Culver to seek second term, declares ‘We’re not done’

Bob Culver is sworn into office as Wicomico County Executive in December 2014.

Incumbent Bob Culver said this week he will seek a second term as Wicomico County Executive, officially declaring “we’re not done.”

“I see my job as trying to aim the county in a direction,” said Culver, a lifelong resident of Wicomico County. “I’m trying to aim it in improving education, I’m trying to aim it in growing business.”

A Whitehaven resident who will turn 65 on Friday, Culver was a sitting County Council member when he stepped up to defeat then-executive Rick Pollitt in 2014.

In an interview Monday, Culver both touted his accomplishments and declared where he would like to take the county during a second four-year term.

Looking over the horizon, Culver said he would like to secure a new headquarters for the Sheriff’s Office, expand the county landfill to extend its life, fulfill long-held ambitions for the county’s airport and continue working to resolve open issues between city and county.

He said he would do those things while keeping strong financially and working to grow the county’s image as a great place to live.

Culver’s first three years in office have had their share of controversies. When he assumed office, he was regarded as a critic of Board of Education spending and priorities. As a County Council member, he was frequently at odds with Pollitt, and even some of his council colleagues.

He admits there’s been a bit of a learning curve.

“I thought I knew more than I did know. Having been on the Council, I thought I knew more than the average person,” he said.

“This (job) is a lot different than being on the Council.”

Education

Culver describes himself as pro-education, but said he prefers that the school system develop better teaching programs and not focus so much on new school construction.

He also has ambitions to open Wor-Wic Community College to more county residents by financing a workforce development program of a nature similar to the Wor-Wic program implemented last year to assist the county’s graduating high school seniors.

“We must continue to invest in education,” Culver said. “I want to see a Workforce Development Grant Scholarship to help with the retraining of people, as well as those who are older and want to make a career change.”

He is obviously excited about his previous and planned efforts to grow Wor-Wic enrollment.

“I am proud of the Wor-Wic program, I really am,” he said. “We got it started, and I’m proud of that. Ten years from now people are going to look back and say ‘That’s the best thing the county ever did.’”

Culver said he agrees that state-mandated Maintenance of Effort increases are not adequate.

“Maintenance of Effort is a bare minimum thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve only been able to meet Maintenance of Effort for the last several years.

“We’re beginning to get a little bit of extra money, we’re coming up a bit now, but that doesn’t mean we need new schools.”

Culver got into a scrap with school officials in the first days of his term, when he questioned the need for a new West Salisbury Elementary School and Phase 3 of the James M. Bennett High School project.

“I’m not into the glass and brass as much as I am into the programs. Just because you have a shiny high school, that doesn’t make everything better,” he said.

The school system has a multi-year calendar where it will replace schools that are falling apart. One such school, Beaver Run Elementary, is in desperate need of modernization and renovation.

And, though there are lots of factors that affect student testing, Culver aggressively points out that new buildings don’t increase test scores.

“At Bennett High School, test scores went down after an $80 million school was built,” he said. “That’s not where the problem is. Solving the problem doesn’t rely on me tearing down Beaver Run School and building another one. It relies on me getting the right teachers and programs in.”

Public Safety

Culver said taking care of the needs of Sheriff Mike Lewis and his deputies is a priority. Last-minute budget cuts this year that affected the sheriff’s vehicle fleet were a point of contention.

The Sheriff’s Office also desperately needs a new safety complex.

“That is a goal of the first year of my next term. I will put that forward, but Public Safety and taking care of the Sheriff’s Office has to happen before that.’’

He also wants to expand the COAT program that has seen some traction in combating the opioid death rates.

Council communication

Culver agreed his relationship with the County Council needs improvement.

“I would like to meet with the Council members. We tried it one time where two members came in, but they never came back,” he said.

“The Council President’s attitude is you do it and then bring it to us. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t want to fight about things on TV. I would like to be able to say, ‘OK, we all agree on this, let’s go for it.’”

He said that even though six of the seven council members share his political philosophy, there is still contention.

“I guess I have a problem like (President) Trump has,” he said. “I have a Republican council. I believe in checks and balances. But it’s supposed to be the Democrats who are checking me, not my own people.”

Thus far, Culver has no challengers for his seat. The Republican Primary is June 26; the general election is Nov. 6, 2018. The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 27.

 

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

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