School board members finally voter-chosen

Don Fitzgerald is a big man with a raspy voice, his voicebox having been damaged by exposure to chemicals while in war service in Vietnam.

And though he can be difficult to hear, it’s impossible not to feel his presence and listen closely when he talks about the county’s school children and reveals a deep commitment.

The Board of Education was easily elected Tuesday to the seat he has held as an appointee since 2009.
A U.S. Army veteran, he retired from the DuPont Co. in 2002, where he worked as a mechanic. He is a 1964 graduate of Wicomico High School.

Also elected Tuesday was Michael Murray, another incumbent and Wi-Hi graduate just appointed to the board last year.

A retired, lifelong educator in Sussex County, Murray began as a classroom teacher at Delmar Junior-Senior High School and went on to served as a department head, vice principal and principal.
The two men finished at the top of the ticket, with Fitzgerald winning 4,447 votes and Murray 11,407 votes.

Finishing third in the at-large race with 10,153 votes was Talena D. Watson, well known in the Salisbury community for her work in First Baptist Church and the Lewis N. Watson Funeral Home.

Married to the Rev. Lewis N. Watson, she ran with a message that while she is a fervent supporter of the school system, she sees persistent issues that she would have liked to help resolve.

Tyrone Cooper received 6,656 votes.

He had previously applied for a school board opening that was filled last year by the County Council.

Districts 1, 2, 5

Allen Brown has devoted his professional life to Wicomico County’s school children and school system. Now retired, the freshly elected school board member representing District 1 will have an opportunity devoting his retirement years to the same cause.

In the Board of Education’s minority-majority district, Brown beat Michelle Bradley 2,400 votes to 1,747 votes.

The race was a bit unusual because Bradley, a Hebron mother of two, and has been absent from the campaign trail.

After winning the June primary, she accepted a department director’s post in the Wicomico County government. County Attorney Paul Wilbur then ruled that her name could remain on the ballot but as a county employee she could not actively campaign in pursuit of election.

Brown is well known in the community, having served as an educator and high-ranking administrator in the Wicomico school system for 40 years.

Appointed to the school board in August 2017, he knows the Wicomico school system and it knows him: During his four decades in the public schools, his last role was serving as Assistant Superintendent for Student Services.

In the District 2 race, Gene Malone — who has recently served as the school board’s Vice President — was unopposed for election but received 4,615 votes.

A Wicomico High School graduate, Malone was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016. He works as a Commercial Loan Officer with First Shore Federal Savings and Loan Association. He is well known in the community for his work as a youth coach.

In District 5, John Palmer, a former County Council candidate and longtime critic of the school board and its spending practices, ran unopposed and garnered 4,997 votes.

Palmer was appointed to the Board of Education in June 2015 by Gov. Larry Hogan. A 21-year U.S. Navy veteran, he is an engineer specializing in Mechanical/Systems and Applied Thermodynamics.

He recently retired from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, where he was the Facility Supervisor for the campus physical plant.

District 3

School board incumbent Bill Turner lost his seat Tuesday to challenger David L. Goslee Sr., 2,889 votes 2,872 votes.

Turner was appointed to the Board of Education in August 2017 by the Wicomico County Council.
Goslee was among the proponents of converting the school board to an elected body.

A resident of Powellville, he is retired after a career in law enforcement and has said school safety is a top concern.

In seeking election, he said it’s important that the school system offer programs like Future Farmers of America and increase vocational training at Parkside High School’s STEM Center.
He also stressed the need for school safety.

Turner is the former CEO of Lower Shore Enterprises, a Salisbury-based nonprofit whose mission is to find employment for developmentally disabled adults.

District 4

In Wicomico’s District 4, Ann Brittingham Suthowski was elected to the Board of Education, topping David Plotts.

Suthowski won 1,849 votes to Plotts’ 1,680 votes.

Suthowski, who previously ran for County Council in District 4 and is well known in Republican politics, is a lifelong Salisbury resident.

She spent her career in education, last working as a teacher in the Laurel School District.
On the campaign trail, she was cautious on the issue of school spending and said she would need to review a line-item budget to learn whether the school system needed additional funds.

An accounting controller, Plotts’ campaign website touted him as supporting the superintendent’s strategic plan, which includes universal Pre-K, better pay and support to retain teachers and improving the graduation rate.

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