As a town we are not sure what you know about St. Michaels. I would like to provide an overview of the past to the present.
Historically, St. Michaels was a poor declining seafood processing town. A decision was made several decades ago to shift to a tourism economy which brings us to what keeps the town thriving today. We are one of the top tourist destinations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Some of our highlights are a fabulous assortment of shops and art galleries, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, The Inn at Perry Cabin, beautiful marinas that are packed with guests throughout the boating season, and more excellent restaurants per capita than anywhere else on the Eastern Shore. The success of the town has driven up real estate prices with some ‘in town’ properties without waterfront selling for more than $1 million. It’s not uncommon for first time visitors to like what they find so much that they head straight to a real estate office and buy a weekend or even a permanent home before the end of their visit.
Our town has suffered recently. Four of our five commissioners in a closed session on June 24th made the decision to fire our town manager, Jean Weisman. It was abrupt and without explanation to either our community or Jean. She served this town for more than 37 years, the last ten as town manager. You can read the many accolades in previous Talbot Spy postings. This decision has created a distrust of the commissioners. They campaigned and were voted in on a platform of total government transparency. They have failed us miserably.
At the last meeting we heard that the commissioners were taking the town in a “new direction”. The treasurer, Tad DuPont, stated his displeasure with the way the town was going, …”too much public drinking, noise from loud music and too many tourists.” He wants things to go back to the way they were and he will not explain this “new direction” he is planning for the town which we all suspect will negatively impact the businesses and tourism that helps the town thrive.
As a town administrator, you know that every town in Maryland is required to have a Comprehensive Plan that lays out the town’s values, its vision, its long term objectives and the paths for achieving those objectives. St. Michaels has a current Comprehensive Plan. I was part of that Planning and Zoning Commission that spent a year and a half projecting the future needs and direction of the town. I encourage you to read it. I suspect the Commissioners’ current “new direction” might be in conflict with it.They are not willing to speak about it to either the residents or the businesses which need to focus on their own business plans.
The town’s goal has been to promote tourism and attract investors willing to invest in tourist resources. That goal has been achieved. However, four of our five commissioners have recently declared war on the business community. They want a quieter less frequented town.
People love St. Michaels and feel welcomed when they visit. COVID has accelerated tourism as people have sought refuge from the larger cities. They come here to celebrate national holidays and festivals with us. Many choose St. Michaels for family reunions and weddings. Corporations hold conferences and retreats using our facilities. You will be confronting a division of attitudes about St.Michaels by two sides that love this town but want a different future. Whoever manages St. Michaels will need to recognize and work to resolve the deep divisions we now have and clear the major distrust of our town commissioners.
It would be my pleasure to share more about our town with you over a cup of coffee at one of our charming coffee shops.