Council Hears Updates on Hospital


Ken Kozel of Shore Regional Health reports to the Chestertown Coucil.

Ken Kozel, CEO of University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, gave an update on projects involving the Chestertown Hospital at the Chestertown Council meeting, Nov. 6. Included in the report was a summary of the Maryland Rural Health Workgroup report concerning the long-term future of the hospital.

Kozel said the workgroup held its last meeting Sept. 28, and concluded its study at that time. All the recommendations were approved unanimously, he said, and added that Shore Regional Health concurs in the approval. The recommendations must now make their way to approval by various bodies, including the General Assembly, the Maryland Healthcare Commission and the Health Services Cost Review Commission.

Kozel said Shore Regional Health will work closely with the Assembly to see that the recommendations are enacted. However, the two state commissions are also important to the approval process, he said. In particular, the designation of Chestertown as a rural community access hospital, which would allow it to remain fully open past 2022, is under the purview of the Healthcare Commission. Also, funding for the hospital’s programs must be vetted by the Cost Review Commission.

“I think we did a really good job of defining why we’re unique and what some of the additional expenses are associated with running rural healthcare in Maryland,” Kozel said. But getting the recommendations approved is the key next step, and that is “where the heavy lifting comes in,” he said. He asked the community at large to support the recommendations to ensure that they are approved.

Preserving inpatient beds at the hospital was one of the recommendations, Kozel said, along with a 24/7 emergency room and surgical services. He said Shore Regional Health had asked for 10 inpatient beds. However, he said, the state would make the final determination on the number of beds, depending on census figures and other data. Shore Regional Health had set the number of beds at 10 based on current conditions and the mandate to reduce the number of inpatient admissions, he said.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked how many beds the hospital now has. Kozel said the facility is licensed for 30 beds. “Based on the time of year, we could run anywhere from six inpatient beds to 30,” he said – during flu season, it could be even higher, he said.

Mayor Chris Cerino asked what the time frame would be for full implementation of the workforce’s recommendations. Kozel said some would be in place early next year, while others would have to wait to the next fiscal year, beginning in July. “But the wheels of the state government sometimes move a little slowly,” he said.

Councilman Sam Shoge asked what factors determine the number of beds the state will set for a given area. Kozel said population density is a key issue, but also the age of the population and whether the long-term trend is toward growth or shrinking. Length of stay is also a factor, along with the severity of the conditions being treated.

In addition to the workgroup report, Kozel reported on the hospital’s relations with Compass Regional Hospice and with the Shore Manor nursing and rehabilitation facility. He said a recent assessment of the hospital’s assets showed that Shore Manor is the only rehab and nursing home in the University of Maryland Medical System. Because of changes in the nursing home industry, he said, “we are really not the right party to be managing that facility for the benefit of the patients and the community.” Consequently, UMMS is looking for a buyer for Shore Manor.

Kozel, said UMMS recognizes the value of Shore Manor to the community, and as a result has “very specific conditions” any prospective buyer must meet. In particular, he said, UMMS doesn’t want to sell to someone who plans to “flip” it for a short-term profit.  “We see it as definitely part of the continuum of care” that the community needs. The manor should be able to see more acute care patients, to reduce pressure on inpatient beds. He said the facility currently has 92 licensed beds. Also, any prospective buyer must be willing to commit to upgrading and modernizing the facility. He said more than 19 potential buyers had taken the preliminary step of filling out a nondisclosure agreement. “I’m encouraged,” he said. If all goes smoothly, an agreement could be reached by spring.

Shoge asked if UMMS was open to the idea of combining the nursing home with a day care facility, as has been done in some other communities. Kozel said UMMS is open to any ideas that increase the viability of the facility, as long as the new operator complies with the conditions of sale.

Kozel also detailed the agreement with Compass Regional Hospice to install a four-bed hospice center in the hospital, as detailed in a recent Spy article. He described it as a win-win for the two facilities, with the hospital providing support services while Compass provides the medical care. The facility should be running shortly after the first of the year.

Also at the meeting, the council voted, after a brief public hearing, to annex the property housing the town’s wastewater plant. The property, along John Hanson Road just past Radcliffe Creek, comprises some 149 acres. It will be zoned Institutional, and is not subject to development.

In addition, the council approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to approve loans to cover infrastructure improvements at the town-owned marina. Cerino said the state granting agencies expect the town to spend grant funds it has already received before applying for more, so the town will push forward with raising the grade of the parking lot and beginning work on the shell of the interpretation center using funds currently on hand.

The council also approved permits for “A Dickens of a Christmas” and for the Downtown Chestertown Association’s Christmas parade.







Young Artists Shine at KidSPOT!


Kaela Covey, grade 4, mask; Sukie Tilghman, grade 3, owl; Saraia Wilmoree, grade 3, doll; Elizabeth Healy, instructor; Alden Swanson,grade 4, owl

KidSPOT! is an after-school art program for, well, kids. Sponsored by RiverArts,  KidSpot has year-round activities including drop-in sessions.  This Friday will be the last day of  a special six-week KidSPOT! session in coordination with the Kent County Public Schools for students grades K-8 .  The younger kids made masks, dolls, cut-paper art and more. The middle school students did drawings in various media. And their KidSPOT! exhibit was up on the walls at RiverArts by First Friday.  And you can see it, too!

The People’s Choice award for the middle school went to Emma Porter, grade 8 for her big cat.

RiverArts will run another six-week after-school program starting in the new year.  Contact RiverArts for information.  The program runs from 3:30 to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Gabriel Nailor, grade 5, Super Dog; Sei-Aun Thompson, grade 3, doll; August Swanson, K, cut-paper art; Kato Swanson, grade 2, cut-paper art

Joy Maine was curator and instructor for the Middle School exhibit.  She has taught art in the Kent County Middle School in Chestertown for over 30 years.  Elizabeth Healy was curator and instructor for the elementary school students. She taught elementary school in Montana for 25 years before moving to Chestertown in 2014.  She is currently the co-chair of KidSPOT.

The RiverArts Gallery at 315 High Street, Suite 106 (behind Dunkin’ Donuts)is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 am to 4 pm, Saturday 10 to 4, and Sunday 11 to 3 pm.  Don’t miss it!

The KidSPOT! exhibit is in the second and third rooms at RiverArts.  The main room has another exhibit that is also worth taking a look at. The Spy article on the Chester River School of Art Student Exhibit is here.

Photo Gallery below by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Masks and dolls by artists ages 5-10



















Monster by Grant Barry, grade 6

Lexi Sullivan, grade 8

Trista Strong, grade 8

Caleb Schultz, grade 8

Chloie Massey, grade 8

Sebastian Aquilar, grade 6




























































Maryland Lawmakers weigh Integrating Services to break Poverty Cycle


To end multi-generational poverty, state and local agencies should integrate services such as early childhood development, temporary cash assistance and mental health programming, a governor-mandated commission told Maryland lawmakers Tuesday.

Two state legislative committees met Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, to evaluate the benefits of the two-generational approach, which looks at the needs of a family as a whole, rather than viewing children and parents separately. Proponents of this approach consider early childhood development, economic assets, postsecondary and employment pathways and the importance of health and well-being in evaluating the needs of a family.

“This is a process for working toward benefitting whole families,” Sarah Haight, the associate director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, a think tank that studies and advocates for a multi-generational approach to ending poverty, said Tuesday.

With a two-generation approach, for families with young children who have an annual income of $25,000 or less, a $3,000 annual increase throughout the years of early childhood yields a 17 percent increase in adult earnings for those children, according to data from Ascend.

The institute said it has helped 3.5 million families annually in several states by pushing to integrate programs among agencies, including departments of human services and labor.

In 2016, Connecticut approved $3 million in funding to establish pilot programs in six communities across the state, according to Ascend. Colorado and Tennessee are among other states that have coordinated their resources through leadership and rehabilitation programs to benefit low-income families.

“Recent census data shows that the number of Maryland children living in poverty would fill 2,434 school busses,” said Nicholette Smith-Bligen, executive director of family investment within the Maryland Department of Human Services. “That’s saying to us that this program (the two-generation approach) is critical.”

Allegany County, in rural Western Maryland, where 20 percent of the population lives in poverty, has already begun viewing their local systems with a two-generation approach. In the last six months, many agencies and departments in the county have worked together to establish a Head Start center, GED classes and financial education programs.

“It’s not a new program, it’s a change in the way we deliver services,” Courtney Thomas-Winterberg, the director of Allegany County Department of Social Services, told the committee members.

Thomas-Winterberg read out loud letters from several families within the county who have benefited from integrating services in Allegany County.

“No one was telling me what to do for the first time,” Thomas-Winterberg said one parent wrote. “They were actually asking me what I wanted to do.”

The county is creating a needs-based intake assessment that will connect a low-income family with the specific agency or agencies required for their circumstances. This opportunity allows families to have one set plan moving forward with intentionally linked services, which the commission hopes to replicate statewide.

“I think it’s absolutely a step forward,” Smith-Bligen told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “I think that the committee seemed very interested in our work and what it could look like in the future and how they can help, so I think this is just the beginning.”

The commission is scheduled to release an interim report on or before Dec. 31, as required by Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order, signed in March.

By Jess Feldman

Foster, Tolliver Win Council Seats; Cerino Re-elected (Updated)


David Foster 

David Foster has been elected as Chestertown’s new First Ward councilman.

In the election Tuesday, Nov. 7, Foster received 135 votes to 104 for Owen Bailey and 38 for Bob Miller. While there are 25 absentee ballots outstanding, and one provisional ballot, the total is not enough to change the result.

Mayor Chris Cerino, running unopposed, received 344 votes. The Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver, running unopposed for the Third Ward Council seat, received 27 votes. A total of 379 voters turned out for the election, despite heavy rain for much of the afternoon and evening. Just before noon, 180 voters had come to the polls.

Foster, who has lived in Chestertown for 20 years, campaigned on his experience as an urban planner with extensive international experience. He has worked as an environmental advisor in Asia, and also served as Chester Riverkeeper after his move to Chestertown. He has called for more consistent long-range planning for the town, including a possible conference on the future of small towns at Washington College. Look for a more detailed report, including quotes from the candidates, in tomorrow’s Spy.

Foster replaces incumbent Councilwoman Liz Gross, who announced her retirement because of family medical issues. The new councilmen will take office at the first council meeting in January 2018.

Cerino, in a phone interview Wednesday, said he was pleased with the turnout for the election, especially considering that there were no state or national issues on the ballot and the inclement weather. He said he was glad there were “really good people running” in all the races. He expressed his thanks and respect for everyone who put themselves forward for office. “It’s really uplifting to know that people are willing to support me for another four years,” he said. “I congratulate the winners and look forward to working with everybody and finding out what their priorities are for their wards, so we can work together as a team for Chestertown.”

He said the town faces several major projects over the next few years, including the marina upgrades, which he said should show significant progress over the winter. “We still have a couple of years of work and fundraising left to do,” he added. Also, Cerino said he would like to work closer with Kent County to see the fiber-optic network extended into Chestertown. “It has a lot of potential to help in economic development in the community as a whole,” he said. Upgrading cell phone reception in the downtown area is also an issue that concerns both business owners and visitors, he said. Finally, he said, “I’d like to keep an eye on our finances, make sure we’re being responsible fiscally — really make sure we’re stretching every dollar as far as it will go and be responsible to our taxpayers.”

Bailey wrote in an email Thursday, “Though this is not the result I was seeking, congratulations to David Foster. It was a good campaign in which I learned a lot about myself, the town, and the issues we all face. I still plan to be involved in the Friends of the Kent County Public Library and the Chestertown Environmental Group as I remain invested in this community.”

Miller, in a phone interview Wednesday, said “David worked very hard — he deserves it. He’s been in town a long time and knows a lot of people and a lot about what’s going on. I’m really very excited for him.” Miller noted that he’s been in town less than two years, so running for office allowed him to meet a lot of new people. He described the campaign as “a gentleman’s race,” with no negative feeling among the candidates. “It should be an example to all political races,” he said, describing it as “about proposition, not opposition.” He said he felt his candidacy had “added value to the race,” allowing discussion of a wider range of ideas and issues.

Foster and the other candidates could not be reached for comments before press time Wednesday. We will add any comments we do receive after deadline.

Cheemoandia Blake, Kent County Election Director (L), and Jen Mulligan, Chestertown Town Clerk, check totals at the close of polls Tuesday as Robert Ortiz of the Chestertown Board of Election Supervisors observes.

Election Day in Chestertown — Have You Voted?


Town Council candidates Bob Miller, David Foster, Owen Bailey and Congressional candidate Michael Pullen stand outside the Chestertown firehouse, greeting voters on Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 7. Photo credit: Ryan Ewing

Tuesday, Nov. 7 is Election Day in Chestertown, with the Mayor and two Town Council seats on the ballot.

Incumbent Mayor Chris Cerino is unopposed, as is the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver, running for the Third Ward seat currently occupied by Councilman Sam Shoge, who is not seeking re-election.

But three candidates are in the running for the First Ward seat being  vacated by Councilwoman Liz Gross, who is retiring after a single Council term due to family health issues.

Owen Bailey, David Foster and Bob Miller are seeking to replace her. All three were present outside the Chestertown firehouse, the polling place for the town election, earlier this morning, greeting voters and making a final pitch for support.

The Chestertown Spy interviewed all three candidates, as well as covering the League of Women Voters candidates forum Nov. 1 at Heron Point — see a Spy video here.

Turnout has been strong so far, according to Town Clerk Jen Mulligan, who said 180 votes had been cast as of just before noon. We urge voters, especially First Ward residents, to get out and vote — the polls are open til 8 p.m. The future of your town is in your hands today!


Bring Your War Stories! WW II Story Collection at Library Nov 11


Students interview World War II veteran

Do you have photographs, letters, or memories from World War II you’d like to share? A team of Washington College students will be stationed at the Chestertown Branch of the Kent County Public Library on Saturday, November 11,

to scan your artifacts and collect your stories.

In honor of Veterans Day, these student researchers seek to chronicle local wartime involvement on both the home front and battlefront through the recollections of those who experienced it. Potential contributors might be World War II veterans and their families, or simply local residents who have memories from the time period. The event will take place in the Main Meeting Room from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During the Second World War, military personnel stationed across the country and overseas drew strength from letters exchanged with family and friends, serving as poignant reminders of home. American civilians had a substantial influence on the wartime effort by building new factories, rationing household supplies, and mobilizing donation drives. Yet, these important contributions remain lesser-known and celebrated in American history.

Since 2013, the StoryQuest Program has recorded over 200 oral histories with residents who experienced World War II locally or across the nation and abroad. Digital interviews and scans of wartime letters, photos, and other artifacts are permanently archived at Washington College, where they are accessible to the public.



Candidate Profile: Bob Miller


Bob Miller, candidate for Ward 1

Bob Miller – This is one in a series of profiles of candidates for the Ward 1 seat on the Chestertown Town Council. Three candidates are running for the seat, currently held by Councilwoman Liz Gross. The election is Nov. 7 at Chestertown Firehouse with voting open from 7 a.m. to 8: pm.

Candidate profiles are based on an interview plus submitted biographical material.  See the Spy’s report on the Nov 2 Candidate Forum at Heron Point with a 22-minute video of  all three candidates responses.  —  Editors

Bob Miller was born in Flushing, NY, and grew up in Fayetteville, NY, a small village near Syracuse.  While he has spent much of his life in urban areas, he grew up in a small town in upstate New York, where his family owned a milk processing business. He remembers cleaning out tanker trucks that hauled milk into New York City, and watching the cows on the farm next door. “So I have a connection to farmers, for sure,” he said.

Miller went to Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, where he met his wife, Mindy. He majored in Biology (Pre-Med) graduating with honors. After college, he went to graduate school at Indiana University and received his Master’s Degree specializing in Cytogenetics. He worked for 10 years at a hospital, medical school, and medical laboratory. After 10 years as a cytogeneticist, Miller went back to school to become a Certified Public Accountant in Maryland; he received his CPA designation in 1991.

He has worked in numerous well known national and international non-profits at the senior financial management level (Controller, CFO, VP of Finance, etc).  In 2007, Miller started his own CPA consulting firm, focusing on interim CFO work at non-profit organizations. In 2012, he got another Master’s Degree in taxation from American University. He has over 100 tax clients, including individuals, small businesses, and non-profits.

Miller now has an accounting business in Chestertown called Cedar Chase Consulting. He is the treasurer of the Chester River Wellness Alliance, a new non-profit in Chestertown as well as the Secretary of the Executive Board of Directors for Mid-Shore Pro Bono providing legal services on the Eastern Shore.

Bob has been married to Mindy for 39 yrs. They have 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren with one on the way. He has a pilot’s license and flies his own plane and loves to take aerial photos of the shore and the bay.

Miller said he is running for the Ward 1 council seat because he feels Chestertown is a special place – “the people, the neighbors, the area, the environment, all of it – it’s just incredible.” When he found out incumbent Councilwoman Liz Gross was not running, he decided the town council would be a good way to take his involvement with the town “to another level.” Because of his background working with non-profits, he arrived at the insight that the town government is essentially a $5 million non-profit organization. “With my accounting background and 30 years’ experience in non-profits, I could offer my services and my talents. I want to give back while I’m here if I can.” He said he wants more information on how the town is doing in terms of the budget and expenses to be available. “I just feel there should be more financial transparency,” he said.

A key issue facing the town in the near future, Miller said, is its fixed income stream, with most of its income from property taxes and a few grants, in an environment of increasing costs. “Salaries keep going up every year, and other things come up that need to be done. At the end of the day, the challenge will be increasing revenues.” He said his accounting experience could help in navigating choices – “there are costs and there are choices, and which way do we want to go?”

Miller also cited the future of the hospital as a looming challenge – “I really feel this is a huge linchpin for this town,” he said. Everyone would be affected if it became necessary to go to Easton for hospital care. “If you have an emergency situation, you don’t have time to go anywhere else.” Another challenge, he said, is to embellish the arts and entertainment community, possibly by adding new places for music and entertainment. “It would be a big draw for Chestertown,” he said. “Why can’t we have a National Music Festival all year around?” He said a convention center or retreat center could give the town an appeal – “We’ve got so much to offer for people who want to get away.”

While Miller has only been a full-time resident since 2016, he says, “I used to be a come-here, now I’m a be-here; I’ll never be a from-here, but we’ll all be a was-here. So while we’re all now here, let’s work together for a better Chestertown.” He added, “You want a community of people that come from many places, that offer perspectives from many places.” He said he has been impressed by the people he has met at Heron Point, where his wife works. “Their experience can add to our town’s experience.”

The main thing that will attract people here, he said, is jobs for young people in the community. “We need other businesses to think about this place, as a place where people can have careers here.”

‘If I could make one thing happen for Chestertown, it would be raining money,” Miller said. “Money is an engine that runs many things.” In his work with non-profits, he has seen how many ways wealth can help society and facilitate the social good

To familiarize himself with the town government, Miller has regularly attended the council meetings since his decision to run, and has studied the town budget and audit reports, posted online. “Going to council meetings, I’ve learned a lot of things, and I feel that anybody should be able to go to council meetings and know that’s a vehicle they can go to for help.”

Candidate profiles are based on an interview plus submitted biographical material.  See the Spy’s report on the Nov 2 Candidate Forum at Heron Point with a 22-minute video of the all three candidates responses.  —  Editors






Candidate Profile: David Foster


David Foster, candidate for Ward 1

David Foster – This is one in a series of profiles of candidates for the Ward 1 seat on the Chestertown Town Council. Three candidates are running for the seat, currently held by Councilwoman Liz Gross. The election is Nov. 7 at Chestertown Firehouse with voting open from 7 a.m. to 8: pm.

Candidate profiles are based on an interview plus submitted biographical material.  See the Spy’s report on the Nov 2 Candidate Forum at Heron Point with a 22-minute video of all three candidates responses.  —  Editors

David Foster was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and grew up in University Park, Maryland. He has lived on Byford Court in Chestertown since 1997. He has been married to Barbara Foster for 49 years. Together, they have two children: Lucia Foster, the former Director of Garfield Center for the Arts, and Jeremy Foster, an international renewable energy consultant.

Foster is a graduate of the University of Maryland, with a Bachelors in Civil Engineering. After college, Foster joined the Peace Corps, where he did school construction in Gabon, West Africa. He then joined the U.S. Marine Corps but was honorably discharged due to a training accident. But that accident, he said, while ending his plans for a military career ended up leading him to other wonderful opportunities to serve. He worked for the US Agency for International Development, and later attended the Foreign Service Institute for training in Vietnamese Language & Culture, after which he worked in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, managing evaluation programs in III Corps. Thus he ended up in Viet Nam after all.

After Vietnam, Foster returned to graduate school to study Urban Planning, Economics and Policy Analysis at Virginia Tech. He worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency as an engineer and urban planner with a focus on helping to improve the effectiveness of Environmental Programs. He spent several years on loan to USAID as a Senior Urban Environmental Advisor for Asia, based in Bangkok. He then moved full-time to USAID in Washington as Assistant Director for Urban Environment, Office of Housing and Urban Development.

Foster also worked as an urban environmental advisor in Romania, Egypt, India, and other countries. He was a Senior Urban Environmental Advisor and Adjunct Professor at the Administrative Staff College of India, teaching Urban Planning and Water Supply, with an emphasis on the safety and cost-effectiveness of well managed continuous water supply.

After moving to Chestertown full time, he served as Riverkeeper on the Chester River and as Chairman of a pro-bono Chesapeake Bay study group promoting more efficient and effective pollution control.

Foster said he decided to run for the town council for three reasons. “Like all of us, I really love Chestertown,” he said. He and his wife visited town 20 years ago, fell in love with it and bought a home within a month. Secondly, as an urban planner and engineer, he tends to look at the long-range picture. “I’m really concerned about the future of Chestertown. Small towns are really in trouble.” With his 40 years’ experience as an urban planner, he said, “I have many of the skills that are needed to help make a difference here, to help start a conversation… Win or lose, I will have helped start a conversation about that future.”

Foster said he sees the major issue facing the town as the lack of long-range planning about the future. “We tend to address issues one thing at a time,” he said. “We have to look forward five to 10 years at a minimum. We love what’s here, but we’ve got to be brave enough to make the changes necessary to keep those things that we value.” He said there is room for additional small business in Chestertown and the immediate area, and the expansions of Lamotte and Dixon Valve and the possibility of high-speed internet offer “great opportunities, and if we seize these opportunities, we can make a difference.” He cited a University of North Carolina study of 45 small towns that showed that a comprehensive effort – “getting the schools, the towns, businesses all working together on bringing in those businesses” – was the key to a town’s retaining its vitality. He said he thought it would be useful to set up a conference at Washington College to examine those issues as they relate to Chestertown and lay out a “roadmap” for small businesses that could fit into the town.

Foster also noted the town’s age demographics, with 25 percent of the population being age 65 or older and only 12 percent under 18. “That’s exactly opposite of what a normal pattern is in Maryland,” he said. “We’re missing not only young families, we’re missing their ideas, their vitality, their willingness to invest and start a business – their support for the schools.” He noted that the town council has no legal authority over the schools, but it could be an advocate for necessary changes and improvements in institutions that affect the quality of life here. He said progress is possible if people are willing to set aside political differences and work for the common good – citing his experience as Riverkeeper where a love of the river united people whose opinions on other subjects were often radically different.

But the key, he said, is to work proactively, not always in response to an impending crisis. He referred to the difference between waiting for a roadway to wear out before performing repairs and a “pavement management system” of regular maintenance and patching – similar to regular doctor’s visits. “Politicians love to have their picture taken when they’re cutting a ribbon,” he said, “but there are few if any photos of them working on maintenance and repairs – it doesn’t happen.” He said a change of mindset is needed to attract small business and young families to town.

Foster said, “I want to have a sense that the town council and the staff and major employers are committed to working together – that they trust each other and will work together for the town. It’s the process that I think is critical. They really need to think long-range and take the short-term steps that will get us to those goals.” He said that whatever the outcome of the election, he is committed to starting the conversation about the future of the town and keeping it going.

Foster’s candidacy has been endorsed by former Ward 1 Councilman Jim Gatto and former Mayor Elmer Horsey.

Candidate profiles are based on an interview plus submitted biographical material.  —  Editors






Candidate Profile: Owen Bailey


Owen Bailey, Ward 1 candidate

Owen Bailey – This is one in a series of profiles of candidates for the Ward 1 seat on the Chestertown Town Council. Three candidates are running for the seat, currently held by Councilwoman Liz Gross. The election is Nov. 7 at Chestertown Firehouse with voting open from 7 a.m. to 8: p.m.

Candidate profiles are based on an interview plus submitted biographical material.  See the Spy’s report on the Nov 2 Candidate Forum at Heron Point with a 22-minute video of all three candidates responses.  —  Editors

Owen Bailey was born and raised in Chestertown.  He attended local schools, then studied for two years at McDaniel College before returning home to graduate from Washington College in 2007, with a degree in American Studies. Two years later he completed a Masters in English Literature. While in grad school, Bailey worked part-time for the Rose O’Neill Literary House on the college campus, where he worked with visiting writers and helped with student publications.  The job became full-time when he completed his degree, adding on work with the English Department’s Sophie Kerr program. He also worked at the Compleat Bookseller. He manages the Easton office of the Eastern Shore Conservancy. He and his wife live in Chestertown. Over the years, he has been involved in the Chestertown Book Festival; he is the secretary for the Friends of the Library; he works on the Chestertown Environmental Committee, and he has been a board member of Colchester Farms.

Bailey said he has always wanted to be involved in the town. His mother, former Mayor Margo Bailey, still lives in the same Washington Avenue house where he grew up.  Following his parents’ example, Bailey said, “I’ve always believed in public service; it’s important for people who have the ability to give back to the community to help strengthen it.” He said he has been thinking about running for the council for a couple of years, describing it as “a perfect first step.” He said his knowledge of the town from growing up and attending college here also gave him an interest in becoming more closely involved in government. He also credited retiring Ward 3 Councilman Sam Shoge with inspiring him and offering an example for young voters to get involved, when many people his age appear to be complacent or apathetic about government. “There’s a lot more we need to fight for,” he said. He said the council would benefit if members represented a mixture of ages and experience.

Issues Bailey identified as important include jobs and keeping young people and families in town. “I say that because, with all the great things Chestertown has going, all the wonderful things Chestertown has to offer, I feel like it’s missing a huge opportunity to recruit the next generation to come live here, to be active in the community, to volunteer for events, to send their kids to the local schools.” He said lack of opportunities was the main reason for the underrepresentation of youth in the town population. He noted that he commutes to Easton because he can’t find a job in town. His wife works in Chestertown at  Benchworks. The long commute takes away the time for someone to volunteer in the community or take part in other activities, he said. A lot of younger people he knows ended up moving out of town because their spouse couldn’t find a job, or because they feared the school system isn’t good enough. “We’re losing out on a lot of good people who could make this town much better,” Bailey said.

He said there are a couple of things the town could do to retain those young families. “It could be something as simple as investing in the alternative transportation infrastructure,” such as bike and walking paths, he said. For some parts of town, it’s not easy to walk to the downtown – whereas  it’s “a huge freedom for somebody to live in town and not have to drive to the grocery store or a restaurant.” Some kind of basic local bus service would also serve this need, he said, perhaps going down High St and Washington Ave and out Morgnec Road. All these would help both locals and tourists and reduce some of the congestion on the streets. He said the town might survey its residents to see what level of support there might be for such a project.

Another important issue is the town’s relation to the college, he said. Many residents say the town should be happy the college is here, while others say the college should make some kind of payment for the services it receives from the town. “I’m sure there’s some kind of middle ground,” he said. “I feel I have a good understanding of just how much the two rely each on the other.” There should be some kind of town-and-gown committee to create trust and relationships between the two, he said. “It’s important for the town and the college to thrive together,”

If he could get any one thing for the good of the town, he said the improved transportation system would be at the top of his list. “That could help out almost every demographic within Chestertown.” But, working as he does for an environmental nonprofit, he said he would also love to see an improved stormwater containment system to reduce the town’s portion of pollution to the Chester River.

“I have somewhat of a unique perspective, having seen the town change so much in the last 30-plus years,” he said. “But I’d like to hear from as many people as I can” about things the town needs; “I consider that very important.”

Bailey has received endorsements from Councilwoman Liz Gross, the incumbent Ward 1 representative, and from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.  Click here to see Liz Gross’s letter endorsing Owen Bailey for First Ward.

Candidate profiles are based on an interview plus submitted biographical material.  —  Editors