has been much more than numerous significant accomplishments in the political and government arenas. He has also been very involved in Talbot County civic and community affairs. He served as a member of the Finance Council at Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church; was awarded an Order of Merit from the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington; served on the Town of St. Michaels Housing Authority; and chaired the Housing Commission of Talbot County. He has been and is a loyal friend, expert mentor and advisor to countless citizens and elected officials.

In recognition of his long and deep commitment to public service, Panuzio received two Honorary Doctorates (one in Law and one in Humane Letters) from the University of Bridgeport, where he also served as an administrator and professor.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum selected to build Maryland Dove

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has officially been selected to build a new Maryland Dove, a representation of the late 17th-century trading ship that accompanied the first European settlers to what is now Maryland. Maryland Dove is owned by the state of Maryland and operated and maintained by the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission.

“HSMC and CBMM are natural partners in this project,” said Regina Faden, Executive Director at Historic St. Mary’s City. “It fulfills both our missions and delivers a new Dove to tell the story of (early) Maryland.”

Maryland Dove is Historic St. Mary’s City’s floating ambassador and one of its most popular exhibits. The goal of the new ship design is to be as close to the 1634 original as possible, including features that were not known when Maryland Dove was built in 1978.

Ship design work will commence in January 2019, and construction is anticipated to begin at CBMM by mid-year. The launch of the new Maryland Dove is targeted for 2021. All work will be done in full public view, allowing the public to experience every stage of the project.

“We are thrilled and honored to have been selected to build a new Maryland Dove,” said CBMM President Kristen Greenaway. “Over the course of the next few years, our shipwrights and apprentices will build a historically accurate replacement to the existing ship, and we welcome guests to be a part of the construction and education experience.”

Talbot County Prepares for Winter Snow Storms

We haven’t gotten hit yet with a big snow storm, but Talbot County Roads Department is ready with material in the Salt Barn for when it happens. Talbot County has over 374 miles of roads which need to be cared for throughout the year. This includes programmed and routine maintenance, paving, ditching, tree removal, and culvert replacements. But it is winter, that is especially a busy time when the county’s 24 employees cover 13 snow routes, pre-treating, salting, sanding, and removing snow until the event is over and all the roads are clear.

Caption: The 24 employees of the Talbot County Roads Department are ready to care for over 374 miles of roads when Talbot County gets its first major snow storm of the season. Pictured front row, left to right, are: Matthew Dunn, Efrem Murray, Kevin Wilson, Milton Cornish, Ray Kinsey, Michael Potter, Warren Edwards, Superintendent for Talbot County Roads Department, Dwight Warrick, Brandon Brewer, and Autumn Finch. Pictured back row, left to right, are: Taylor Lowery, Michael Steenken, Dean Samuel, Arthur Kellum, John Bechtel, Ben Cannon, Michael Dulin, Tim Holland, John Asche, John McNair, and Jerry Butler. Absent from the photo are employees Lois MacDonald, Office Manager, Richard Harmon, and Michael Carroll.

According to Warren Edwards, Superintendent for Talbot County Roads Department, “My biggest advice when bad weather hits, is to be patient, don’t tailgate our equipment, and try and stay off the roads if you possibly can, so we can get the roads cleared.”

Edwards, who has over 38 years of experience with road construction, has been with the county for four years. Each of the county’s 13 routes has at least one truck, and sometimes two to three trucks depending on the route. Talbot County Roads Department has 14 trucks and has hired three additional trucks with plows and salt spreaders to meet the needs of the county snow removal. Private contractors are hired for designated routes based on need.

He adds, “With snow storms, Talbot County offers assistance to all municipalities in the county, as they do us, as well as to the State Highway Administration.”

But it’s the dedication of the county’s 24 employees that often goes unnoticed. More than half of the staff of the Roads Department have over 20 years of experience. For a storm which puts down three inches of snow, it can take eight to 10 hours to complete the snow removal and 12 inches of snow can take up to 30 hours to remove.

Edwards comments, “Our employees are experienced, diligent and seasoned employees. They know their jobs and they do them well. We work straight through these storms, staying in radio contact with drivers every four hours to be sure everything is alright on the routes. They work until the event is over.”

The Roads Department is in contact with Talbot County Operations Center throughout weather events to clear roads for ambulances and fire equipment. The agency also reaches out to each of the towns in the county to offer help. In the case of a whiteout, snow removal trucks are stationed at the local fire departments throughout the county to work with them in opening roads in the case of emergencies.

“The roads are a necessity that people tend to forget,” Edwards adds.

Edwards points out that customer service is the most important thing in his business. He points to more and more weather seasons where there are drainage issues affecting the roads and where infrastructures are failing. Talbot County Roads Department employees are on call from 3 hours to 35 hours a week all years long handling the effects of wind, hurricanes, storms and culvert failures throughout the county.

Talbot County Roads Department gets between 110 and 160 road complaints a month, in addition to routine maintenance issues. Every complaint is logged into a card system so that the department can address all citizen concerns. Edwards comments, “We have to prioritize the complaints based on the need, but we want citizens to report their concerns so that we can get ahead of issues that do occur.”

The number to call at the Talbot County Roads Department for concerns is 410-770-8150.


Mentoring: Changing Lives One Child at a Time by Val Cavalheri

January is National Mentoring Month. It is a time to recognize and celebrate the positive effects that mentoring can have on our youth. Talbot Mentors is proud to be an active advocate to Talbot County kids to ensure that they have the opportunity to mature into engaged and productive members of their communities. Last year, mentees attended summer camps and pizza parties, took trips to the zoo and museums, went bowling and ice skating, and participated in programs that were made possible through the contributions of corporate partners, foundations, and individual donations.

Although these programs are essential and expose a child to experiences they may not always have the opportunity to, it is what happens when a mentor and a child spend time together that is life-changing. Sometimes for both of them.

We want to highlight two Talbot Mentor stars from the over 100 mentors currently matched with a child in need.

Harriett Downes-Slaughter with Anna

Harriett Downes-Slaughter had been an Elementary school teacher who, together with her husband, also ran Attractions magazine. After her husband’s death a year and a half ago, the self-described ‘busy, busy, busy’ person found herself with a lot of free time. In July of this year she attended a Talbot Mentors Infosession, filled out the necessary paperwork and within a month was matched to 10-year-old Anna.

“My grandkids don’t need me to do silly things with them anymore,” says Harriett. “Anna, however, is a prime age for some of the fun things I like to do on weekends, such as going to carnivals and Talbot County Fair.” However, what Harriett enjoys most is doing things that Anna, growing up with a single mom with two jobs, has never done before. Simple things like baking cookies, making applesauce, carving a pumpkin, going to Michael’s Craft Stores, or having chicken nuggets at Chick-fil-A.

In the process, Harriett also gets to put her skills to work. “I wanted to make a difference,” Harriett says. “Since I’ve been a teacher for so long, I feel I can make a connection with younger children and I really find that with Anna. She’s a sweet girl and very quiet.” When they went to the Water Fowl Festival (another first for Anna), Harriett was able to give her a lesson in conservation, art, and even future life plans.

Which is precisely what Anna’s mom wants for her daughter. On the form that parents fill out for Talbot Mentors, she said she wanted Anna to know that there is more to life than what she could show her. Luckily, this is something Harriett can give her mentee.

Besides the recommended hour per week, the pair also gets together for special events and to work on interesting projects, like when they painted rocks recently and hid them for others to find. They have fun, and it’s no wonder that Anna feels that the time they spend together is not long enough. They’ve only known each other since August, yet Harriett believes that her mentee has been incorporated into her family, and she into theirs. So much so, that Anna’s mom has invited her to Anna’s quinceañera party (celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday), which also happens to be five years in the future.

That feeling of family is very evident when Harriett describes how she always hugs her mentee after their time together. “She expects that now,” says Harriett, “She gets out of the car and waits for me to come around and give her a hug.”

It was meant to be, Harriett feels. Anna’s birthday, after all, is on the same day as her late husbands’. Bets are on that this new pairing will last a long time.

Gary Pearce and Jaylen

If we’re talking about time spent with a mentee, Gary Pearce comes to mind. He speaks with 16 years of mentoring experience. His first mentee, Dale, was in 4th grade when they met years ago. Dale is now married, with a child, and living in Seaford, MD. They still keep in touch. After they parted and after spending a couple of years on Talbot Mentors’ Board of Directors, Gary was paired with 14-year-old Jaylen three years ago.

What made him decide to take on another child? Gary explains it this way: “I used to travel a lot, and wasn’t as involved in my kid’s sports programs or after school activities as I wanted to. Having a mentee allows me to do things I used to do or want to do with my own kids that I wouldn’t otherwise.” Besides, Gary has always been interested in youth programs including Talbot Optimist Club, Talbot Partnership, Echo Hill, and others.

There is an easy familiarity when Gary speaks about his mentees. Jaylen, he said, is in 8th grade, and a confident young man who last year was class president. He’s into theater, acts in all the school plays. They go to the movies, plays, and Gary takes him to rehearsals. Sometimes when they go out to dinner, Jaylen is like a ‘social butterfly,’ going from table to table greeting people he knows. The Talbot Mentors program, Gary says, is good for him. It helps him to continue to develop his personality. Together they cook a lot, making desserts and baking things. After all, Gary says, “What 14-year-old doesn’t like to eat?”

Dale, in contrast, came from a difficult situation, living with his grandmother until she passed away in 10th grade. “When we first got together he was very shy and through the years came out of it,” says Gary. “He was a small skinny kid, and I got him involved in working out at the Y. He loved it. In the summer of his junior year, he would run miles from his home to the YMCA, 2-3 mornings a week and lift/work out for a couple of hours, and run back home. He got involved and was very active in MMA (mixed martial arts) You can see his confidence grow as his chest expanded. He wasn’t the skinny kid we started with. He didn’t abuse his situation; he just grew in confidence.” Together they attended various sports games—Oriels, Shorebirds, even the Jets in NYC.

When asked about the time spent with his mentees, Gary says it fluctuates. “We commit to one hour a week, but sometimes it’s 2-3 times a week. It depends on the projects they’ve got going and varies week to week.” Nowadays, Gary and his wife spend January in Florida, so he doesn’t see Jaylen at all during that time. It all works out, though, for both of them.

Gary is grateful for the support he receives from Talbot Mentors, saying: “They provide you with what you need. Having been a mentor for this long, I don’t need the same amount of support that I did when I started, but there are times when you run into situations you’re not quite sure how to handle, and the staff is always there for you.”

The influence that mentors have on children can’t be understated. Less is said about the impact these children have on those who volunteer their time. Perhaps, the experience of mentoring can best be summed up by Ali and John Strickland, both of who are Talbot County Public Schools administrators and mentors to siblings Tabius and Taylan Wilson. At a recent dinner celebrating Talbot Mentors 21st year, Tabius and Taylan gave a speech about the influence the Stricklands had on their success. What follows is the Stricklands’ response:

“We are always proud of you, Taylan and Tabius.

Tabius said many kind things about John Strickland and me, but the one thing he didn’t mention is what they have done for us. These two amazing young adults have been there for our family during the ups and downs. They were two of the first visitors in the hospital when Bradley (their child) was born. We can’t imagine our lives and our family without them. They have made us better parents, better educators, better for each other, and better people.”


Wondering how you can help?

• Become a mentor to a child who would benefit from a positive role model.
• Donate and help achieve the goal of offering every mentee a camp experience.
• Volunteer to teach the children your special talent or hobby.

Still unsure? Attend a Talbot Mentor Infosession on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, @ 4:30-5:15 at Talbot Mentors office on 108 Maryland Ave. Suite #102 in Easton.  For additional information contact (410) 770-5999 or

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.

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