Washington’s Mount Vernon opposes Dominion Energy’s Planned Gas Facility along Potomac River

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The guardians of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, who have preserved the historic Virginia estate on the Potomac River since before the Civil War, are rallying against a present-day foe — one they say could mar a Potomac River view that’s been untarnished for centuries.

Across the river in Charles County, MD, not far from a shoreline that looks much as it did when Washington took in the vista, Dominion Energy is planning to build a natural gas compressor station. The company says the facility will help deliver fuel to a planned power plant nearby that’s intended to supply electricity to portions of both states — and that it will be out of sight from Mount Vernon.

But the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which claims to be first national historic preservation organization in the United States, warns that the compressor station might in fact be visible and ruin the unspoiled panorama across the Potomac from the first president’s home. The association hosted a press conference last week to raise the alarm, supported by a dozen preservation, environmental and community groups from both sides of the river.

The project is also opposed by residents who live in the wooded areas surrounding the planned facility — including more than 400 properties that are themselves barred from certain types of development because they are next to a national park that was established to protect Mount Vernon’s view.

The Charles County residents also are concerned that the compressor station’s emissions could could diminish local air quality, pose a fire or explosion risk and negatively impact the surrounding wetlands and forests. Local environmental groups are beginning to track the project, too, concerned that it could also impact local water quality.

Charles County officials denied the project a special-use permit to build on a 50-acre parcel zoned for rural conservation uses, but Dominion has sued the county. The company says a waiver from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission overrides the county’s zoning ordinances.

Despite their environmental and safety issues, residents seem to think their best bet for stopping the project lies across the river, in the hands of the well-funded estate that has officially set its sights on stopping the station.

“Dominion Energy can move their compressor station. We can’t move Mount Vernon,” Doug Bradburn, president and CEO of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the name of the nonprofit run by the ladies’ association, said Tuesday at a press conference on the estate’s lawn.

The crux of the conflict with Mount Vernon comes down to the height of two exhaust stacks that would emit carbon monoxide and potentially ozone-forming gases that are byproducts of the power-generating turbines burning natural gas. The higher the stacks, the more likely they are to be visible at Mount Vernon. But stacks that are too low could deliver more air pollutants to the communities and forested areas surrounding the site on the Maryland side.

Dominion spokesman Karl Neddenien said neither the Charles Station compressor’s buildings nor its emissions stacks would be visible from Mount Vernon, pointing to a sightline study conducted by the Chesapeake Conservancy that found 50-foot stacks would be hidden behind a bluff of trees.

But Mount Vernon advocates say those plans could change, and they note that a far taller stack height of more than 113 feet is mentioned as a “best practice” in permitting documents. The facility’s air quality permit is currently being reviewed by the Maryland Department of the Environment, which could have a say in the height of the stacks.

Uncertainties about the height of the stacks is one of the reasons the Chesapeake Conservancy, after completing the sightline study for Mount Vernon, joined the effort to oppose it.

“Higher stacks would lessen the local air quality impacts, but would likely negatively affect the historic view,” said Susan Shingledecker, vice president and director of programs for the Chesapeake Conservancy. “Lower stacks would remain shielded by tree canopy, but could mean increased harmful environmental health conditions for surrounding communities. This is not a tradeoff we can accept.”

Preservation advocates also fear the construction could lead to more industrial development in a portion of Maryland they’ve worked hard to keep forested.

“Their promises to us are not binding,” Bradburn said. “They cannot guarantee that the industrial development will not have a long-term negative impact on the forest canopy that protects that view.”

A dozen organizations from both sides of the river — including the Chesapeake Conservancy, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and groups representing Maryland residents near the planned facility — have joined the campaign to “Save George Washington’s View.”

Also last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the Mount Vernon estate and Piscataway Park to its annual list of the most endangered historic places in the United States, along with Annapolis’ City Dock, a move intended to galvanize national support for ongoing preservation.

Behind the effort is the educational and fund-raising prowess of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ group, a nonprofit that raises almost $50 million annually to manage the estate’s $250 million in assets, according to Charity Navigator.

Sarah Miller Coulson, regent of the Ladies’ Association, which has maintained Mount Vernon for 160 years, said the group’s members considers it their “sacred and moral responsibility” to protect Washington’s home, tomb and viewshed from projects like the one Dominion has planned. And they have a record of doing so.

In the 1950s, the organization stopped an oil refining company from buying hundreds of acres across the river in Maryland. A decade later, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission planned to use eminent domain to build a three-story sewage treatment plant across from Mount Vernon, intending to soften the blow to the view by making the plant a replica of the estate. A congresswoman who was also a member of the Ladies’ Association helped redirect those plans.

“We won’t stop until we’re successful,” Coulson said of their latest campaign.

At Mount Vernon, efforts to protect the property’s view culminated in the 1960s with the creation of Piscataway Park on the banks of the Potomac in Maryland. The group also had a hand in hundreds of conservation agreements with landowners that limit the height of buildings and how many trees can be removed.

Piscataway “was the first park in the nation created to protect the viewshed” of another property, said Lori Arguelles, president and CEO of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, an environmental nonprofit based across the river from Mount Vernon in Accokeek, MD. Dominion’s compressor station would be within 50 feet of the park.

Dominion officials say environmental concerns about the project will be addressed through the local and state permitting process, which is underway now. Dominion has been expanding its network of energy infrastructure across the region with a growing focus on natural gas as an alternative to burning coal for power. Dominion says the Charles County compressor station would connect to existing underground pipelines to pump new natural gas supplies to the Panda Mattawoman Energy Project, which is planned to be built in Prince George’s County, MD.

The compressor station is part of a project that Dominion says on its website “will bring much-needed new natural gas supplies” to the region that includes Charles County, MD, and Mount Vernon, which Bradburn said is heated by a mix of electricity and natural gas.

Dominion has won at least one other battle over whether it can place energy infrastructure within sight of historic properties. On a portion of the James River near Williamsburg, an effort last summer fell short in protecting a trio of historic sites from the view of a power line spanning the river. Despite opposition from historic preservation groups — that portion of the river landed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of endangered places in 2013 — the project received final federal approval. Lawsuits from preservation groups are pending.

Coulson said the Ladies’ Association had been meeting with Dominion officials as recently as the day before the press conference and wants to help the utility find an alternative location for the compressor station.

But Dominion’s Neddenien seemed befuddled by the press conference at Mount Vernon and the rallying cry to stop the project.

“We have worked with Mount Vernon officials since the initial stages of planning for this project about two years ago. We designed our facility to minimize visuals at Mount Vernon,” he said.

For Mount Vernon, those visuals are of paramount importance to their mission of preserving the estate and its historic vista. Several U.S. presidents are among the more than 87 million people that have visited Mount Vernon over the years, the most recent being President and First Lady Trump.

Bradburn stood with the Trumps on Mount Vernon’s piazza during the April visit of French President Emmanuel Macron — and brought up with Trump the risk of a pair of exhaust stacks appearing on the horizon.

“The president said, ‘This should be preserved. This is fantastic,’” Bradburn said.

by Whitney Pipkin

Bay Journal staff writer Whitney Pipkin covers food, agriculture and the environment from her home base in Northern Virginia. Her work for the Bay Journal often focuses on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, and she is a fellow of the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources.

A Lineman for the Country: Delmarva’s Bradley Hughes on Working on Puerto Rico’s Power Lines

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While Bradley Hughes calls Easton home, and his job is with Delmarva Power’s regional office in Centreville, it’s entirely accurate, with a few apologies to Glenn Campbell, to call him a power linesman for the country rather than a county.

With almost no notice, Bradley and his fellow linesmen can be assigned to any part of the United States for weeks at a time after a significant storm to help repair power lines. And for Hughes, that has meant long-term projects in Florida, New York, Tennessee, Alabama, and most recently, Puerto Rico.

Hughes calls this just part of his job, but very few make a career of working at very high heights, under hostile weather conditions, and for very long hours. It takes a unique calling and skill set to not only tolerate the work but enjoy it.

In fact, when talking to the Spy after he arrived back for three weeks in Puerto Rico about the horrific power shortages that island is facing, he referred to that challenge as the equivalent of being the Super Bowl of sorts for professional linesmen. It’s on these occasions for someone like Bradley to use all his skills, physical strength, and problem-solving skills to extreme levels while also returning power to 12,000 families during that time.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Delmarva Power’s efforts to help Puerto Rico please go here.

Looking to George Washington for Inspiration by Craig Fuller

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Our uniquely American July 4th holiday provides an opportunity to reflect on our freedoms and liberties. However, I must confess that this year I feel kind of a bittersweet sensation as families and friends take time to celebrate the freedoms secured by individuals who left their native countries to find a better life here in America. It is appropriate to commemorate those who saw the courage to pursue their dreams that became America, yet how ironic we celebrate while policies of our government separate children from families and detain them for mustering that same kind of courage in pursuit of a dream for a better life.

While no easy answer is likely to present itself, perhaps the words of American children to those being held that “we are a better country” and “you are not alone” will be sufficient to move our elected officials to find a more compassionate and, yes, a more American approach to immigration than what we have in place today.

Thinking about this Fourth of July, I searched for an inspiring topic and found one in an unusual place, The Washington Post.

Now, I don’t mean to be critical of the newspaper, but it’s just not a place where a lot of inspiring ideas come from these days. However, a piece caught my eye about how our first President had lived by 110 Rules of Civility and Decency. It caused me to pause and wonder what better way to reflect on our freedoms and liberties this July 4th than to turn to one of our founding fathers for inspiration.

Rather than just use the Rules selected by the Post’s writer, I decided to look at the entire list and check out the story…kind of a “trust but verify” moment.

It turns out that a young George Washington actually wrote out all 110 Rules as a handwriting lesson. The rules he copied were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595.

“Fake News,” you say….well, maybe. But, a close reading of the story doesn’t say Washington composed the rules, only that he wrote them down and lived by them. Hard to fact check that one.

Regardless, I think the fact that people thought enough about civility and decency in the late 1500s to write out 110 Rules might be something to pay attention to today.

So, as we celebrate our freedom and liberty this week, let’s reflect on how we might all benefit from a good deal more civility and decency in the world today….and, let’s hope our first President might inspire other leaders just a bit!

You will find the list of 110 Rules in their entirety by clicking on RULES. The list is provided by the Foundations Magazine.

The following is a sampling offered in modern day English:

Treat everyone with respect.

Be considerate of others. Do not embarrass others.

Don’t draw attention to yourself.

When you speak, be concise.

Do not argue with your superior. Submit your ideas with humility.

When a person does their best and fails, do not criticize him.

When you must give advice or criticism, consider the timing, whether it should be given in public or private, the manner and above all be gentle.

If you are corrected, take it without argument. If you were wrongly judged, correct it later.

Do not make fun of anything important to others.

If you criticize someone else of something, make sure you are not guilty of it yourself.

Actions speak louder than words.

 

Wishing you a very safe and happy July 4th!

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.

Opinion: Theodore Roosevelt on the 4th of July

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Leave it to historian David McCullough, author of “Mornings on Horseback,” to share remarks made by a very young Theodore Roosevelt in 1886, when he was a young rancher in the Dakota Badlands, about the importance of the 4th of July:

I am peculiarly glad to have an opportunity of addressing you, my fellow citizens of Dakota, on the Fourth of July, because it always seems to me that those who dwell in a new territory, and whose actions, therefore, are peculiarly fruitful, for good and for bad alike, in shaping the future, have in consequence peculiar responsibilities. . . . Much has been given to us, and so, much will be expected of us; and we must take heed to use aright the gifts entrusted to our care.

The Declaration of Independence derived its peculiar importance, not on account of what America was, but because of what she was to become; she shared with other nations the present, and she yielded to them the past, but it was felt in return that to her, and to her especially, belonged the future. It is the same with us here. We, grangers and cowboys alike, have opened a new land; and we are the pioneers, and as we shape the course of the stream near its head, our efforts have infinitely more effect, in bending it in any given direction . . . In other words, the first comers in a land can, by their individual efforts, do far more to channel out the course in which its history is to run than can those who come after them; and their labors, whether exercised on the side of evil or on the side of good, are far more effective than if they had remained in old settled communities.

So it is peculiarly incumbent on us here today so to act throughout our lives as to leave our children a heritage, for which we will receive their blessing and not their curse. . . . If you fail to work in public life, as well as in private, for honesty and uprightness and virtue, if you condone vice because the vicious man is smart, or if you in any other way cast your weight into the scales in favor of evil, you are just so far corrupting and making less valuable the birthright of your children. . . .

It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.

I do not undervalue for a moment our material prosperity; like all Americans, I like big things; big prairies, big forests and mountains, big wheat fields, railroads—and herds of cattle, too— big factories, steamboats, and everything else. But we must keep steadily in mind that no people were ever yet benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue. It is of more importance that we should show ourselves honest, brave, truthful, and intelligent, than that we should own all the railways and grain elevators in the world. We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune. Here we are not ruled over by others, as in the case of Europe; we rule ourselves. All American citizens, whether born here or elsewhere, whether of one creed or another, stand on the same footing; we welcome every honest immigrant no matter from what country he comes, provided only that he leaves off his former nationality, and remains neither Celt nor Saxon, neither Frenchman nor German, but becomes an American, desirous of fulfilling in good faith the duties of American citizenship.

When we thus rule ourselves, we have the responsibilities of sovereigns, not of subjects. We must never exercise our rights either wickedly or thoughtlessly; we can continue to preserve them in but one possible way, by making the proper use of them. In a new portion of the country, especially here in the Far West, it is peculiarly important to do so; and on this day of all others we ought soberly to realize the weight of the responsibility that rests upon us. I am, myself, at heart as much a Westerner as an Easterner; I am proud, indeed, to be considered one of yourselves, and I address you in this rather solemn strain today, only because of my pride in you, and because your welfare, moral as well as material, is so near my heart.

Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States from September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909. Excerpt From: Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by Simon & Schuster.

 

Lady Liberty by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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An iconic symbol of America’s long and often uncomfortable struggle with immigration stands just over 151 feet tall in the middle of New York harbor. Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and constructed by Gustave Eiffel (the same monsieur who erected that eponymous tower in Paris), the Statue of Liberty has kept watch over us all since 1886—a welcoming beacon, an enduring landmark, a tireless guardian, a cherished ideal.

America’s most renowned monument represents Libertas, Roman goddess of liberty. In her right hand, she holds high a torch; in her left is a tablet inscribed with the date July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. A gift to the American people from the people of France, the heroic statue sent two messages: it was both a grateful expression of America’s promise of hope and freedom as well as a subtle plea to the people of France to resist the demagoguery and repressive regime of Napoleon III.

Even back then, there was a good deal of partisan bickering about Lady Liberty’s cost. Grover Cleveland, then Governor of New York, vetoed a bill that would provide $50,000 for the project. The following year, Congress declined to pass a measure that would provide $100,000 to finish the job. It ultimately fell to Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, to launch a private campaign to raise the funds ($150,000 at the time; $2.3 million in today’s dollars) needed to complete the project. Donations poured in, most of them under $1. A kindergarten class in Des Moines, Iowa contributed $1.35.

Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, The New Colossus, was added almost as an afterthought. The second stanza still resonates today with its indelible message of hope:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Well, that golden door seems sadly tarnished these days. A wall, not a torch, has become the new symbol of our struggle with the long story of American immigration. And what an ironic story it is! Unless your ancestors happened to trudge here over the bridge that covered the frozen Bering Straight in the Ice Age, you are as much an immigrant to this land as I am or, for that matter, as anyone in one of those “caravans” coming from Central America or anyone fleeing the chaos in the Middle East. And yet, there are those among us who would summarily slam shut the door of freedom to preserve some perceived modicum of security in an inherently insecure world. Whether motivated by ideology or just plain fear, these folks would relegate Lady Liberty and her message of hope to the dustbin of history. Sad.

Tomorrow is the fourth of July, a worthy celebration of America’s roots in the fertile soil of democracy, freedom, and pluralism. How demeaning that the fireworks exploding in air tomorrow night will reveal an uglier truth: that our great experiment is in danger of failing, that the torch of hope is flickering toward extinction, and that Lady Liberty is slowly but surely turning her back on the world.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Out and About (Sort of) Fractious Fourth Howard Freedlander

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Tomorrow is viewed as our nation’s official birthday, its 232nd. Not very old in a world filled with thousands-old countries.

For some reason, I always think fondly about Ben Franklin at this time. Friends wouldn’t be surprised. After all, this renowned and respected founder and Declaration of Independence signer founded my alma mater. I’m clearly biased about his stature in our short history.

Ben Franklin

 

I just finished reading a book, The Loyal Son: The War in Ben Franklin’s House, about Ben’s tortuous relationship with his son, William. The latter, the British governor of New Jersey, decided to retain his allegiance to the Crown during the Revolutionary War. This decision ruined his relationship with his father, naturally enough. The elder father could not persuade his son to side with the patriots.

Due to his resolute devotion to King George III, William was removed from the governor’s house and imprisoned in a Connecticut prison. He suffered dearly in solitary confinement. When released, he continued to sabotage the patriots’ cause by directing guerilla raids against the Continental Army.

This horrible rift between a father and a son interested me. While I knew our American Civil War in the mid-19th century irreparably split families and friends, I never thought about equally damaging fissures during the war between the Colonies and its British overlords. The Franklin imbroglio illustrated the divided loyalties as the patriots sought control of their own destiny. Those loyal to the Mother Country felt passionate too about their emotional, political and commercial ties to the United Kingdom.

William Franklin

Ben Franklin was a great man. His achievements in the civic, academic, scientific and political worlds are legendary. His brain was first-class. His writing was shrewd and coy. His diplomatic skills in the last part of his life were critical to our nation before and during the Revolutionary War. He had many friends and admirers in England and France—and his share of enemies in the former.

When William sought reconciliation with his father after the war, the elder rebuffed him. He could not accept what he perceived as his son’s disloyalty to him.

Many families split over money and perceived slights. Gentle Ben could not forgive his son for what he considered misplaced fealty.

When this giant of a statesman died, he left nothing to William, except his wrath. While understanding that political passions run deep, particularly when the Colonies so strongly resented British repression, I thought that Ben Franklin could have opted for compassion for his son.

It was not to be. The familial ties had frayed beyond repair.

As we well know, our national leaders are flawed human beings. Sometimes their families suffer from their overriding ambition and vanity. They bear grudges that they are hard-pressed to toss away.

July Fourth still thrills me. Due in no part to the fireworks, I cherish our time to celebrate the birth of a young, vibrant and resilient nation whose current leadership is abysmal but changeable, hopefully, in two years. Though I’m not sure we’ve endured a more amoral White House occupant, our founders created a country that can withstand seriously defective leaders.

Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington set a standard for excellence and selfless service.

The contrast is never greater than today.

I love this country. We will celebrate a glorious occasion tomorrow. We are a better, more humane country than represented so poorly by Mr. Trump.

I continue to be an optimist. Our fractious country, led by a divider, not a unifier, is better and more decent than what emanates from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We respect human dignity.

As a sad postscript to this column, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of the five journalists killed last Thursday at the office of the Annapolis Capital newspaper. My youngest daughter knew one of the five. The crazed gunman continues to live. He caused irreparable personal damage and community hurt.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Delmarva Review: Picking Children by Jane Miller

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Picking Children by Jane Miller

Wouldn’t it be great if children bloomed
like flowers? Not ours to labor
or bear, but just to choose

at a garden center nearby
or have delivered by UPS to our door.

With so many colors and breeds,
it would come down to price:
for the budget-minded, a simple
perennial, like a Shasta Daisy, easy
on the eye and hard to kill, a good
choice for the inexperienced
or negligent parent.

For value, Purissima Tulips,
sturdy but not too showy,
easily mix in a family
of other flowers: think middle child.

Leave the risk of exotic offspring
to the rich who can afford flame-tipped
Gloriosa Rothschildiana Lilies
and experts to tend each toxic trellis.

Still, pathogens lurk everywhere.
If children bloomed
without blight, we could enjoy
them more, their faces open to drink
the sun, their mouths so soft and furred

closing up at night without a peep,

their needs so simple: a place to call home,
enough water for love. They would never
outgrow us, never run away. They would enliven
a house. They could be replaced.

Jane Miller received a 2014 Individual Artist Fellowship in poetry from the Delaware Division of the Arts. In addition to Delmarva Review, her poetry has appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, Summerset Review, cahoodaloodaling, Watershed Review, Mojave River Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and Broadkill Review.

Delmarva Review publishes compelling new writing from authors within the region and beyond. In it’s eleventh year, the nonprofit literary journal is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For information and book copies, visit: www.delmarvareview.com.

Mark Hampton Returns to WC; New Leadership Position for Strategy and Operations Created

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Mark C. Hampton, who led Washington College’s Office of Finance and Administration for two years before taking a position at the New York Institute of Technology, is returning to Chestertown to take on a newly created leadership role at the College, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Operations. In this position, Hampton will oversee key areas of administration while developing and executing a holistic strategy to help ensure the College’s long-term sustainability, said President Kurt Landgraf.

“Mark is a gifted, brilliant, and fully engaged member of our community, and I am thrilled that he is returning to the College as a senior member of our leadership team,” Landgraf said. “Mark brings exceptional quantitative skills, institutional knowledge, and rapport with faculty and staff, familiarity with Chestertown and the College’s vital relationship with the community, and a positive, thoughtful approach. I can’t think of anyone who can better help us optimize our opportunities and navigate the challenges we face to create an even more optimistic future for the College.”

Hampton was Vice President for Finance and Administration from July 2014 until August 2016 before leaving for the New York Institute of Technology, where he most recently was Vice President for Enrollment and Enterprise Analytics. Before coming to Washington College, he had been at the University of Virginia since 2007, serving as an associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Foundations and Policy, while also working first as Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Planning for UVA’s Curry School of Education, and then as Assistant Vice President for Budget and Financial Planning for UVA. Hampton has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s degree in statistics and mathematics, and a PhD in philosophy, educational leadership, and policy, all from the University of Utah.

“I am very excited by this opportunity to return to Washington College to help President Landgraf and his senior staff guide Washington College to its brightest possible future,” Hampton said. “The forward momentum at the College has clearly grown under President Landgraf’s leadership, and I really think the College’s best days are at hand. Jay and I are also looking forward to being full-time members of the Chestertown community again and being part of bringing the town and the College together in support of each other and the Eastern Shore.”

Though they moved their primary residence to New York in 2016, Hampton and his husband, Jay Alexander, kept their house in Chestertown and have remained actively connected to the community. Hampton is a founding member of AIR.C (Artists in Residence.Chestertown) which last year became Artikultur-MD, of which he remains a board member and treasurer. Alexander served as vice president of the board of directors of United Way of Kent County and as president of Main Street Historic Chestertown prior to moving to New York.

As Executive Vice President of Strategy and Operations, Hampton will oversee the Office of Finance, IT Infrastructure, College Relations and Marketing, Facilities Management, and Human Resources. He will also concentrate on developing and executing a strategy that will enhance the College’s financial stability and solidify its long-term sustainability.

Hampton will assume his new position on September 1.

A Laugh a Minute at “Short Attention Span Theater” at the Garfield Center

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Dan Guidice as Barry and Diane Landskroener as Lois in “Kung Foolery” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

The Garfield Center’s Short Attention Span Theater, or SAST, is an eagerly-awaited feature of Chestertown’s summer arts season.  This year’s SAST – the 14th annual–brings eight 10-minute plays onstage and is a real feast for theater lovers.  As usual, the emphasis is on comedy, and this year’s selection gives some of the area’s best actors plenty of opportunities to get the audience laughing.  This is an evening of pure light-hearted entertainment not to be missed.

David MacGregor’s “Just Desserts,” directed by Diane Landskroener, riffs on a situation almost everyone has experienced – the co-worker who steals everyone else’s food (especially desserts) from the office refrigerator. One worker Joyce (Jennifer Kafka Smith) decides to take things into her own hands, to the consternation of her office mates, played by Zac Ryan, Phebe Wood, and Melissa McGlynn.  Everyone denies being the thief but Joyce has a clever plan to unmask the “pig.”  Zac Ryan, Phebe Wood, and Melissa McGlynn will remind you of all your old officemates as they swing from hot denial to indifference to a chilling desire for revenge followed by sympathy for the thief then back to self-absorption and indifference.  McGlynn’s antics are particularly funny and Phebe Wood is a breath of fresh air as the young, energetic coworker who tries to “understand” the pig and makes you wonder exactly who she is talking about.  A wonderfully absurdist take on the daily office routine.

Jim Landdskroener as Ronald and Brad Chaires as Clarence in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

“All Over But the Shouting,” by local playwright Brent Lewis, takes us to a nursing home where two brothers (Jim Landskroener and Brad Chaires), have been abandoned by the staff which has fled from an impending disaster. Facing apparent doom, the two go over all their old quarrels, then gradually, grudgingly, realize their common bonds. Chaires and Landskroener are both believable and amusing as they hash over every prank, every fight, every perceived slight from the past 70 plus years. A comic delight. Mark Sullivan directs.

Kirby Powell makes his directorial debut with “Misfortune,” by Mark Harvey Levine. A couple in a Chinese restaurant opens their fortune cookies with unexpected results. Who writes a cookie fortune like this? The husband demands a new cookie, then another!  The plot builds as the cookies’ messages become more and more unreal – with a surprise ending I admit I didn’t see coming. Nice jobs by Zac Ryan and Georgia Rickloff as the couple and Beverly Hall Smith as their waitress.

Jim Landskroener directs “Kung Foolery,” by Brett Hursey, which takes the stock situation of an awkward visit by an inlaw to the brink of absurdity and then plunges over. Gretchen Saches plays the loving and patient wife, while Dan Guidice is hilarious as the apparently over-reacting husband. But the payoff arrives with the appearance of Diane Landskroener as the mother of all mother-in-laws! The physical humor in this one is wonderful as Barry leaps about the stage, practicing his “moves” in preparation for the arrival of his dreaded mother-in-law.

“Binged There, Done That” is first up after the intermission, and playwright Ken Preuss takes the audience through the history of a relationship that makes “whirlwind” seem like slow-motion.  The ridiculous time-compression of the relationship is explained by the gimmick that the characters are “binge-watching” their relationship, with all the unlikely twists you might expect from a TV soap opera. Lis Engel, Jennifer Kafka Smith, Bryan Betley, Dan Guidice, Bryan Zachowski and Robbie Spray are all highly amusing as the couple nonchalantly and cheerfully describe their first kiss, first fight, first child.  Robbie Spray capers convincingly as the over-grown child Ron-Jon while Jennifer Kafka-Smith is perfect as the maternal yet coyly flirtatious mother-in-law. Hester Sachse is the director.

Jen Friedman and Brianna Johnson with Xocko (on the arm and hand of Thomas Martinez)  in “The Stand In” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

“The Stand In,” also by Brett Hursey, brings a young actor to an audition for a local theater. Jen Friedman does her usual hilariously over-the-top job as the theater’s ultra-bossy director, while Brianna Johnson plays the increasingly non-plussed actress who finds herself playing second fiddle to Xocko – a sock puppet. As the young actress Mandy at an audition, Johnson is clearly talented, portraying a wide range of emotions from love to anger to grief.   The premise is funny in its own right, and Xocko the puppet (played by Thomas Martinez) definitely hams it up by playing dead, miming vomiting in a bucket, and adding hats to portray different characters. Brad Chaires makes his directorial debut with this delightful spoof on television, Hollywood, and the “thee-ah-tah.”

Theater manager Brian Betley directs “L.A. 8 A.M.,” which shows a brief moment in the lives of two young people as seen by two announcers who know what their future holds. McGlynn and Paul Cambardella act as announcers while Tilly Pelcaar and Kirby Powell play the young couple. Mark Harvey Levine’s script is by a good margin the most serious of this year’s SAST offerings.  The outrageous, campy costumes of the two narrators–flashy fur coats, brightly-colored high heeled shoes, and heavy theatrical make-up–create an almost eerie ambiance and contrast to the ordinary clothes of a young couple getting ready to start their day. This one makes you think – about how we live our everyday lives and how we never know what the future may hold as we casually go through our daily routines.

Lis Engle as Sylvia in “The New Me” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

The evening concludes with local playwright Rich Pauli’s “The New Me,” directed by Melissa McGlynn. A woman tells her husband the scientific fact that after seven years, every cell in a person’s body has changed. Since it is their seventh anniversary, she is a new person who has nothing in common with the woman who married him. Lis Engle is appropriately flamboyant as the woman, and Dan Guidice plays the husband – doing a nice job of tracking his gradual acceptance of the situation – that this is not his wife.  The final dance scene and the “new” wife’s costume change add just the right touch to this comedy.

Under the overall direction of Diane Landskroener and Mark Sullivan, the show runs smoothly, with smooth transitions from one play to the next and enough variety to keep things from settling into a predictable pattern. The simple but effective set — a wall with two doors, varied by different bits of furniture to match the different plays — helps make the necessary scene changes fast and efficient. The clever and often surprisingly appropriate music selections between (and during) the separate shows were chosen by Sullivan with input from the directors. Butch Clark does his usual professional job with the lights — and gets an impromptu bit part during one show. (Wait for it!)

SAST runs through July 8, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Audiences at the evening performance get a bonus – a one-minute play festival directed by Tia Glomb. Immediately before the main performance.

Tickets are $15 for general admission; students’ tickets are $5. For reservations, call the box office at 410-810-2060 or visit Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/short-attention-span-theatre-tickets-41830127036?ref=ebtnebtckt) to buy seats online.

“Binged There, Done That” cast – Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield        Photo by Jane Jewell

Curtain Call for Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jane Jewell

L.A. 8. A.M. – Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield        Photo by Jane Jewell

Jennifer Kafka-Smith as The Mother in “Binged There, Done That” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

Brianna Johnson in “The Stand In” in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield      Photo by Jeff Weber

Lis Engle as Sylvia and Dan Guidice as Edward in Short Attention Span Theater 2018 at the Garfield     Photo by Jeff Weber

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