Year in review: The stories we’ll remember from 2020

In the most-challenging year in a generation, our community managed to remain bonded, focused and on the move.

While there was abundant sadness and angst all around, there were also stories of promise and hope, as people rallied, groups united and our community showed how deeply it is willing to work to carry on.

Through it all, the news carried on.

With that as a backdrop, here are some of the stories that marked 2020 in Salisbury and Wicomico County: 

Main Street Revitalization

In November, Salisbury officials celebrated the competition of the four-year Main Street revitalization project, including the reopening of the former Downtown Plaza.

City Administrator Julia Glanz called it “one of the biggest projects in Salisbury’s history and what I believe to be the single-most and transformative work to happen in Downtown in generations.”

West Main Street in Downtown Salisbury.

The makeover project started in 2016 when ground was broken for the work which included the replacement of 100-year-old water and sewer mains, installation of high-speed internet lines and esthetic improvements above ground.

In spite of a months-long delay at the beginning to clean up contaminated soil in the block between Route 13 and Baptist Street, the project finished under budget, ahead of schedule and with no change orders.

The project included many aesthetic improvements along the street such as brick pavers, new landscaping, streetlights, benches and trash cans, as well as safety features for pedestrians. City officials also upgraded 100-year-old utilities under the street level and added broadband internet lines to serve Downtown businesses and government offices.

Work moved block by block from Route 13 to Mill Street. The final section on what was once known as the Downtown Plaza reopened to traffic in the past few months.

The Plaza — the section between Mill and Division streets — was converted to a pedestrian-only area in 1968, but it was later reopened to one-way traffic and limited parking. The one-way traffic direction is now reversed so that vehicles enter from Mill Street rather than exit there.

The 30-foot aluminum Fred P. Adkins Memorial obelisk that once stood on the Plaza was relocated earlier this year to the center of a new traffic circle at the intersection of Mill Street, West Carroll Street, Riverside Drive and Camden Avenue.

The work also included significant changes at Main and Division streets near the Government Office Building that altered the parking pattern and also made it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Mayor Day is deployed

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day left town in June for an overseas deployment with the U.S. Army that took him to the Horn of Africa as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He is now about halfway through his 11-month tour. 

Day was promoted recently from Captain to the rank of Major. He is working as an information operations officer with Combined Joint Task Force/Horn of Africa in a 12-country region. He is expected to spend time in Somalia and Djibouti with a focus on fighting terrorist groups al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab.

As part of the State of the City address presented by Salisbury City Administrator Julia Glanz, viewers had the rare chance to see and hear Mayor Jake Day, who is overseas on deployment with the U.S. Army since June.

He is one of three U.S. mayors deployed to combat zones during their terms in office. Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 while in office. North Ogden, Utah, Mayor Brent Taylor was killed in 2018 while serving in Afghanistan.

City Administrator Julia Glanz has served in the role of acting mayor in Day’s absence. She has taken over most of the mayor’s duties, including taking over his daily Facebook Live coronavirus briefings.

Glanz also presented a well-received State of the City Address and has continued to play a leading role in all city events.

While half-way around the world, Day has made his definitely presence known via social media, sharing positive comments on other people’s post and often sending along words of encouragement.

Culver succumbs to cancer

At the end of July, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver died, five months after learning he had untreatable liver cancer.

Though the community was well aware of the Republican leader’s prospects, the July 26 passing was both a shock and a blow.

Culver, 67, a resident of Whitehaven village, was a former County Council member and lifelong Wicomico County resident. Before his election as the county’s top leader in 2014, he was well known in the local business community as an entrepreneur, having worked as a contractor, developer, Realtor and restaurant operator.

County Executive Bob Culver died of liver cancer on July 26, after six years in office.

He was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2018, having bested two challengers in the general election.

In defeating incumbent County Executive Rick Pollitt in 2014, Culver ran on a pro-business, pro-economic development platform. He governed during a positive economic cycle and achieved notable feats, including building the county’s reserve fund, overseeing road repair projects, allowing alcohol sales at the Civic Center and ensuring that school projects remained on schedule.

Culver had declined to step down through his illness. He had said he would seek a liver transplant and even declared he would seek re-election in 2022.

“I’m not a quitter. I’m going to fight it,” Culver said in February.

Culver was born in Salisbury on Oct. 20, 1952. He grew up on a farm off Jersey Road, a rural stretch where blacks and poor whites lived on Salisbury’s West Side.

After graduating from Wicomico Senior High School, he attended Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C., where he received an AA in Pre-Law. He transferred to Salisbury University to pursue a major in Economics and a minor in Business Administration.

He began a career in real estate sales and then owned a construction and land development business. This company created four subdivisions in Wicomico County and constructed more than 150 homes.

He often talked about his success as an entrepreneur, having started and sold several businesses that created jobs for people. At the time of his election in 2014, he was operating a restaurant in Downtown Salisbury.

His reputation was that of a man who was scrappy, blunt and headstrong – some people even called him “ruthless” when in pursuit of a political objective. While he operated in stretches where he seemed more tempered and diplomatic, there were also moments when he got out his boxing gloves.

In a 2018 interview, he said: “I’ve changed, yes. I’ve come to understand that as County Executive I have to explain my thoughts more clearly to people.”

A public memorial service was held in August at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Psota appointed County Executive

To many observers, it would be difficult to describe the process to select a successor to County Executive Bob Culver without somehow using the word “cluster.”

At the conclusion of an awkward and publicly painful three-month process, however, Wicomico Director of Administration Jon Psota was appointed to serve as Acting County Executive for as long as the next two years.

Psota’s promotion came at the end of an excruciating process that saw the county’s ousted Finance Director interviewed by a council that had previously derided her, the local General Assembly Delegate rejected for the seat following one interview and then ignored a second time, and the ultimate selectee withdraw from the appointment after just a few days.

Throw in the drama of a council member declaring for the position and then withdrawing, a failed effort by council members to encourage other applicants, and an ethics ruling over another council member’s vote, and suddenly the food fight scene in the movie “Animal House” looks like sensible social interaction.

In the end, Council President Larry Dodd declared the seven-member body was unable to reach a consensus on who Culver’s successor should be. With the County Charter offering no specific avenues to support the council’s decision to elevate Psota, the county’s legislative branch is relying on precedent involving other municipal governments and has essentially established a new set of rules.

John Psota became Acting County Executive in 2020.

Culver died of liver cancer on July 26, but it wasn’t until Aug. 20 that the council shocked everyone and named Salisbury cardiologist Dr. Rene Desmarais to succeed Culver.

After a weekend to think about tit, however, Desmarais abandoned the job for which he was selected in a tensely divisive 4-3 vote.

“After a weekend of self-reflection and consultation with a number of close personal and professional associates, I have made the difficult decision to decline the offer to become the next Wicomico County Executive,” the Salisbury cardiologist wrote in a letter to the council.

“This decision is consistent with my lifelong commitment to the highest ethical standards in the delivery of health care. I believe the greatest benefit I can provide to my patients and to my friends in Wicomico County is to continue practicing medicine,” he said.

The stunning withdrawal followed an equally stunning selection, made in public at a special council session held at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Following Desmarais’ appointment, council members engaged in tense exchanges and then a succession of prominent citizens took to a public microphone to decry the selection.

State Delegate Carl Anderton and former senior county employee Michele Ennis were the other contenders at that time. Andertaon received three votes for the post, but four were needed; Ennis was ultimately passed over without a vote.

Desmarais’ withdrawal prompted many people to believe the council would instead turn to Anderton, given his political experience and popularity as a delegate.

In the days that followed, however, the 47-year-old Delmar resident was never able to secure a fourth vote from any of those council members who opposed him — Dodd, Joe Holloway, Nicole Acle and Ernie Davis.

The council decided to extend the selection deadline and start the whole process over from scratch. That resulted in a second application from Anderton, as well as an application from county employee Pate Matthews. Again, the council could not reach a consensus. No public interviews were held in the second round.

Facing 4th down and their backs to the end zone, the council found a way to punt — and slotted Psota in the post.

Voters will have a chance to select a new executive in November 2022. Anderson has stated his intention to be a candidate.

TidalHealth consolidations

Its name has changed pretty consistently as it has progressed into becoming a major regional medical center.

First known as Peninsula General Hospital, then Peninsula General Hospital Medical Center, then Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Salisbury’s hospital has been renamed TidalHealth Peninsula Regional.

The new name is part of the former Peninsula Regional Health System’s expansion and rebranding efforts. What were three separate hospitals and numerous specialty medical practices at the beginning of 2020, by year’s end they had merged under the TidalHealth banner.

TidalHealth leaders poses in front of a sign featuring the health system’s new name and logo shortly after its unveiling. From left, Penny Short, President, TidalHealth Nanticoke; Steve Leonard, President/CEO, TidalHealth; Dr. Karin DiBari, President, TidalHealth Medical Partners; Debbie Abbott, Chairperson, TidalHealth Board of Directors and Dr. Memo Diriker, Chairperson, TidalHealth Peninsula Regional Board of Directors.

PRMC, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford, and the McCready, Ocean Pines and Millsboro Health Pavilions – now use TidalHealth as part of their name, such as TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, TidalHealth Nanticoke and TidalHealth McCready Pavilion. 

The new identity allows the community, as well as the medical staff members, to have a better sense of the scope of services offered across the health system. It also conveys the shared roots, values and culture of the organization.

The TidalHealth umbrella also includes more than 250 primary care and specialty providers in locations all over the lower Eastern Shore and southern Delaware, said Dr. Karen DiBari, president of the Medical Partners.

Chesapeake Shipbuilding

Even though its beautiful ships didn’t have any passengers sailing all over North America, it was still a great year for Chesapeake Shipbuilding and its operation in Salisbury.

Local workers completed the American Jazz, which was delivered to American Cruise Lines.

The 190-passenger American Jazz is the latest in American’s acclaimed series of five modern riverboats and was added to the company’s fleet on the Mississippi River.

American Jazz is the Line’s third modern riverboat, following the successful launches of American Harmony in 2019 and American Song in 2018. Each of those ships was constructed in Salisbury.

American’s building plans have continued at full strength, despite this year’s pause in cruising, underscoring the line’s confidence in domestic U.S. small ship cruising.

American’s small ship fleet has expanded year after year, as the company continues to introduce innovative small ship designs with exceptional accommodations that enhance guests’ experiences on the Mississippi River, the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and across the nation.

Just last month, Chesapeake Shipbuilding launched the American Melody.

It will become the fourth new riverboat in American’s Modern Series, and is on schedule for its inaugural Mississippi River cruise season beginning in summer 2021.

District 2 Election

Nicole Acle, the Wicomico County Council member appointed by her colleagues to the District 2 seat in early 2019, turned back a challenge from Alex Scott in the Nov. 3 balloting.

A Republican, Acle received 6,038 votes to 5,256 votes for Scott, a Democrat.

District 2 encompasses a large, mostly rural area of the county’s west side, that includes Sharptown, Mardela Springs, Hebron, Whitehaven and parts of Salisbury near the east bank of the Wicomico River.

The balloting was a special election to fill a term originally won by Republican Marc Kilmer in 2018. All council members will face election in 2022, the same year Maryland’s Governor and General Assembly members are on the ballot..

Kilmer gave up his seat in June 2019 to return to his native Idaho. The County Council selected Acle to succeed him after a vetting by the county’s Republican Central Committee.

Acle, 47, is a resident of the West Nithsdale community in Salisbury. She is the first woman to serve on the council since Republican Stevie Prettyman held the same seat in 2014.

She is the owner of Medical Nutrition Therapies in Salisbury. She is a former Pennsylvania resident who has lived in Wicomico County for 19 years.

Scott, 40, of Mardela Springs, is the owner of The Brick Room in Salisbury. He is regarded as one of Salisbury’s young-and-upcoming business professional leaders.

New Mardela high school

School construction plans for a new Mardela Middle and High School were a topic of discussion in public hearings, school board meetings and County Council encounters.

At year’s end, the Mardela project had left the starting gate but had a long way to go. With an estimated cost of $71.8 million – $40.2 million would come from the state and $31.6 million from Wicomico County – the school will be difficult to fund as the state and county encounter revenue challenges from the health pandemic.

Meanwhile, closer to Salisbury, replacement of Beaver Run Elementary School is well under way, with annual funding securely in the pipeline.

The Mardela project has received state planning approval. The  school system’s goal is to begin the project in 2023, with building occupancy beginning in the 2026-2027 academic year.

Next month, Acting County Executive John Psota and Finance Director Pam Oland are expected to present options for financing the project, which is likely to include forward-funding options.

Public Safety Building

This was supposed to be the year that construction began on a new Wicomico County Public Safety Building. After years of being on the county’s Capital Budget list, the necessary cash and architectural plans were destined to come together, resulting in a multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art facility for the county Sheriff’s Office and 911 center.

Slated for already-purchased county property near the intersection of Route 50 and Naylor Mill Road, the building would be a reward for a county law enforcement staff that has tolerated a work life in a cramped, leaky facility the former called “basically a farm building” more than 20 years ago.

Above, one of three possible plans being considered for Wicomico County’s Public Safety Building. Said architect Rob Manns: There is “no glitz and glamor spaces. Everything is totally based on the needs of a modern law enforcement agency to conduct business.”

A feasibility study has been completed, an architecture firm has plans ready for a final selection and the need is greater than ever.

There’s just one problem however, and it’s a big problem — the county doesn’t have enough money.

In annual capital spending discussions, the price tag was pegged in the range of $10 million, which the county could borrow. In November, however, it was revealed the $10 million was really a flawed estimate from long ago — the real price would be closer to $30 million.

At year’s end, Acting County Executive John Psota and Finance Director Pam Oland were working with Sheriff Mike Lewis to lower the building’s estimated cost, while also trying to determine how much the county should borrow and when.

Still, the Public Safety Building promises to be one of the County Council’s bigger upcoming decisions, as members weigh whether $30 million is too much to spend, or the right price for a needed facility.

Traffic circle

Salisbury has long been a subject of jest for its bizarre layout when it comes to streets, roads and avenues. Unlike most cities that were actually planned by engineers, Salisbury by and large has no street grid or logic applied to its vehicular pathways.

It’s often been observed that — excepting certain neighborhoods — most of the city is just a series of cow trails, with streets meandering around and intersecting in awkward locations.

The five-way stop lights at Camden, Riverside and Carroll were an example of either no or little planning. The intersection was a traffic headache that wasted a lot of time for motorists, who were forced to idle while the lights went through their progression.

In 2020, the city fixed all that with a daring change that could be called rather un-Salisbury.

A beautiful new roundabout was created.

The traffic circle, combined with a syncing of the lights at Mill Street and Route 50 to the north, commute times have been reduced. Also, the number of accidents has been reduced to almost zero.

Making it as beautiful as it is functional, the Fred P. Adkins memorial obelisk rises from the center of the circle, creating a stunning visual anchor for the west end of Downtown.

There are only three other roundabouts in the region — in Princess Anne, Fruitland and at Wor-Wic Community College — so local drivers are still getting used to the change. Also, the Salisbury roundabout is complexly engineered and gives drivers options.

The circle was subjected to some ridicule when it was first proposed, the result has been a triumph in infrastructure transformation. Fortunately, the shiny 30-foot-tall aluminum Adkins sculpture, which stood on the Downtown Plaza for 50 years, looks right at home in its new location.  

Downtown Developers

Downtown Salisbury saw the continuation of exciting development and redevelopment projects with trendy new apartments, retail spaces and a restaurant expansion.

Among them is the long-awaited completion of the former Vernon Powell Shoes building on the Downtown Plaza that has had its upper floors converted to 20 apartments.

Until its sale in 2019, the property had been the single largest downtown building that had never been redeveloped.

In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic that has been the ruin for some in the restaurant industry, Mogan’s Oyster House in the One Plaza East building is not only still open, it expanded.

Kathy Shubert, left, and Tyler Barnes both with Gillis Gilkerson show off the renovated Powell Building in Downtown Salisbury recently. Some of the units have floor to ceiling windows as shown in this bedroom. The new retail/apartment space is hoping to be ready sometime in October. Because of the Historic District many parts of the original building were left in place during the renovation.

Building owner Bret Davis expanded the restaurant’s kitchen and also gutted the space next door to serve as overflow dining for the restaurant as well as a private banquet space.

A few blocks away on the Downtown Plaza, Davis wrapped up work at the City Center – a building first created by local businessman Bill Ahtes in the 1970s out of three old storefronts that had been damaged in a fire.

Since purchasing the building in 2018, Davis has embarked on a complete renovation that has included the creation of a new entrance to Roadie Joe’s Bar & Grill off of the Plaza. Previously, patrons entered the restaurant through the City Center lobby.

He also has renovated the lobby with a glass elevator in the center atrium.

The building now has 17 tenants, including an art gallery, record store, barbershop, hair salon, two clothing boutiques and a skateboard shop

On East Market Street, Davis has plans to build a luxury apartment building and a beer garden along Salisbury’s waterfront on two former city properties. So far, he does not have a start date for either project.

The 49-unit apartment complex will be built on what is now a parking lot on the opposite side of the Wicomico River from the Riverwalk Amphitheater. It will include a sky deck on the roof, a small gym, game area, media room and first floor secure parking.

The beer garden with its own parking area will be next door.

And on West Market Street in the Riverview Commons building, NAI Coastal took up residence in the space once occupied by Acorn Market.

Winder sign

A historical marker commemorating Confederate Gen. John Henry Winder that had been a source of controversy in recent years was removed from the Wicomico County Courthouse lawn in June by the late County Executive Bob Culver.

The historical marker’s removal followed similar efforts across the country to remove statues and other Confederate symbols following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Resulting protests morphed into a movement to remove symbols that glorified an era of slavery and the so-called Southern “Lost Cause”

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver, left, county Public Works Deputy Director Mark Whitelock and county Director of Administration Wayne Strausburg work to remove the Gen. John Henry Winder marker from the Courthouse law in June.

An effort to remove the Winder sign was launched in 2017 by James Yamakawa of the group Showing Up for Racial Justice. A petition he started got about 400 signatures, but another petition to keep the sign there got close to 700.

In 2014, the late Edward T. Taylor, a former member of the Wicomico County Council, called for the removal of the historical marker.

But a new petition started this year by Blair Carey, a local business owner, got more than 1,100 signatures in the first 24 hours. His next step was to try and argue the case before the County Council, but the sign was removed before he got the chance.

The historical marker was placed at the courthouse in 1983 after it was moved from a previous spot on South Salisbury Boulevard, near the old Salisbury Ice Plant.

The marker accurately stated that Winder was born in 1800 at a plantation near Nanticoke in what was then still part of Somerset County, that he graduated from West Point and served in the U.S. Army before joining the Rebel cause.

But the sign doesn’t mention that at least 10,000 Union prisoners of war died because of maltreatment and disease while Winder was in charge of military prisons in Alabama and Georgia, including the infamous Andersonville prison.

Winder’s subordinate, Henry Wirz was later tried and executed for war crimes. Winder died of a heart attack the same year before going to trial.

The Ross

The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce moved to Route 50 after selling its former East Main Street location to the developer of a high-rise building next door.

First Move Properties, the developers who are in the process of constructing what will be Salisbury’s tallest building known as The Ross, bought the former bank building from the Chamber in January for $620,000, according to state property records.

The building has since been demolished and eventually will be replaced with a six-story apartment building that will connect to the 12-story structure next door via a foot bridge over a landscaped alleyway.

Nick Simpson of First Move Properties also has demolished all but the facades of 130 and 132 East Main St. The Ross will incorporate the historical facades into the new building and add several stories. A bridge will connect it to the top level of the city’s parking garage.

Wicomico budget

In local governments, budget time sometimes goes bad. That was the case in Wicomico County in the span between April and July 2020.

During that roughly 75-day period, County Executive Bob Culver and the County Council engaged in an all-out way, with the council moving to alter Culver’s spending plan to a significant degree — certainly more than it ever had in prior years.

Under the County Executive form of government implemented 14 years ago, the executive crafts and submits the budget. The council can cut the budget, but cannot add spending. Culver submitted a proposed budget of $153.25 million, with $68.78 million of that total generated by property taxes.

Concerns about increased spending and revenue declines related to the pandemic made for competing visions on budget priorities.

The council acted to cut the salaries of open positions under Culver’s domain, making for more than a few tenses exchanges as the two branches of government fought each other for control.

One positive situation is the county has strong reserves and contingency funds — should they be needed. Still, as the county nears the half-way point in its budget year, revenue uncertainties continue to have the elected leaders on edge. 

New Circuit Court judge

Karen Martin Dean was named in December to succeed Leah J. Seaton as a Wicomico County Circuit Court judge.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan made the appointment. The local Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission had sent the names of Dean, Kendra Elise Hayward and Mark Andrew Tyler to Hogan for his consideration.

Dean, who lives in Salisbury, has been a prosecutor with the Worcester County State’s Attorney Office for nearly two years. She is currently assigned to the Circuit Court Division, handling primarily juvenile, child abuse and sexual assault cases.

She serves as the prosecutor liaison for the community of Berlin, and advises the Child Advocacy Center. Dean previously served as Deputy State’s Attorney for Somerset County and Senior Assistant State’s Attorney for Wicomico County.

In 2011, she was appointed as a Magistrate in Wicomico County, a position she eventually vacated to return to prosecution.

No Folk Festival

The National Folk Festival that was supposed to take place in September was canceled — like most large-scale public events this year — due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The festival has been rescheduled for Sept. 10-12, 2021, in Downtown Salisbury.

The postponement had the support of the festival’s executive committee and major sponsors such as the state of Maryland and Perdue Farms, according to Mayor Jake Day.

Salisbury has hosted the event in 2018 and 2019 and will host it once more before it moves to another city.

The 2019 National Folk Festival drew 153,911 people to the area over three days, and organizers had hoped this year’s numbers would exceed that.

Racist graffiti at SU

A Princess Anne man was found guilty in June of maliciously defacing property in connection with four incidents of racist and threatening graffiti posted on walls at Salisbury University.

Jerome Kevin Jackson, 54, was sentenced to 18 months in the Wicomico County Detention Center after entering a guilty plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors as a way to close the case that has caused fear and division on the SU campus.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Jackson paid $494 restitution to SU to cover the costs associated with removing the graffiti from university property.

The plea also required him to admit responsibility for each of the racist and sometimes gender related discriminatory graffiti found on the campus in five incidents in late 2019 and early 2020.

The February incident – which declared it was “Hang a N— Month” — was in Henson Science Hall.

Prior to Jackson’s arrest, the incident placed the university in a national spotlight for a time, as social media speculation ran wild about the vandal’s identity and intention. Jackson is an African American.

University officials called it “a difficult and tragic time” for the campus community by creating fear that caused some students to leave and decreased the diverse enrollment by 30 percent.

SPD Property Room

In February, city officials revealed that thousands of criminal cases handled by the Salisbury Police Department over the past 23 years could be in jeopardy following the discovery of suspected thefts from the department’s evidence storage room. 

The Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office said at the time it was notifying parties involved in every criminal case that used evidence stored by Salisbury police from April 22, 1997, through Feb. 7, 2020.

The Police Department discovered the problem in the course of a recent internal audit of its property storage facility which found evidence of a series of potentially egregious breaches of internal policy by a civilian employee.

The theft investigation spawned into a look at the Wicomico State’s Attorney’s Office. Three police officers and an Assistant State’s Attorney were placed on paid leave in February when prosecutors uncovered a troubling 2011 memorandum in its files that indicated evidence and pertinent information may have been withheld in a 2011 criminal case in which three accused people pleaded guilty.

State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes was forced to secure additional money from the County Council to hire three long-term investigators to review a slew of previous cases.

The Police Department discovered the problem in the course of a recent internal audit of its property storage facility which found evidence of a series of potentially egregious breaches of internal policy by a civilian employee.

At the time, officials said they were working to gather evidence that would allow that employee — who hasn’t been named — to face charges.

Dykes has stated the investigations will “take months, and possibly years.”

Library Director Resigns

Ashley Teagle, who served as executive director of the Wicomico Public Library, quit in October after less than two years on the job, citing interference by certain County Council members and, at times, intimidation and bullying.

“I just feel like the county government needs to get out of the way and let the library director run the library along with the Board of Trustees,” Ashley Teagle told County Council members during their Oct. 6 meeting.

Teagle said she was questioned by one council member, whom she did not name, about library programs and grants that the library accepted. The same person made homophobic and racist remarks, questioned how board members are selected and threatened to defund the library if Teagle proceeded with a certain program.

“This is just an egregious use of power,” she said.

She left her library post Oct. 23 for a new position with a regional library system.

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