About Dave Wheelan

The AAM @ 60 with Ben Simons and Anke Van Wagenberg


There are just a handful of cultural and educational institutions that unite the five counties of the Mid-Shore of Maryland.  Those that come to mind immediately are such legendary schools as Washington College, UM’s Horn Point Labs, and Chesapeake College as well as those that celebrate our cultural heritage like the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the Sultana Educational Foundation.

But there is only one organization that has been successfully uniting the region’s centuries-old love affair with fine arts, and that would be the Academy Art Museum. And that remarkable center for art education and exhibitions hits an impressive milestone this year as it reaches its 60th year of existence and there is good reason to celebrate that fact.

Founded by local artists and collectors, the Academy has grown from relatively modest roots to a superb example of what a regional arts institution powerhouse can be.  Now with literally hundreds of classes, lectures, field trips, and, of course, world-class art exhibitions taking place every year, the AAM has rapidly becoming known nationally as the “small but mighty” art center.

When any institution of this caliber reaches 60 years, it is almost mandated that it take stock of its accomplishments to share with its members, donors, and the general public, what it has been able to achieve since it opened its doors. That it indeed the case with the Academy this year as it offers special programming and art exhibitions to celebrate this remarkable achievement.

It also was an excellent time to review the museum’s permanent collection with the intention of showcasing the very best of the best for visitors to enjoy the extraordinary diversity of visual art, sculpture and photography the AAM has secured through the generous donations of art collectors, many of them local, or through the wise and selective use of their modest annual acquisition funds.

The Spy sat down with AAM director Ben Simons and chief curator Anke Van Wagenberg this week to talk about the museum’s artwork and the difficult task of selecting 120 of the most significant examples from a total of 1,500 works which will be shown in two major exhibitions during the year.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum’s Diamond Exhibition Project please go here


Profiles in Spirituality: The Blessings that Come with Not Having Answers


With Father Bill Ortt off on a four-month sabbatical, Christ Church in Easton did what most churches do, which was to find a temporary replacement to continue religious services, provide pastoral care for the congregation, and keep educational programming on track. What Christ Church didn’t do what most churches do, was find a replacement from another denomination.

As the result of an agreement between the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches in 1999, the so-called “Altar and Pulpit Fellowship,” ministers can provide full pastoral support for each other’s congregations.

Another thing unexpected was the fact that there would be two, not one, interim ministers.

After attempting to retire several times from full-time ministry in Baltimore, husband and wife, the Rev. Laura Ingersol and Rev. Dr. Jerrett Hansen, have once again returned to the pulpit, at least temporarily.

And the Spy thought this might be an excellent opportunity to continue our conversations with spiritual leaders on the Mid-Shore on how communities and individuals can overcome differences, in matters of faith as well as politics.

While Laura and Jerrett could not directly address the country’s political environment, they did share some wisdom in our short conversation at the Parish office last week about how those with different religious beliefs can and must find common ground before focusing on what divides them. And part of that approach includes saying that they, nor anyone else, has all the answers.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Christ Church in Easton please go here



A New Boat and a Fine Wine by Craig Fuller


Among the personal passions accompanying me from the West to Washington nearly 40 years ago were boating and wine (not necessarily together). Perhaps it’s the elongated winter (as Howard Freedlander elegantly described here recently; but, it most certainly is due to a new boat in our family that I’ve had an increased focus on the beginning of a new boating season. Recently it struck me that my focus reminds me of what happens in the wine country with the harvesting of grapes for fine wine.

As with the harvesting of grapes, one works for weeks and months preparing for a moment that turns out largely dependent upon the weather. Is it too cold, too windy, too wet are all questions asked about placing boats in the water as well as picking grapes from the vine. Then, in both cases, once a decision is made all sorts of things are set in motion.

Ranger Tug Tranquility

The added focus this year, for me, around a new boating season on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, is a new boat. And, it really is not just a new boat, it is a new chapter in my boating life. From early on in California, I sailed. First with my uncle and cousins in Newport Beach followed by sailing in San Francisco Bay during high school, and later as crew for Wednesday night racing out of Marina del Rey while I was in college. It wasn’t long after arriving in the Washington, D.C. area in 1981 that I was sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, a magnificent and magical body of water.

Late last year, as I looked ahead to a new boating season, I knew it was time for something different and the idea of a small trawler entered my head only to develop into a full-blown notion that it was time for more creature comfort on the water while moving at about the same speed. Upon landing on a bold, if not fully developed, plan to find a vessel that met a standard my neighbor described as room for six at cocktail time, four for dinner and sleeps two, I discovered the world of Ranger Tugs.

These days, there are online forums for any fascination, and so I became a full-fledged member of TugNuts, the online forum for those with an interest in Ranger Tugs and Cutwater boats. I learned just how much people enjoyed these boats whether they were aboard for a day, a week, a month or, for some, living aboard.

The quest for a vessel did not take me far. A dealer that specializes in these boats is in nearby Grasonville, Maryland. After looking at the previously owned boats and envying the brand new ones, I found the perfect answer in a briefly owned 2017 Ranger Tug.

Tranquility, as I named her, entered the water on March 30th. After a superb orientation – the Garmin system rivals any aircraft avionics package I’ve used – she and I headed out on a windy and occasionally rainy day for Trippe Creek and her new home. Yes, for me the 2018 boating season has begun. But, on that cold and wet day, I was warm, dry and comfortable at the helm. Foul weather gear was onboard but not a consideration during my four-hour cruise.

So, a new chapter has begun. In our climate on and around the Chesapeake Bay, being in a warm, dry place makes for a longer boating season than I would otherwise enjoy while sailing. Of course, sailing is where I started and I no doubt will always enjoy it; but, this new experience is one I am going to savor. It is like harvesting grapes from a new vineyard where you know what you’ve enjoyed in the past is still available, but the anticipation of what lies ahead is very exciting.

So, if you see the Ranger Tug Tranquility on the water or at a marina, stop and visit. And, for guests and for the captain in the evening, there will always be some wine onboard in the refrigerator…did I mention it comes with a refrigerator?

Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore with his wife Karen.

Is article is also a podcast. Listen to it here.

Senior Nation: Preparing for Memory Loss and Dementia with Integrace’s Dr. Tabassum Majid


The data speaks for itself. One in three Americans who are 85 years or older are facing some form of significant memory loss or dementia. This factoid is a sobering forecast for many seniors, but it also is a important reminder that it is better to be prepared for this inevitability rather than ignore it.

That is what Dr. Tabassum Majid is trying to make clear with her work as the Executive Director of Integrace Institute at the Integrace Bayleigh Chase campus in Easton. After leaving the world of academia with a degree in biology and molecular medicine, which emphasized the translation of diagnostic indicators to the bedsides of older patients and their families, Dr. Majid is now using those skills to test and implement innovative, person-centered studies to enhance meaningful living for older individuals and families who face hard choices after the diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimers.

As part of her mission, Tabassum is starting free educational series for family caregivers in Maryland, including Easton, to present present evidence-based, practical information to help those caregivers understand the latest findings in dementia research, and the newest advancements in care to better navigate their loved one’s journey.

The Spy had the opportunity to talk about much of this a few weeks ago at Bayleigh Chase after her latest workshop to talk about the unique needs of families and professionals alike who are eager to maintain a high quality of life for loved ones and patients.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Integrace Institute or the Integrace Bayleigh Chase please go here.

Introducing Chesapeake College’s Sixth President Cliff Coppersmith


While Cliff Coppersmith has yet to move into his office in Wye Mills to begin his tenure as the sixth president of Chesapeake College, that didn’t stop the Spy from finding time with him for a quick chat on campus yesterday.

Dr. Coppersmith, who will officially assume his role in May, was in town briefly to meet with his future colleagues and pin down the logistics of moving from Montana, where he is currently serving as the dean and CEO of City College, the community college branch of Montana State University.

Coppersmith comes from a particularly unique background in community college teaching and administration, starting when he, himself, graduated as a young man from a community college in upper-state New York. Over the course of his career, he has spent nineteen years with the Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University; and Utah State University – Eastern, formerly the College of Eastern Utah.

The Spy caught up with Dr. Coppersmith at Chesapeake College’s new Health Professions and Athletics Center to talk about his experiences in higher education, some of his priorities for Chesapeake College, and his excitement in returning to the East Coast to take on the vital task leading the Mid-Shore’s community college into a new decade of service.

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

Kent County’s Most Pressing Needs with United Way’s Glenn Wilson


For sixty years now, the United Way of Kent County has unquestionably been successful in supporting great organizations in the community that handle a multitude of social needs. And while its Board of Directors has been proud of this track record, it did occur to them recently that as stewards of hundreds of contributions made every year to further their mission, they didn’t exactly have the best overview of what the most pressing and underserved needs are that currently exist in Kent County.

As a result, the United Way of Kent County commissioned their first comprehensive study, working with the consulting firm of  Chesapeake Charities, to provide that kind of needed in-depth analysis, as well as a review of existing stakeholders and other assets that might partner with the UWKC to better align solutions to address those concerns.

The results of that study are now complete, and the Spy thought it would be a good time to check in with the president of United Way of Kent County, Glenn Wilson, to help summarize these findings.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. Please go here for a copy of the report

New Federal Budget Does Not Contain Funds to Build Oyster Reefs in Maryland


The federal budget recently passed by Congress failed to provide any dedicated money to continue reef construction in either Maryland or Virginia, putting in doubt the future of oyster restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been building oyster reefs in the Bay for more than 20 years, and in recent years it has been a major partner in the state-federal initiative to restore oyster habitat and populations in 10 of the Bay’s tributaries by 2025.

But the omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2018 — approved March 23 and signed the same day by President Trump — marks the second year in a row with no specific appropriation for the Corps to continue reef restoration in the Bay.

The omission threatens to stall work already under way in Maryland’s Tred Avon River. It also jeopardizes future projects in both Maryland and Virginia where the federal government had been expected to take the lead.

Supporters of the oyster restoration effort say they hope the Army Corps can still put some money toward it this year from a $1 billion pot of discretionary funds Congress approved for the Corps’ construction program.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, explained to a group of Bay advocates Thursday that he and others were unable to designate money for oyster restoration in the appropriations bill because congressional rules forbid earmarking funds for anything not proposed in President Trump’s budget.

But he noted that Congress approved more construction funding for the Corps than the Trump administration proposed. Eugene Pawlik, a Corps spokesman, said the total was about double the requested amount.

Cardin expressed optimism that the extra money will prompt Corps leaders to allocate some of those funds toward the effort this year.

The omnibus spending bill did urge the Corps to request funds for Bay restoration in future budgets.

After meeting Thursday with senior Corps leaders for a tour of Poplar Island, a restoration project using dredged material from the Bay, Cardin said that he is “pretty confident” some of the extra money put in the Corps budget will go for oyster restoration.

It won’t be known until perhaps May 22 if that gambit paid off. That’s the deadline for the Corps to submit its work plan to Congress. The plan, due 60 days after the omnibus bill’s passage, will lay out planned expenditures on projects specifically listed in the legislation. The Corps can add some of its extra funds to those projects, as well as spread some money among projects not designated for funding.

Cardin acknowledged that it’s still possible, given the nationwide competition for federal public works funding, that the Corps won’t designate any money for oyster restoration. Before being submitted to Congress, he noted, its work plan must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which also may have a say in the matter.

Bay advocates said that the uncertainty surrounding oyster restoration funding has roots in a controversy two years ago, when Maryland officials put a hold on the Tred Avon project after watermen objected to the Corps’ use of granite to build the reefs there.

“Now, we’re sort of reaping the consequences of those delays and those challenges to the Corps’ efforts, in the fact that there’s no appropriation,” said Allison Colden, a fisheries scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

From the mid-1990s through fiscal year 2016, the Corps had received annual funding for oyster reef construction in the Bay, with the Baltimore District getting a cumulative total of $28.8 million and the Norfolk District $22.1 million, according to figures supplied by Cardin’s office.

In 2014, in recognition of the ecological value of oysters and their reefs to the overall health of the Chesapeake, the Bay watershed states and federal government jointly pledged to restore native oyster habitat and populations by 2025 in five tributaries each in Maryland and Virginia.

The annual funding stream ended two years ago, when then-President Barack Obama requested no money in the Corps’ fiscal year 2017 budget for Bay oyster restoration. That came shortly after the Hogan administration had called on the Corps’ Baltimore District to halt work in the Tred Avon — a request prompted by small group of watermen, who complained to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford about the cost and efficacy of the restoration effort, particularly the methods and materials used.

Watermen objected to the use of granite to build reefs in the Tred Avon and in an earlier restoration project in Harris Creek, another Choptank River tributary. They contended that the stone reefs snagged fishing gear and damaged boats, and that oyster shells are the best surface on which spat, or baby oysters, grow best. Scientists countered that oyster spat will do well on any hard surface in the water, and monitoring on Harris Creek reefs later that year found a much higher density of new oysters growing on granite than on shells.

At the time, Cardin warned that the stoppage could threaten future federal funding for oyster restoration in Maryland. It had immediate impact, as the Baltimore District shifted $1 million it had for that purpose to the Norfolk District. With that extra money, and no major reef construction planned this year in Virginia, the Norfolk District is not yet as strapped.

A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources called the Tred Avon stoppage then a “pause” until the DNR could complete an internal review of the state’s oyster management.

The Hogan administration lifted its hold on the federally funded project, and work resumed in the Tred Avon in April 2017, more than a year after it had been interrupted. Even then, the state insisted that the Corps not use any more granite in constructing reefs. The Corps opted to build the reefs with clam shells from a processing plant in New Jersey, but the contractor couldn’t get enough shells. Only six of the 10 acres of reefs planned to be built that year were completed.

In November 2017, Col. Edward Chamberlayne, the Baltimore District’s commander, made a personal appeal to the DNR’s Oyster Advisory Commission, warning that the Tred Avon project and future federal funding for oyster restoration were in jeopardy if the state did not relent in its opposition to use of stone in building reefs. Oyster shell is too scarce and expensive to be used for such large-scale construction projects, Chamberlayne explained, and there aren’t enough clam shells, either.

Delays and construction interruptions already had added $133,000 to the $11.4 million estimated cost of the Tred Avon project, Chamberlayne said. If forced to continue using only clam shells, he said, it could take another four to five years to finish the job — at that rate, he warned, Congress and Corps leadership may be unwilling to keep funding oyster restoration.

The DNR Oyster Advisory Commission responded by recommending that the Corps be allowed to use stone to finish the Tred Avon reefs. The four acres left from last year were finished in March, but 45 more acres of reefs are planned, and funding is now in question.

“We are still requesting funding through the Army Corps work plan,” said Sarah Gross, spokeswoman for the Corps’ Baltimore District. Officials there have estimated it will cost $3 million to $5 million to finish building reefs in the Tred Avon, after which they are to be seeded with hatchery-spawned baby oysters.

Stephen Schatz, communications director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said the department “is very confident that there is currently adequate funding to continue advancing the state’s oyster restoration efforts and projects.”

“With roughly $7.25 million in state capital funding [for oyster restoration] available and federal funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Schatz continued, “the partners should have enough to complete the work in Tred Avon.”

Schatz furnished documents showing that the DNR had asked Congress to maintain NOAA’s current level of funding for habitat conservation and restoration, including $1 million for oyster habitat restoration. That money goes to seeding and monitoring reefs, not building them.

The Bay Foundation’s Colden said that while she’s hopeful the Corps will allot some money for reef construction this year, federal funding is no longer guaranteed.

“Now, the priority we place on oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay has to compete with Mississippi River flood control and dam operations in the Pacific Northwest,” Colden said. “Before, we had a dedicated pot of funding because it’s been recognized as such a significant project and significant priority.”

While Cardin expects Corps officials to put some of this year’s discretionary funds toward oyster restoration, given the extra money in their budget and a clear statement of congressional intent, he expressed dissatisfaction with having to go through such maneuvers.

“It’s not a very transparent way of doing things,” he said. And he noted that supporters in Congress will have to fight the same battle again later this year, because Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 did not contain any money for Corps reef-building.

by Timothy B. Wheeler

Timothy B. Wheeler is associate editor and senior writer for the Bay Journal

The 1st District: Introducing Candidate Steve Worton


It is almost too hard to believe that the 1st Congressional District of Maryland, which most political observers would say was specifically designed to be a safe and perhaps the only Republican district in the state, now has four very credible Democratic candidates eager to take on U.S. Representative Andy Harris this November.

Steve Worton is one of them. The last of the four candidates that the Spy has recently profiled, Steve comes to the race after working at the Department of Defense for 33 years. During that time, he managed over 3,000 people at 23 sites around the world maintaining operations and reducing personnel, as well as eliminated waste and improved business processes through sound management and electronic commerce.

With a degree in accounting from Temple and MBA from the University of Delaware, Steve wants to use these skills and experience in the next Congress.

The Spy met up with Steve at the Bullitt House a few weeks ago to talk about how his approach is different from his opponents in the Democratic primary in June as well as how he differentiates himself from Andy Harris in a possible Fall contest.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Steve Worton and his campaign please go here.

A Bridge Not Needed with Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance’s Elizabeth Watson


To be very clear, the State of Maryland is a long way from breaking ground on a new span across the Chesapeake Bay.  The process that started this year with a “tier one” analysis is a first step of a decade-long review of the feasibility of building a third Bay bridge to Kent County, the Lower Shore, or a new bridge to Bay Bridge’s existing location.

But this long-term planning process has not slowed down a grassroots effort to provide organized opposition to  a new link from Baltimore to Kent County. In fact, like many other controversial issues in the past which would permanently impact the County’s centuries old cultural landscape, resistance began almost simultaneously as the State seeks comments on  a “Purpose and Need” report to the Governor which will identify ten to fifteen locations that hypothetically could support a new bridge.

The Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance, the same group who recently played a critical role in stopping wind turbines from being built in Kent County, has now stepped up early to make their concerns known. And leading that effort for the nonprofit is board member Elizabeth Watson who is uniquely qualified to make a case against a bridge in Kent County.

With an extensive background as an independent consultant since 1993, Watson has worked in more than a dozen heritage protection sites or greenway initiatives, which combine regional planning with resource conservation, tourism development, and community education initiatives. She is also the co-author of Saving America’s Countryside: A Guide to Rural Conservation which grew out of her earliest working experience worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Rural Program.

The Spy sat down with Watson at the White Swan Tavern a few weeks ago to talk about her case against the bridge, her observations about Kent County’s economic development potential, and her insistence that this is the time for the citizens to speak out clearly and loudly to oppose this environmentally threatening new infrastructure.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance please go here.