Chestertown Futures Case Study #18: Bob Ortiz

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It’s hard to imagine anyone with less in common with a small town life than Bob Oritz when he and his wife Pam arrived here in 1994.  And yet this native son of Greenwich Village, with a long history in urban Baltimore, has nonetheless embraced the Chestertown life with gusto since his arrival.  A gifted and highly regarded furniture designer and craftsman, Bob can also be found playing the lead role in a cutting edge theater production at Washington College, hitting his beloved drums at a public library gig, or offered his downtown studio to poetry readings.

When it comes to Chestertown’s future, Bob focuses on “what can be” rather than what it is.  He sees Chestertown’s proximity to the over 12 million people who live within a ninety minute drive of town an exceptional asset to develop.   While he admits that he “dispairs” at times as Chestertown works through issues like racial diversity, he nonetheless sees a bright future for all if positive energy can be tapped.

Chestertown Futures is a two-year project of the Chestertown Spy to provide a sustained community conversation on Chestertown’s future and aspirations through the unique voices of twenty-four members of the community representing all aspects of greater Chestertown. By design, these interviews are longer than most broadcast interviews to allow each participant ample time to express their views. It is therefore advisable to allow time for the YouTube video to load the interview fully before viewing, which may take up to three to five minutes.



Chestertown Futures Case Study #17: Dick Goodall

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Dick Goodall and his company, Dixon Valve, is looking more and more these days like the exception to the rule in American manufacturing. A profitable, privately-held company, Dixon continues to invest time and resources on their employees, and their community, rather than manage for short-term profit gains to be competitive.  And it seems to be working. As one Chestertown’s largest employers, Dixon has grown from thirteen employees, when they moved to Chestertown in the early 1970’s from Philadelphia, to now over 350, and hundreds more around the world. While every year, the pressure on Dixon to reduce costs becomes more intense from pressures from China and other parts of the developing world, Dick and his team at Dixon continue to believe that keeping employees happy. employed (even through tough times) and involved in the process is the best way to keep your edge.

While Dick takes pride in his team’s achievements, he sees real threats to manufacturing in the years ahead. Unless a state like Maryland can create a pro-business climate similar to those found in Virginia and Delaware, the future of manufacturing in places like Chestertown will look increasingly dim.  In his candid assessment, the time for local officials to send a message to Annapolis is now, before companies like Dixon Value go to other parts in the country, or other parts of the world, to create jobs.

Chestertown Futures Case Study #16: John Munson

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John Munson has a gentle way of expressing the frustration, as well as the hope, of an entire generation of young African-American men in Chestertown. The grandson of the owners of the beloved, but now torn down, Munson grocery store on Calvert Street, John remembers a time, not so long ago, when the black community was actively engaged in commerce and building businesses. Now there is little sign of that wave of entrepreneurship. With record unemployment in his neighborhood, John and his new organization, SEEDZ, wants to recapture that spirit by offering young men and women a resource to develop their business and spiritual skills as well as recreational opportunities.

John is the first to suggest that his community struggles to overcome a “closed mindset” that limits achievement and ambition. At the same time, without real jobs and economic security that mindset is hard to overcome.  With the help of the community, like the Chester River Health System he notes, John feels that all of Chestertown’s residents will have a fair chance to gain financial security.

Chestertown Futures Case Study #15: Carla Massoni

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Carla Massoni has always worked for herself. When she left her job with Senator Joe Tydings, she went to work with Joyce Huber Smith in a private employment service in Washington, DC. Within one year, she joined Joyce as a partner in Georgetown Employment Service – a partnership that would last for twenty years. Then, in 1985, Carla moved to Chestertown and later purchased the Imperial Hotel. Her most recent venture has been her highly-regarded art gallery on High Street. For more than two decades she has seen up close and personal the stark realities of
running a business in Chestertown.

The past twenty-five years here have been filled with a quality of life that she has never regretted, but they have also been a financial roller coaster for Carla and her businesses. As the town transitioned from a well-established and lucrative hunting locale to a more general and not particularly well-defined tourist destination, she, along with many of her colleagues in the downtown retail sector, has felt the elation and the misery that comes with owning a small town commercial enterprise.

Carla is not discouraged, however, and in keeping with her long-standing reputation for candidness, she speaks of both the opportunities and the pitfalls as Chestertown looks toward the years ahead.

Chestertown Futures is a two-year project of the Chestertown Spy to provide a sustained community conversation on Chestertown’s future and aspirations through the unique voices of twenty-four members of the community representing all aspects of greater Chestertown. By design, these interviews are longer than most broadcast interviews to allow each participant ample time to express their views. It is therefore advisable to allow time for the YouTube video to load the interview fully before viewing, which may take up to three to five minutes.

Chestertown Futures Case Study 14: John Seidel

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It would be hard to find a better example of a college working closely with its local community than Washington College’s Center for Environment & Society (CES). The CES, unlike many other remote, somewhat ivy-towered university environmental programs, has fully engaged in almost every impact study, river protection strategy, zoning debate, smart growth plan, and sustainable agriculture program since its creation in 1999. Using the sophisticated tools such as geographic information systems (GIS) that provide unique mapping of the region’s natural resources, the CES has become an invaluable resource for Kent County as it battles the negative impact of growth on both its land and water.

A significant amount of credit for CES’s impressive outreach effort must go to its soft-spoken director, Professor John Seidel. Dr. Seidel has not only actively encouraged his CES team to play an active role in the community, he has motivated them through his own non-stop volunteer activities, including his membership on the Chestertown Historic District Commission, providing technical assistance to the Town of Chestertown’s recent plastic bag debate, or, more recently, help create the Chester River Field Research Center at Chino Farms.

Dr. Seidel, one of the College’s primary leaders in defining future waterfront programs, highlights some of the current thinking of Washington College as it begins the long process of increasing its presence on the Chester River and in the town itself.


Chestertown Futures is a two-year project of the Chestertown Spy to provide a sustained community conversation on Chestertown’s future and aspirations through the unique voices of twenty-four members of the community representing all aspects of greater Chestertown. By design, these interviews are longer than most broadcast interviews to allow each participant ample time to express their views. It is therefore advisable to allow time for the YouTube video to load the interview fully before viewing, which may take up to three to five minutes.

Chestertown Futures Case Study 13: James Anthony

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It’s a bit hard to imagine at first.  A young man on the go, armed with an engineering background and a University of Chicago MBA leaves a lucrative career path with “masters of the universe” consulting firm, McKinsey and Company, to become the President of the Chesapeake Bank and Trust in small town on the Eastern Shore.  But that’s what James Anthony has indeed done. He and his wife, Kelly, made a decision a few years ago that, while London and San Francisco were great places to live, when it came to raising a family, and enjoying life’s simple, but most rewarding pleasures of friendships and community, that Chestertown offer had the best perks.

While James’ transition might have suggested a more predictable and less stressful work life, the current Great Recession dramatically ended that phase.  After three years of leading Chesapeake Bank and Trust through one of the worst economic climates ever experienced by the country, James remains rationally upbeat about Chestertown’s future. While the storm has not passed, he reminds us all that Chestertown has remained financially viable for over 300 years, and it’s his guess that it will remain so for a long time to come.

 

 

Chestertown Futures is a two-year project of the Chestertown Spy to provide a sustained community conversation on Chestertown’s future and aspirations through the unique voices of twenty-four members of the community representing all aspects of greater Chestertown. By design, these interviews are longer than most broadcast interviews to allow each participant ample time to express their views. It is therefore advisable to allow time for the YouTube video to load the interview fully before viewing, which may take up to three to five minutes.


 

 

 

 

Chestertown Futures Case Study 12: Jim Gatto

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It is not all that typical for a small town council to have a professional city planner as a member, but Chestertown somehow was lucky enough to have one.  Jim Gatto, with his unique blend of Maryland  and Oklahoma small town experiences, arrived on the Eastern Shore well before regional planning was a common term in 1972. An architect by training, Jim was in the vanguard of regional planning and zoning, and has seen both successes and failures with Eastern Shore towns preparing for their future.  As a result of this experience, Gatto was motivated to serve first, as chair of the Chestertown Planning Commission, and more recently, by winning the 1st ward seat on the Chestertown Town Council.

The Gatto professional prescription is simple: invest in the future.  Towns fail when they don’t spend money for infrastructure to grow successfully. In Chestertown’s case, the town needs to build roads to protect what we have, and continue to keep Chestertown a uniquely walkable community.

 

 

Chestertown Futures is a two-year project of the Chestertown Spy to provide a sustained community conversation on Chestertown’s future and aspirations through the unique voices of twenty-four members of the community representing all aspects of greater Chestertown. By design, these interviews are longer than most broadcast interviews to allow each participant ample time to express their views. It is therefore advisable to allow time for the YouTube video to load the interview fully before viewing, which may take up to three to five minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Chestertown Futures Case Study 11: Roy Kirby

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No small town can be totally prepared for an alpha personality as large and intense as construction executive Roy Kirby. The former Green Beret has made a remarkably successful career out of beating his competition by delivering high quality construction projects (mostly schools, churches, and parking facilities) on time and under budget. Part of Roy’s success is his passion for work, but that same passion and intensity has, by his own admission, caused misunderstandings and concerns in Chestertown with his involvement with critical projects important to the community, including the development for Stepney Manor, the Chestertown Marina, Cross Street and the town’s Waterfront.

In his interview for the Chestertown Futures project, Roy talks candidly about his background, his motives, the Chestertown projects he’s involved with, and his hopes for Chestertown.

Chestertown Futures is a two-year project of the Chestertown Spy to provide a sustained community conversation on Chestertown’s future and aspirations through the unique voices of twenty-four members of the community representing all aspects of greater Chestertown. By design, these interviews are longer than most broadcast interviews to allow each participant ample time to express their views. It is therefore advisable to allow time for the YouTube video to load the interview fully before viewing, which may take up to three to five minutes.

Chestertown Futures Case Study 1: Alex Castro

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Editor Note: This interview was originally published on April 19, 2010.

Rarely does a newcomer to Chestertown come with such unique qualifications to comment on its possible future than Alex Castro. The architect of the acclaimed Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, the designer of the renovated Charles Theatre, co-founder of the award winning magazine Urbanite, and accomplished artist and sculptor, Castro brings over thirty years of studying the urban experience through his trained eye to Chestertown’s challenges and opportunities in the next ten years.

Next month – Case Study 2:  Town of Chestertown Manager Bill Ingersoll

Chestertown Futures is a two-year project of the Chestertown Spy to provide a sustained community conversation on Chestertown’s future and aspirations through the unique voices of twenty-four members of the community representing all aspects of greater Chestertown.

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