Anderton reapplies for County Executive post

Wicomico County is finishing up a seventh straight week without a council-selected County Executive in place, some movement in the process to replace the late Bob Culver is expected early next week.

Delegate Carl Anderton.

Back on Aug. 28, after its original choice for executive forfeited the appointment nomination, the County Council set this Monday as the deadline for a new round of applicants.

The council meets again publicly at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, so there might be some discussion or even position interviews that day.

The charter is intentionally vague when it comes to replacing a County Executive — it merely says the council will select someone.

The council had initially planned to keep the process closed, but ultimately released the applicants’ names and scheduled public interviews.

Given that track — and public pressure to make the process even more transparent and open to public input — it would be difficult for the council to make a second selection in a closed session.

State Delegate Carl Anderton on Friday visited the Government Office Building to reapply for the post that the council formally rejected him for once, and informally denied him on a second occasion.

Anderton said a groundswell of public support and the continued backing of citizens prompted him to take another shot.

“The way this county has shown me so much love and support, I had no choice but to reapply,” Anderton said.

Several people attended the council’s Sept. 1 night meeting to back Anderton’s bid, but council members declined to address those urgings. 

The 47-year-old former Delmar Mayor is the only applicant in this second round to publicly announce his candidacy, but other Republicans are known to be mulling their own bids.

Under the County Charter, the council technically had until Tuesday of this week to select a replacement for Culver, who died July 26. In a consensus discussion two weeks ago, the body decided to extend the process another 45 days.

That would seem to put the new deadline at Saturday, Oct. 24.

Tensions among council members have been running hot since Aug. 20, when four members voted in a special session to select Salisbury cardiologist Dr. Rene Desmarais as County Executive.

Four days after he was chosen, Desmarais officially declined the position, putting what had already been a rather disheveled process into complete disarray.

Under Section 406, which was amended by voters in 2018, the charter merely states the council will select a replacement should a County Executive vacate their office.

Based on the reactions and statements volleyed in different directions across the council table on Aug. 28, it was apparent that Council President Larry Dodd, Councilwoman Nicole Acle, and Councilmen Joe Holloway and Ernie Davis had not changed their minds about appointing Anderton to lead the county’s executive branch.

It was equally obvious that Council Vice President John Cannon, and Councilmen Bill McCain and Josh Hastings wanted another public vote on selecting Anderton — but couldn’t secure the required consensus to make that happen.

Anderton was elected to the House of Delegates in 2014, beating longtime Democratic incumbent Norman Conway, then one of Maryland’s most-powerful legislators.

Anderton is a member of the House Environmental and Transportation Committee and former president of the Maryland Municipal League.

As a delegate, Anderton has been known to reach across the party aisle and work with Democrats. In the abbreviated 2020 session, Anderton worked closely with Salisbury Mayor Jake Day to make changes to the county’s Board of License Commissioners, which oversees county alcohol laws.

The County Executive is responsible for crafting the county’s annual $150 million budget, orchestrating its vast bond borrowing and overseeing the county’s roughly 1,000 employees.

The County Executive form of government has been in effect since 2006 and only two men have served in the post: Republican Culver and Democrat Rick Pollitt.

Wicomico Director of Administration John Psota is serving as Acting County Executive until the County Council can appoint a successor. The charter gives Psota, who formerly served as Fruitland city manager, all of the powers that Culver had while in the position.

The seven-member council has a 4-3 Republican majority, but all members get to vote on the selection.

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