Greg Bassett: Is the next mayor negotiating the fire services agreement?

There’s a lot going on in local politics, plenty of stories and potential stories moving across my desk. Here are some bits and pieces:

  • County Executive Bob Culver still has some big hiring to do.

After the election, Culver decided to replace his directors of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, Finance and Public Works.

Leslie Martin Lewis was hired from Northampton County to run Finance. After some back and forth, Weston S. Young was elevated from his position running the county’s landfill to heading the entire department.

John Terrell’s scripted return to head Recreation and Parks became a botched nomination, and there is still no announced hire there. Ironically, in many of the capital spending, budget and bond rating announcements coming from the County Executive’s office, Parks and Rec is touted as the jewel department of the county.

County Attorney Ed Baker announced his retirement effective at the end of June. This is another big hire facing Culver. So far, none of his hiring has reflected any political partisanship; a question around town is whether that will hold up.

  • Don’t expect to see Culver and Mayor Jim Ireton sharing a table to discuss a fire services agreement.

As is his tendency, Ireton has annoyed his county counterpart with his aggression on the matter. While Culver & Co. might be tempted to roll their eyes at the mayor’s determination to cease fire and ambulance service outside the city limits, Ireton is serious and there’s no telling what he’ll do.

Because the mayor took the dispute public, Culver has been playing his hand in public too. Letters exchanging information between the city and county were aired last week. On Friday, the mayor announced he was dispatching a delegation comprised of Council President Jake Day, Assistant Administrator Julia Glanz and Fire Chief Rick Hoppes to walk the 30 feet down the third-floor Government Office Building hallway to confab with Culver’s crew.

  • Who is running for mayor?

In a news conference April 15, Ireton made some comments that would suggest he’s not running for re-election. He won’t say what he might do, at least not yet, but the mayor’s aggression on fire services and the tax differential suggests a man without re-election concerns.

Possible future office aspirations for Ireton include the State House, in the form of Carl Anderton’s District 38A seat, or even a shot at Republican Andy Harris’ 1st District congressional seat.

That leaves the mayor’s chair going to Jake Day. Like Ireton, Day won’t say what his political plans are. However, there’s little doubt that he’s running for something and soon — he recently held a business-social A-List fundraiser attended by the community’s who’s-who.

  • Labinal Systems appears dead.

No one is even talking about trying to save it; if they are, I’m not hearing it. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who was initially broadcasting her usual “I’m fighting for you, Wicomico” message, later announced her political retirement and hasn’t been heard from again.

  • Economic development questions.

All during the campaign, Culver talked repeatedly about economic development and the need to get resources to help Dave Ryan, who heads the Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development Inc. Culver’s budget leaves spending on economic development essentially flat at $685,000.

In an effort to encourage housing construction, Culver and the County Council are keeping a moratorium on impact fees going. People are wondering, however, what economic development ideas the County Executive might be putting forward once budget season has passed.

 

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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