Peter Heck and Jane Jewell Named Chestertown Spy Co-Managing Editors

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The Community Newspaper Project, the parent nonprofit organization of the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, has announced the appointment of Peter Heck and Jane Jewell as co-managing editors of the Chestertown Spy, effective immediately. 

“I am so very delighted that Peter and Jane have agreed to lead the Chestertown Spy,” said Dave Wheelan, publisher and executive editor of the Spy newspapers. “Both bring some extraordinary skills to the Spy in both journalism and photojournalism and more importantly, they share with me a special affection for Chestertown and Kent County that will be a remarkable asset to our community.” 

While Peter has been best known locally for his many years as a reporter for the Kent County News, he has also written over 100 book reviews for such publications as the Kirkus Review and Newsday, as well as spending two years as editor at Berkley Publications. A native of Chestertown, with degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Heck also has written ten novels, two of which were genre best sellers.  He is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and banjo.

Jane, Peter’s wife, also comes to the Spy with a distinguished background in writing, editing, and photography. Since moving to Chestertown, Jane worked at Washington College in the computer department, then as the executive director of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She also has contributed photos to the Kent County News. Jane currently serves on the board of the National Music Festival and has been active as a coach with the Character Counts! program in the Kent County Public Schools. 

Peter and Jane can be contacted at editor@chestertownspy.com

 

Editorial: The Future of Chestertown and Its College Needs Your Attention

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For a variety of very good reasons, Washington College has made it a point to ensure that all prospective students, and their parents, are keenly aware that George Washington very deliberately allowed the College of Chester to be named after him, and backed that up with the largest personal donation to get the school off the ground.

And at the same time, the College rightly hammers home the exceptional fact that the man who convinced Washington to do so, the Very Rev’d William Smith, perhaps the most distinguished academic leader in the New World at the time, was the gifted visionary who created the college after his remarkable collaboration with Benjamin Franklin in starting what is now known as the University of Pennsylvania.

It is hard to imagine a more impressive beginning for any school, and yet what gets lost in this very accurate narrative is the fact that the town of Chestertown was the entity that founded the 10th oldest college in America. While Washington and Smith were the unique ingredients that made Washington College what it is, it was its citizens of the Mid-Shore that asked for it to be created in the first place.

Unlike almost every other private liberal arts college in the country, WC was not the result of a wealthy patron, a religious order, or a state government but a town that wanted a college. And it was this community that made the unprecedented decision to start the first independent and secular college of a new nation. (1)

In fact, Kent County was already a leader in education at the time with the formation of the Kent County School, which was so well established that in 1742, the headmaster, Charles Peale, none other than the father of the renowned painter Charles Willson Peale, submitted the following advertisement seeking students:

Kent County School in Chestertown Maryland is where young gentleman are bordered and taught the Greek and Latin tongues, writing, arithmetic, merchants accounts, surveying, navigation, the use of the globes, by the largest and most accurate pair in America.

The genesis of a college started in 1780 when town leaders, with such local names like Barroll, Paca, Piper, Sewall, Wickes, and Wilmer, recruited Smith to develop the curriculum, hire professors, and fundraise for the project. Smith did this with exceptional skill. In total, almost three hundred residents on the Eastern Shore donated to start the school and build its first classroom building in what would be the third largest in the new world.

The take-home message from all this is that from its very beginning, Washington College has been intimately intertwined with the town that created it. And because of this extraordinary heritage, there has always been an acute and lasting interest in how the school operates and functions even as the governance and financial ties between the town and the college have long separated.

And over those 235 years, Washington College and Chestertown have collectively felt the good and bad times in unison. From the thrill of having scholars as neighbors and the sight of international luminaries walking on High Street to the devastation of campus fires and periodic downtown economic downturns, these two institutions have found creative ways to fortify each other during challenging times.

We are in one of those challenging times.

The town remains explicitly confronted with the harsh reality that large scale manufacturing and storefront retail, staples of Chestertown’s economy, will never return to the historically high levels of the past since both of these have radically been altered by offshore factories and the rise of web-based shopping.

And while the College remains strong in recruitment and academic achievement, virtually every rural liberal arts school in the country is now facing the painful reality of a dwindling pool of prospective students as a result of demographic shifts, a growing popularity of more urban campuses, and most disconcerting, the rising costs of education.

With sober forecasts predicting modest economic growth rates and a shrinking number of college-bound students for the foreseeable future, both the town and college will undoubtedly feel the stress of this precarious environment, particularly at a time when both institutions seek major infrastructure improvements to attract visitors, entrepreneurs, and a new freshman class.

It would seem reasonable, perhaps even obvious, that the best course of action is for these historically linked entities to work strategically together to advance each other’s mission. And for many years now, leaders of both have demonstrated at least an intellectual agreement with that concept, but it is the “how” part that continues to trip up plans for sophisticated collaborative strategies and mutually supported projects like the waterfront, downtown revitalization (hotel), and North Chestertown’s development.

That “how” part is not an easy one. For many years now, initiatives have begun and ended, strategic planning gets started but then proposed, and just a few years ago, a blue-ribbon town-gown task force had to be suddenly abandoned due to a stunning error in administrative oversight and the overzealous and premature use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of a local reporter.

And yet even with these extraordinary setbacks, it is the Spy’s contention that Chestertown and Washington College still has the motivation, the leadership, and the emotional bonds to find a constructive and meaningful way forward in the years and decades ahead.

That is why the Chestertown Spy will be moderating an unprecedented public forum on April 11 with Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and Washington College President Sheila Bair to share with the community their current strategic plans and discuss how those plans can be strengthened through collaboration. It also is a time for community residents to share with these two leaders their own ideas and dreams for a new vision of what this college town, or, if you prefer, a town with a college, can look like in the 21st Century.

It is unlikely that one meeting will have any direct impact on long-term solutions, but it is a start in getting these two important parts of our community starting to act as a family rather than respectful if slightly distant neighbors.

We welcome your participation that evening.

 

 

The Future of Chestertown and Washington College Forum will be held on April 11 at 5 pm at the Decker Theatre on the campus of Washington College.

(1) Although other institutions claim founding dates between 1770 and 1781, none possessed college charters or were empowered to grant degrees, and most were merely “log-cabin grammar schools” that evolved much later into full-fledged colleges, according to the authoritative book on the subject, Donald G. Tewksbury’s The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War (Columbia University Press, 1932). Tewksbury accorded Washington College standing as the nation’s tenth-oldest institution of higher learning, directly after the renowned “Colonial Nine.”

Editorial: The Serious Threat of Fake News

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As our more observant readers noticed today, the Spy has run our annual fake news story in honor of April Fools’ Day with the announcement that the Eastern Shore will have its own rapid transit system next year. We have also enlisted columnist Howard Freedlander into this fictional project with his reporting that Annapolis is moving ahead with a tunnel from the Bay Bridge toll center to Claiborne to connect with the new system. We hope these two breaking news stories will be enjoyed as much by the Mid-Shore region as it has been for the Spy team to produce.

April Fools Day has always been a cherished tradition at the Spy. From our announcement last year that Trump International was constructing a luxury twenty-four story apartment building in Claiborne to the Town of Chestertown accepting responsibility of Binny, an orphaned giraffe, in exchange for funding the town’s Marina on the Chester, The Spy writers allow this field day of imagination to test readers aptitude in depend on their judgment of what is true or false, no matter how crafty our art director is with photoshop

We are also glad that this unofficial national holiday comes only once a year, since the Spy, like any responsible publication, depends on the community’s trust to fulfill our mission as an important educational news source for the Mid-Shore. While it is always tempting to take poetic license during the rest of the year, our desire to maintain our reputation for credibility will always trump our enjoyment of irony or mischief.

Sadly, we are living in a culture where an increasingly large number of independent media sources have turned April Fools Day into a daily occurrence. The production of fake news, from every end of the political spectrum, has invaded our daily consumption of information. And the results of which has been devastating.

In the last year alone, fake news impacted a presidential election, caused a gun assault at a family pizza restaurant in DC, and has sent the United States Congress into endless and costly investigations using false news reports on such topics as Benghazi or presidential wiretapping.

It is particularly hard to imagine that this harmful practice will end anytime soon but that doesn’t necessarily mean it must remain such a potent force in our culture. But it does require that citizens, the country’s consumers of news, become increasingly become more vigilant in relying on their good judgment and common sense rather than accept at face value what they find on the internet.

April 11 Date Set for Chestertown Spy Forum with Mayor Chris Cerino & WC President Sheila Bair

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On April 11, the Chestertown Spy will be hosting a special community forum on the future of Chestertown and Washington College with College president Sheila Bair – joined by key senior staff – and Town of Chestertown mayor Chris Cerino.

This unprecedented exchange between the leaders of these historically intertwined institutions will take the form of a community conversation moderated by Spy executive editor Dave Wheelan.

Like many small towns and small colleges across the United States, Chestertown and Washington College have several and significant challenges facing them over the next few decades. From recovering from the great recession, to managing costs or assembling capital, both the Town and College are needing to find new and innovative solutions for these complex times for rural American life.

During the course of the evening, the conversation will address some of these issues as well as hear from Mayor Cerino and Washington College on their own thoughts about Chestertown’s collective future as well as possible points of intersection between Chestertown and Washington College in their strategic planning. Audience questions will also be part of the program.

The Forum will be open to the public and there will be no cost of admission.

A Spy Conversation with Mayor Chris Cerino and WC President Sheila Bair
“The Future of Chestertown and Washington College”
Decker Theatre
Washington College
5 to 7 PM
April 11, 2017

Why the River by Meredith Davies Hadaway

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During the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the special images of Chestertown with festive lights glowing and a seamless supply of music, dance and theatre programs to enrich the yuletide season. And yet, more times than not, it is the Chester River, the glue that holds our community together, that stands far removed from the seasonal celebrations.

The Spy has attempted to remedy that sad omission in our Holiday message with a reading of “Why the River’ by poet Meredith Davies Hadaway. While Hadaway makes it clear that the title is more of a question than a statement, the answer is found in the poem itself, as it has been for those who love this river, with the words,

“because it traps the clouds so we can sail across/ both heaven and earth/ because it carries our tears, swells/ with our salt/ because it is a body/ because it bears our weight.”

This video is approximately one minute in length.

An award-winning poet and teacher of ecopoetry, Meredith Davies Hadaway is the author of three collections of poetry, At The Narrows, (2015) The River is a Reason (2011) and Fishing Secrets of the Dead (2005), all issued from Word Poetry. Hadaway’s work explores the birds, bugs, trees, marshes—and especially the waters—of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, evoking memory and mystery as they shape our braided lives. You can find her work at Bookplate in Chestertown and on Amazon here

Editorial: The Inn on the Chester – The Case for a WC Hotel & Conference Center

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Over the past few years, the Chestertown Spy has been less than discreet in advocating for a medium-sized, high-quality hotel for Chestertown. At the same time, it has also encouraged Washington College to assume a leadership role in its development.  Part of this is tied to the Spy’s desire for a bright, prosperous future for the town it loves, but also because it’s the right time and circumstances for WC to do so.

For decades, some very hard realities (capital, financing, market analysis, revenue projections) have given pause for such a role to dozens of WC leaders going as far back as the Douglass Cater administration in the 1980s. For reasons that were rational and irrational, the numbers never seemed to work enough to move forward with such a plan. Nonetheless, that interest and passion for such a facility remains as strong now as it did thirty five years ago.

Why? Because the rewards of building a Chestertown hotel are so strikingly transparent. The ability to accommodate medium-sized conferences, weddings, family reunions, returning alumni, prospective students and their parents, visiting dignitaries, as well as business people calling on local manufacturers, marketing firms, and other service industries, not only makes such a thing economically viable, these guests bring with them sizable discretionary dollars for shopping, dining, and other services.

The Inn at Swarthmore

The Inn at Swarthmore

In the world of higher education, even with relatively smaller schools, this has been the rationale in investing in the hospitality market. Over the last decade, countless schools have taken the plunge with hotel facilities ranging from twenty to eighty rooms.  Denison, Swarthmore, Kenyon, Gettysburg, Oberlin, Sewanee and W&L are just the latest examples of this trend.

While many of these schools may have better market capacity, larger endowments, and wealthier donor/investor constituencies to work with, the truth is that many other schools do not. That would include Flagler College, College of the Ozarks, Savannah College of Art and Design, or Wells College in upper state New York.

It may be true on the face of it that Chestertown and Washington College have significant handicaps to overcome in finding a solid business plan, the Spy’s albeit modest research into the business of town-gown hotels strongly suggests that these are minor roadblocks that can be effectively removed through creative financial and strategic partnerships.

Oberlin College is a good example.

In Oberlin’s case, a liberal arts college located in rural Ohio about an hour’s drive from Cleveland, the school ultimately built a hotel with seventy guest rooms that features a restaurant focused on local food and modest conference center. Planned to be “the cornerstone of Oberlin’s Green Arts District,”the facility’s 105,000 square feet also houses the college’s admissions and development staff. That sounds like a textbook definition of mixed use.The total cost was close to $36 million.

The expenses of a Chestertown equivalent would be significantly lower than that figure. Chestertown’s sweet spot for rooms would be more in the order of forty rooms. With that factored in, as well as a more similar comparison with the recently built Inn at Swarthmore, which cost closer to $25 million.

While $25 million sounds better than $35 million, it still turns out to be a huge sum for a small college in a small town. So where does Washington College get that kind of capital?

The Hotel at Oberlin

The Hotel at Oberlin

In the case of Oberlin, almost 60% of the construction costs were financed. Secondly, the school created a naming opportunity for a leadership donation (in this case $5 million from an Oberlin alum) and finally a consortium of donors/investors/community supporters to close the gap.

Another smart thing that Oberlin did was to place non-academic divisions of the school in the new building rather than build separate facilities. In this case, as noted above, Oberlin decided to relocate the College’s external relations staff there in order to maximize contact with prospective students, alumni, and donors under the same roof.

With waterfront access, a similar model could be used in Chestertown for WC alumni and admissions centers.  Or, equally appealing, would be to create a center that would include the hotel and one of its three centers of excellence like its renowned Center for Society and the Environment. Those strategies would undoubtedly add to the cost of the project but would reduce costs in other parts of the College’s capital budget.

Using a working number of $25 million, it would be mean that $15 million would be financed, a major donor, given a strong case for support, should be able to be found at the $3-5 million naming opportunity level, and the balance would come from other donors, investors, possible alumni timeshare programs, as well as the room guarantee contracts with the region’s larger institutions, included the College, the local hospital, manufacturers like Dixon Valve, and other, smaller service providers, schools, and retailers, proportionate to their annual need and circumstances.

Another factor that would make this goal achievable would be a strong “All In” response from the Town of Chestertown and Kent County. A project of this magnitude needs the careful escort of these governments through permitting and regulatory issues. And the project needs grassroots support from town citizens as well.

In the final analysis, as local developer John Wilson so clearly articulated in his interview with the Spy this fall, every project like this needs a champion. While Washington College must take the lead, a Chestertown hotel will need hundreds of champions to make this happen.

Let us hope the will is there.

Wax

 

 

Spy Recovery Urgent Message for Mid-Shore Heroin Addicts

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With the news that the Talbot County Narcotics Task Force seized the largest heroin bust in county history this week, it is very likely than many of the estimated 400 to 600 active heroin users on the Mid-Shore will be facing a major shortage of the drug’s supply.  For those addicted to the substance, the anticipation of the shortage will undoubtedly cause severe and life threatening withdrawal symptoms.

The Spy and the Mid-Shore Recovery Community want to alert those individuals that it may be an ideal time to seek treatment for their addiction rather than face a painful withdrawal process. We are recommending that they contact Chesapeake Treatment Center in Easton as a starting point.

The CTS is a clinic located just off our Route 50 dedicated to the recovery of individuals struggling with opioid addiction. You can start the process for treatment here

We would also remind those suffering from addiction to go here to see a summary of resources on the Mid-Shore.

Publisher Note: The Spy Launches Senior Nation for a New Generation on the Mid-Shore

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Simply stated, the Mid-Shore has one of the most extraordinarily large and diverse senior communities in the United States. In addition to its native population of people over 50 years old, the Eastern Shore has become one of the most sought out retirement communities for Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. residents, all of whom have been attracted to the local beauty of the Chesapeake and its extraordinarily diverse cultural opportunities.

Kent County News June 1978

Kent County News June 1978

To match this remarkably unique constituency, The Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, the Mid-Shore’s non-profit, educational online newspapers, has launched a unique portal we call Senior Nation that is dedicated to this important Shore demographic. With the support and partnership from Heron Point at Chestertown, Londonderry on the Tred Avon, Shore Regional Health, Upper Shore Aging, Talbot County Senior Center, and a dozen other stakeholders focused on those Mid-Shore senior issues, we plan to expand our primary mission of being a major educational conduit for this unique demographic.

Since the Spy began in 2009, we have always been interested in senior life. While this may reflect our readership, since, over 70% of the Spy’s 250,000 readers that come to our online newspapers every year, are over 50 years old, I have been acutely aware of Mid-Shore aging issues since working with Upper Shore Aging in the late 1970s to run their Meals on Wheels program. From those early years, when I was twenty-two years old, in learning of the particular hardships that come with aging in rural communities, that interest has expanded, since reaching the age of sixty, to lifelong learning, cultural programming, caring for aging parents, and new models of aging-in-place practices.

I am also pleased to announce that William C. Rolle, Jr. (Bill) has agreed to serve as editor of Senior Nation. Before his retirement to the Mid-Shore in the early 1990s, Bill spent his career running a highly successful marketing firm in Washington, D.C. and now serves on the Talbot Hospice, Londonderry on the Tred Avon, the Easton Airport Boards, and serves on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Executive Committee. Rolle graduated from Georgetown University with a master in communications from American University. He also has taught branding at Georgetown and courses on advertising and marketing at Washington College.

Through the use of original content articles, reader-provided columns, features on services, and a public forum and comment, The Spy intends to move beyond a bulletin board format to provide a comprehensive overview of being older on the Mid-Shore for a new generation of senior citizens.

Dave Wheelan
Executive Editor

Editorial: Dear Governor Hogan, On the Matter of the Chestertown Marina….

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Dear Governor Hogan,

Thank you for visiting Chestertown a few weeks ago for a first hand look at the Chestertown Marina project. There is nothing more reassuring than to have the governor spend “quality time” understanding a local need as great as our endangered public gateway to the Chester River.

Based on your conversation with town leaders, I’m sure you detected the unanimous feeling among Chestertonians that without state help to improve the marina’s existing infrastructure, the public’s downtown access to the Chester River will be forever lost.

While the use of the Chester has changed over time, the river has consistently been the lifeblood of Chestertown for over three centuries, even as the community transitioned from an agricultural port to a contemporary gateway for Chesapeake Bay water and land conservation efforts, education, and recreation. At the same time, it has become a powerful draw for out-of-state tourism, Washington College enrollment, and small businesses.

Without immediate marina improvement, this Town’s hopes for a post-recession economic resurgence will be greatly diminished. Without a viable public space at the very heart of the community, other potential plans for waterfront improvements — whether it be the renovation of the Armory, the placement of a new building for the Washington College Center for Environment & Society, or a riverside hotel and conference center — will fail to materialize. More tangibly, Kent County’s exceptional quality of life will be terminally compromised.

Every year, from large cities to small villages across Maryland, the citizens of Chestertown have supported waterfront capital improvements through their tax dollars to places like Cambridge, Havre de Grace, and Annapolis. Now, after several years of deferring to other worthy and productive projects, our community respectfully requests that it too receive assistance.

Rest assured, Chestertown’s plans for its waterfront do not end with the repair of the marina. The major stakeholders, including the Town, Washington College, and those in the private sector, see this as a critical part of a far more comprehensive vision to maximize the full economic and social impact that the Chester provides the Mid-Shore region. With the State of Maryland taking its proper leadership role to encourage public-private partnership, Chestertown’s capacity to remain vibrant for a fourth century looks very bright indeed.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration in this matter.

Your friend,

 

The Chestertown Spy

Wax