Four in contention for Executive appointment

Clockwise from top left: Michele Ennis, Carl Anderton, Rene Desmarais, Joe Holloway.

After planning to conduct its screening in private, the Wicomico County Council on Wednesday released the names of candidates it will consider to succeed County Executive Bob Culver.As of Wednesday afternoon, four people – all Republicans as required by the County Charter’s replacement procedures – had submitted their names for the post:

  • State Delegate Carl Anderton of Delmar.
  • Salisbury cardiologist Dr. Rene Desmarais.
  • Former County Finance Director Michele Ennis of Delmar.
  • County Councilman Joe Holloway of Parsonsburg.

Anderton, 47, a former mayor of Delmar, was elected to the House of Delegates in 2014. He is a member of the House Appropriations 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.

Holloway, 67, the longest-serving member on the current council, was elected to represent District 5 in 2006. He served as Council President for a year in 2011. For many years, his family owned the general store in Parsonsburg. He and his wife now operate an antiques-furniture store there.

Holloway has been an ardent fiscal watchdog and one of the most conservative members of the council. He has been a tough questioner of Board of Education administrators and an opponent of initiatives to grow the county’s airport.

Michele Ennis, 43, was the county’s former human resources director and the appointed but never confirmed finance director for the Wicomico County government. She left her post just last Wednesday, after being at the center of a power struggle between the County Council and Culver. Culver never formally submitted her name for legislative approval.

Ennis played a role in the development of the just-enacted fiscal 2021 budget. Her signature was included on the county’s formal budget document.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Salisbury University, a master’s in Human Resources Management from Wilmington University and a doctorate in Philosophy in Organizational Leadership from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She is a Certified Public Accountant candidate and a member of Government Finance Officers Association.

Salisbury cardiologist Dr. Rene Desmarais ran for District 37B state Delegate’s seat in 2014, finishing third in a race in which the two top vote-getters were elected. A Shore resident for 25 years, he campaigned on a health care, education and environmental platform.

Desmarais grew up in New England, graduating from Xavier High School in Middletown, Conn., in 1979. He earned a Biology degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1983 before attending medical school at the University of Connecticut. He moved back to Baltimore for his residency at Johns Hopkins, then worked at the University of Virginia, and in 1993 moved to Salisbury to work at Peninsula Cardiology Associates.

The council had planned to keep the process closed. It is uncertain whether interviews the council schedules will be conducted in a closed session. The formal appointment would come in an open session, with a majority council vote.

The Salisbury Independent filed a Freedom of Information Act request early Wednesday, asking that the contenders’ names be made public.

Under the County Charter, council members have until Wednesday, Sept. 9, to name a new County Executive.

Though applicants needed to be of the same political party as Culver – Republican – the council is not limited to just choosing just those who apply; it can choose anyone who meets the criteria.

The council is next scheduled to meet Tuesday, so closed interviews might be held that afternoon. The council’s next regular meeting would be the evening of Sept. 1, which means a final selection vote could come then.

The hiring process requested applicants submit a resume with a biography, and a completed job application.

The charter sets the County Executive’s annual salary at $85,000.

The appointed County Executive would hold the office until the November 2022 election. Culver won re-election to a second four-year term in 2018.

The charter also mandates that someone who holds the office cannot hold a county office or position – except as a County Council member – for one year after the termination of their appointed term.

Culver died of liver cancer on July 26, after nearly six years in the post. While there are several probable contenders to succeed him, Culver left no obvious successor.

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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