Maryland 3.0: Checking in with KRM’s Bryan Matthews


Just a few years ago, the Dixon Valve & Coupling Company made a corporate decision that would have a significant impact on Kent County’s economy and yet very little was said about at the time. The company, faced with growing pains and stiff competition for their range of piping and fitting products, had to make a difficult choice to either expand their business locally in Chestertown or take advantage of lower production costs, larger workforce populations, and reduced taxes by moving operations to another state or perhaps even another country.

This kind of significant call is not an uncommon one for American manufacturing companies. And in most cases, these businesses very quickly conclude that their bottom line profits will improve dramatically by migrating to a more business-friendly location. But in the case of Dixon, which would impact close to 375 employees in Kent County, their final decision went against that popular trend. Dixon quickly made up their mind that they would stay put in Chestertown.

While most communities in America would have held parades or honored local politicians for saving a town’s anchor manufacturing business, the Dixon decision, like so much of the rest of the family-owned business culture, was a low-key affair. Once they concluded that Kent County would remain their home for the foreseeable future, Dixon leadership assigned the task of building facilities for that future growth to the company’s subsidiary, KRM Development, and thus began a complicated multi-year plan to move warehouse, production and administrative functions to new locations.

A good part of that job is now in the work portfolio of Bryan Matthews, who retired as Washington College’ athletic director and facilities manager after thirty years of service to his alma mater to join the KRM team two years ago. In his Spy interview, Matthews talks in detail about the intricate planning required for this kind of major undertaking as well as some of the vision behind Dixon’s plans for their North Chestertown campus.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about KRM Development please go here.

Letter to the Editor: Anti-BDS Legislation is Unconstitutional


On October 23, 2017, the state of Maryland became the 23rd state to prohibit government contracts to companies that engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that political boycotts are protected by the First Amendment. It is therefore my opinion that Anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanction) legislation is unconstitutional.

On October 17, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representing Kansas math teacher Ester Koontz, filed a federal lawsuit. The Kansas State Department of Education would not allow Ms. Koontz to participate in a statewide training program run by the Kansas Department of Education because she would not sign a form requiring her to certify that she “is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” Fortunately, on January 31, 2018, the ACLU secured an important first victory in their effort to get the federal district court in Kansas to preliminarily block enforcement of House Bill 2409 that requires state contractors, like ACLU plaintiff Ester Koontz, to certify that they are not engaged in boycotts against Israel.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a movement, was formed on July 9, 2005 by Palestinian civil society organizations as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel. For nearly 70 years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law. According to, the BDS movement calls for Israel to comply with international law by meeting with three demands. (1) ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands – International law recognizes the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel. (2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality – one-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians who remained inside the armistice lines after 1948. They are subjected to a system of racial discrimination incorporated in more than 50 laws that impact every aspect of their lives. (3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has set out to control as much land as possible and displace Palestinians simply because they are not Jewish. Currently, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees.

Opponents of BDS claim that the global campaign is Anti-Semitic and seeks to delegitimize Israel, denying the Jewish people the universal right of self- determination. What about the universal right of self- determination for the Palestinians?

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin on March 23, 2017 introduced a bill called the Israel Anti- Boycott Act. Although this bill has been revised, amended by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the original bill called for a minimum civil penalty of $250,000.00 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1million and 20 years in prison for anyone violating any of its prohibitions. Although the revised bill does not mention jail time, it still violates the First Amendment. It unconstitutionally penalizes Americans who participate in political boycotts of companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This latest version would still allow people who boycott Israel to be slapped with criminal financial penalties by criminalizing participation in constitutionally protected boycotts. Companies who boycott Israel in states with Anti- BDS laws are deemed prohibited from investment.
On March 18, 2018 the ACLU sent a letter to the Senate opposing the revised version of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that would criminalize supporting certain boycotts of companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In contrast to the position of the ACLU, those who favor the bill say nobody is being forced to do business with Israel; they are being prevented from cooperating with entities hostile to a close ally. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan expressed a similar stance when he signed an executive order in October 23, 2017 that prohibits the state from doing business with companies engaged in a boycott of Israel.

Unfortunately, such attitudes and the resulting executive orders and proposed legislation prevent companies and individuals from having freedom of choice with whom to conduct business. In my opinion, any restriction on individual freedom of choice violates the values that were written in our Constitution and protected by the First Amendment.

Don Kempel
Church Hill

Election 2018: A Spy Goes to Carroll County to Meet Don West


This Election 2018 profile is the first of a six-part series on the intricate makeup and character of the 1st Congressional District of Maryland. Each month, the Spy will be interviewing different 1st District residents from Carroll County to the Lower Shore, both Democrats and Republicans, to discuss their unique sub-region of one of the largest congressional districts in the country, and the issues and political climate of those communities.

The Spy starts at the westernmost part of the 1st District, in the northern part of Carroll County and our chat with Don West, the owner of a local construction company for 30 years, and current chair of the Democratic Central Committee of Carroll County.

In his Spy interview, Don provides an objective overview of the ever-changing demographic characteristics of this part of Carroll, its political roots, and a snapshot analysis on how the midterm election is unfolding.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. 


Senior Nation: Preparing for Dementia with Integrace’s Tabassum Majid – Part Two


Very few things are more worrisome for those over the age of sixty-five than the possibility of experiencing some form of dementia in their senior years. And there is a good reason for that concern since it is turning out that one out of every three Americans will indeed have this condition in their lifetime.

Adding to this grim fact is the growing awareness that dementia, like cancer, is turning out to have many different sub-categories. In fact, the current number used by experts in the field believe there are at least 120 identifiable sub-types, and that number seems to be growing every year.

But along with those sobering facts is also the growing awareness the lifestyle choices can have a dramatic impact on the severity of these many different types of memory loss. In fact, with modest improvements like regular exercise, a balanced diet, and social interaction, the odds improve significantly in mitigating the worst effects of the illness.

In the second of a three-part series, the Spy continues our conversation with Dr. Tabassum Majid, executive director of the Integrace Institute and expert on dementia, about the growing body of evidence that lifestyle changes can significantly improve the quality of life of those with the illness.


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


Mid-Shore Authors: ​Anke Van Wagenberg on the Weenix Impact on Dutch Paintings


You would think that Anke Van Wagenberg’s day job would be a serious impediment for doing any form of serious extracurricular writing. As the senior curator of the Academy Art Museum, Van Wagenberg is in charge of the dozens of art programs and exhibitions the AAM produces every year, but also is responsible for the the cataloging and conservation of the museum’s 1,500 objects in their collection. Not an easy gig.

That might be one of the reasons it has taken Anke fourteen years to complete a massive two-volume survey of the complete works of the artist Jan Baptist Weenix and his son, Jan Weenix, entitled Painting for Princes: Dutch Art by Jan Baptist Weenix & Jan Weenix.

The father, who died young at 39 years old, and his son, produced over 500 paintings during their collective lifetime which Van Wagenberg has dutifully documented as part of her own ongoing scholarship in Dutch paintings.

The results of this extraordinary undertaking is finally in print which will add significantly to the art world’s knowledge of these sometimes forgotten Dutch Masters, whose work compares well with contemporaries of the time, including the likes of Rembrandt and Rubin.

The Spy caught up with Anke a few days ago to talk about both father and son and their lasting impact on Western art as she prepares for a series of lectures on the Weenex books before returning for many more years of research on the drawings these two men produced during their lifetimes.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Anke Van Wagenberg will launch the book’s publication as a Kittredge-Wilson lecturer at the Academy Art Museum at 6pm on Friday May 18. For more information please go here


Chasing Sophie: The Search for the Real Sophie Kerr


There are quite a few things that Washington College can hang its hat on with great pride. The easiest one, of course, is the fact that George Washington willingly allowed his name to be used in the creation of the country’s 10th oldest college. That’s pretty good stuff but it does not diminish the other remarkable legacies of this 238-year-old school, and the prime example is the Denton born writer Sophie Kerr.

A native of the Mid-Shore who eventually found her way to hosting literary salons at her Murray Hill townhouse in New York in the first half of the 20th Century, Kerr became one of the most proficient writers of her time. When she passed away in 1965, she had completed over 80 novels, hundreds of magazine articles, and a number of highly sought after cookbooks. She also left enough money in her will to allow Washington College to offer each year the largest literary prize for an undergraduate in the country ($66,000 last year) and an equally significant amount to create what is now an impressive creative writing program at the school.

Another thing she left to the two institutions she had developed a strong kinship with, namely Columbia University, where she donated most of her letters and manuscripts, and Washington College, who was the recipient of her journal-like daybooks, poems, and other personal correspondence.

But even with this extraordinary collection of primary resource material, the real Sophie Kerr remains somewhat of a mystery to both scholars and the general public. The writer took extraordinary steps during her life to keep a large wall between her and her professional writing, but that also held true even with her letters.

The forever private nature of Kerr was a common interest that united three unique partners in a quest to chase down the real Sophie. WC’s professor Elizabeth O’Connor, whose lifetime scholarship had dug deep into American women writers during Sophie’s era, was eager to fill in some important gaps of knowledge. Her student, Brooke Schultz, found in Sophie the a perfect subject for the Friends of the Miller Library to award her a Thornton Fellowship to research her work for a senior thesis. And, finally, Heather Calloway, the College archivist, who had been tasked with making sense of Miller Library’s Kerr collection, also wanted to know more about Kerr’s history on the Eastern Shore as well as in New York.

Over the last year, these women set out to find the real Sophie Kerr as a unique team project which started with a meticulous review of WC’s holdings and ended with spending three days at Columbia’s archive to immerse themselves in the author’s complete body of work.

Some of the results of this work can be found in Brooke’s thesis, but, as the Spy found out in our interview with all three (appropriately in the Sophie Kerr Room at Miller Library), this intensive research project has only just begun to uncover this progressive writer’s unique personality and literary agenda.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Sophie Kerr and Washington College please go here.

Grants in Action: Pickering Creek Audubon and Women & Girls Fund Offer “Camp Like a Girl”


When Krysta Hougen and Samantha Pitts, full-time educators at the Pickering Center Audubon Center, compare notes about their programs for young people in the Mid-Shore region, the first thing they observe is that many of these kids have never been in a wilderness setting before. While Pickering may be on only ten miles away from downtown Easton, it can seem like a different planet for quite a number of these boys and girls.

The second thing they noticed is that whenever a child, male or female, hesitated or showed caution in these new surroundings, the taunt of “don’t be like a girl” was the most common phrase used by their peers. And since both instructors happened to have been girls when they first fell in love with nature, it was a clear sign that girls needed extra attention.

It didn’t take long to realize that a girls camp, could be an excellent strategy for this and build confidence with both girls and young teens. And with the help of the Women & Girls Fund, that has become a reality with the “Camp like a Girl” program at Pickering this summer.

The Spy talked to Krysta and Samantha a few weeks go to talk about “Camp Like a Girl” as well as Susie Dillon from the Women & Girls Fund to talk about the concept and its new beginning this summer.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Pickering Creek Audubon Center, please go here.

This is the sixth in a series of stories focused on the work of the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore. Since 2002, the Fund has channeled its pooled resources to organizations that serve the needs and quality of life for women and girls in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. The Spy, in partnership with the Women & Girls Fund, are working collaboratively to put the spotlight on twelve of these remarkable agencies to promote their success and inspire other women and men to support the Fund’s critical role in the future.

Mid-Shore Artists: Betty Huang and Studio B


Betty Huang took her career very seriously when she entered the workforce some thirty-five years ago. Fulfilling her own aspirations, as well as her parents, she reached high-level professional positions at the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, based in Washington, D.C. And for more than three decades dedicated herself to the IMF mission, which was to facilitate international trade, promotes sustainable economic growth, and helps to reduce global poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world.

And while that was satisfying on many levels, Betty took only a short time after retirement to come back to her real love which was painting.  Motivated by her involvement in Plein Air in Easton, she made it a point to improve her skills, seek out mentors, and eventually move from DC to Easton to join the art community in 2008.

Ten years later, Betty has not only found herself to be a successful artist, but she also took the extra step by opening up her own gallery so she could also show the works of friends and but create a studio for herself to continue her growth.  That effort led to the creation of Studio B on Goldsborough Street in Easton.

The Spy sat down with Betty last week to talk about her background, her love of painting, and her ongoing efforts to show down and develop her own special eye that comes with the art of seeing.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Studio B please go here.

Mid-Shore Authors: The Unexpected Environmentalist J.I. Rodale with Andrew Case


It’s pretty clear that J.I. Rodale did not set off in life to be what we now call an “environmentalist.” The godfather of the “natural food” lifestyle, founder of Prevention magazine, and advocate of organic farming, Rodale saw himself first and foremost as a publisher.

That’s one of the many takeaways from Washington College professor Andrew Case’s new book, “The Organic Profit:
Rodale and the Making of Marketplace Environmentalism,” (University of Washington Press) which chronicles Rodale’s unique role in building a marketplace for organic products and supplements.

Nonetheless, Rodale began a movement that eventually led to the popularity of organic products, the awareness of the dangers of pesticides, and the importance for taking care of one’s own body and what it consumes. All which encompass the fundamentals of our current environmental movement in this country.

All of this proved to be irresistible to Case whose scholarship has focused on the history of environmentalism and consumer culture. He began to document Rodale’s rise after World War II, the rapid success of the Rodale Press, and a family business that has left a permanent legacy in the annals of the American environmental history.

The Spy sat down with the author at Cromwell Hall on Washington College’s campus to talk about the overarching themes found in Organic Profit and the fascinating profile of one of America’s great entrepreneurs.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Please go here for more information on “The Organic Profit:
Rodale and the Making of Marketplace Environmentalism.”