Chestertown Councilman Marty Stetson announced Monday that he will not seek a fourth term in this fall’s council elections.
Stetson, who represents the town’s fourth ward, is the longest-serving current member of the council, having taken office in January 2008. He made his announcement during his ward report at the Aug. 5 council meeting. He said that he is in excellent health and that he believed he would not have any problem in winning another term. However, he said, increasing problems with his hearing were the deciding factor. “Listening is an important part of this job,” he said, and with difficulties in following verbal discussions or conversations with constituents, he realized he could no longer fill his role effectively.
A former town Police Chief and county alcoholic beverage inspector, Stetson has been a consistent advocate of fiscal restraint during his time on the council. He was strongly opposed to the town’s purchase of the Chestertown marina, arguing that the facility serves only a fraction of residents and that its revenues would never repay the purchase price. He has also been a consistent opponent of spending taxpayer funds for a July 4 fireworks display, which ultimately led to the decision to drop fireworks from the 2019 budget.
At the same time, Stetson has been an active supporter of the dog park, which is funded by the Friends of the Dog Park and is located in Margo Bailey Park in his ward. The Friends have donated funds to purchase and construct all the park’s facilities and make a regular donation to the town to allow the town crew to perform maintenance.
During his tenure on the council, Stetson has been an enthusiastic representative for the town at Maryland Municipal League meetings, where he has regularly carried the town’s flag in opening ceremonies. He has also been a regular attendee at Kent County’s Council of Government meetings. And it is rare for him to miss a local ribbon-cutting or other events where a council presence is appropriate. Stetson is also a dedicated sports fan, often wearing ties or socks with Orioles or Ravens logos to meetings, especially after a home team win.
After Stetson’s announcement, Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver, who was elected in 2017, expressed his appreciation for Stetson’s willingness to help the newer members of the council learn the ropes of town government. He praised Stetson’s wisdom and patience and thanked him for his long service to the town.
Councilman David Foster, elected the same year as Tolliver, said that Stetson and he had not agreed on all issues, but that Stetson had never let their differences affect their relationship as colleagues. “He doesn’t hold a grudge,” Foster said. He also said that Stetson was always ready to offer a ride to out-of-town meetings they were both attending, and to make other efforts to smooth his younger colleague’s way during his first term on the council.
Here is the text of Stetson’s announcement, of which he provided the Spy with a printed copy.
“From time to time I am asked if I am going to run for a fourth term. I think now is a good time to let you know my decision.
“First I am in good health – I exercise a minimum of an hour each day, can and do 100 sit-ups and 50 push-ups. My exercise may be just a walk or a bike ride but usually includes swimming laps, working with weights or an elliptical machine. I of course no longer run marathons or swim across the Bay, that occurred many years ago. I am within 10 pounds of the weight I graduated from high school, but I will say it is not distributed in the same manner.
“All that being said, I am 82 years old and I, like many other people, felt that someone 82 should not be running for office. Now that I am 82, I am not sure I feel that way.
“But I do have a loss of hearing. I have been wearing hearing aids for over 20 years but as of late, my loss has become more pronounced. I am having trouble hearing all that is said, not usually by the Council people if they talk one at a time. But I do have trouble in group settings of any kind. I believe listening is a very important part of this job – so because I feel that it keeps me from doing the job as I think it needs to be done, I will not be filing for the fourth term.
“It is not because I feel I may lose, I feel I could win my Council seat if I choose to run. I seldom go out in public without someone stopping and saying they appreciate my honesty and frankness while serving on the Council. Some say they may not agree with me but appreciate the sincerity of my thoughts.
“When you add in my four years of active duty in the military service, with my time on the Maryland State Police, time as Chief of Police of Chestertown, that of Alcoholic Beverage Inspector for the county along with the twelve years I have spent on the Council, it amounts to over 60 years of public service of one kind or another.
“I plan on being a very active member of the council right up until my successor is sworn in, whoever he or she may be.”
Council members and members of the public attending the meeting applauded at the conclusion of Stetson’s statement.
Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, who also faces reelection this fall, has not announced whether she plans to run for a third term.