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PRINCESS ANNE — The November election saw little change in the county office, but if all five of the County Commissioners were replaced by newcomers, continuity of governance could …
PRINCESS ANNE — The November election saw little change in the county office, but if all five of the County Commissioners were replaced by newcomers, continuity of governance could suffer.
That’s weighed on the minds of the commissioners, and President Charles Laird said it’s been “hashed around (that) if we were all to go at one time, it wouldn’t leave anybody here that was involved into the process of the county.” “We don’t want to see that happen.”
While this may require a constitutional amendment, the commissioners asked Sen. Mary Beth Carozza and Del. Charles Otto to draft legislation for this year’s General Assembly session so that it would be in place for 2026.
The newly-empaneled board of commissioners would complete their four years and at the end of their term the idea would be for two or three members to be elected for terms of two or six years, with the others elected for four years.
After that, terms for everyone would be for four years so part of the board is elected every two years.
Commissioner Eldon Willing was elected in 2020 and said he appreciated having the experience of the incumbents. “I would not have wanted to come on with four new people,” he said. He is now starting his second term.
The Board of Education has staggered terms. In the 2022 election cycle Districts 1, 3 and 5 were before the voters, and in 2026 District 2 and 4 seats are open. Commissioner Randy Laird suggested the County Commissioners mirror that process.
In addition to the Board of Education, Crisfield has staggered terms with the mayor and three council members having been elected this past June, and in 2024 the other two council members are on the ballot. Princess Anne is similar, with an at-large commissioner and two commissioners in each of the two districts serving for four years but voted into office on a staggered basis.
Commissioner Craig Mathies Sr. said no matter what manner the commissioners are elected, the key is having a competent county administrator and staff. “If you don’t have that, it’s not going to be efficient any way, whether staggered or not,” he said.
Sen. Carozza said with the Board of Education staggered “it might be pretty basic” and will look into what legislative measures are necessary to get it changed for commissioners.
Staggered terms of office was one of two items County Commissioners want passed by the General Assembly, the other is the relocation of the Manokin River oyster sanctuary.
The state has started placing stone substrate on some 157 acres of Manokin River bottom, and together with another 284 acres it will receive oyster seed. Watermen objected, saying in part that adding stone would lead to irreparable harm not just for oyster harvesting but for those who fish and crab.
The commissioners filed suit against the Department of Natural Resources and a hearing is planned 1:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Somerset County Circuit Court Annex. Last year Del. Otto without success sponsored a bill to swap the Manokin for the Severn River, but it did not get out of committee.
The Manokin River is productive for oysters while other locations in the bay are not, and restoration should go where it’s needed would be the county’s argument. “It’s not a partisan issue at all,” Sen. Carozza said. On the senate side, “We should take a whole fresh look at that,” she said, adding that the commissioners may need to go to Annapolis to testify during committee hearings.