Pollitt ‘leaving proudly’; Culver ‘excited to get started’

Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt was the first to know he’d officially lost last Tuesday’s election.

“When the early-voting numbers were first reported, and I saw I had only a small lead, I knew that was it — it wasn’t going to work,” he said this week.

Bobby Culver, the Republican who would out-ballot Democrat Pollitt that night, might have been the last person to know he’d won — and that came nearly three hours later.

“At 10 minutes to 11, I was miking up to go live on WMDT when I got the call call from Rick Pollitt. Until then, I wasn’t entirely sure I had won,” Culver said Tuesday.

“It’s very weird — it’s euphoric, but then you wonder ‘have they made a mistake?’ You’re second-guessing until you see that final election report,” he said. “You just didn’t know, because you didn’t know when that last big poll (location) came in, whether it would make a change.”

At noon, Tuesday, Dec. 2, Culver will be sworn into office as just the second man to serve as county executive. Over the next few weeks, a formal transition process is under way.

“We have a transition team that we are formulating now,” Culver said. “We’ll have that in place probably by the end of this week. It’s made up of attorneys, accountants, past council people … folks who who have some knowledge on that.”

Culver said the transition team members will assess each county department and then advise the incoming executive on what changes might be needed.

“I have my ideas (on what to do), but I’m going to wait and hear from them,” Culver said. “I’m not going to make any rash decisions.

“I’m not going to go in there and clean house, as I’ve been been repeatedly told that I’m ‘going to do.’ I want to talk to each transition team member and find out where they think the weak parts are and where the strong parts are.”

Pollitt said Culver had had some preliminary transition discussions with the county’s administrator and Pollitt’s chief deputy, Wayne Strausburg. Pollitt said those discussions weren’t part of purview.

“My believe is that when Bobby looks at things, and looks at the operation, and see who does what — and sees the real picture away from the campaign rhetoric — then he may come away with a different view on certain matters,” Pollitt said.

Said Culver: “There will be changes, I’m sure, between now and the end of the year, but at the same time a lot of due diligence will be done to make sure that what we do is done right.”

The final election numbers showed 13,921 votes, or 55.63 percent for Culver; 11,085 votes, or 44.29 percent for Pollitt.

In savoring his win, Culver he was “excited to get started” in the county executive’s post and repeatedly pointed to his being “overwhelmed with energy.”

“I am very humbled by the support — and the margin, I guess. I am very excited to get started. I’m honored to feel so much trust and confidence from the people of Wicomico County. And I will work hard to make sure I don’t let them down.”

Culver added: “People are just ready for change. People want out of this somehow, they don’t want it going the way it’s been.”

Pollitt, reached while traveling to New York City where he and Strausburg, joined by Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development Director Dave Ryan, were to give a regularly scheduled presentation on the local municipal conditions to bonds traders, was upbeat a week after his defeat.

“I always enjoy this trip to New York. It gives us a chance to show off our success, and we’ve got another really good report this time,” he said. “I’m nostalgic that this is going to be my last one, but I’m looking forward to a good presentation.”

Pollitt said he was surprised by his loss, based on the issues of the campaign.

“Going toe-to-toe, I think we had it all over him on our program and our record, and we were going forward. But we always said and knew it would depend on how many voters showed up (at the polls) and the votes just didn’t come out.”

Lower voter turnout, particularly among Democrats, has been cited for the historic Republican gains in Maryland and elsewhere.

“With our party, there was a lot of sitting at home I think,” said Pollitt.

Pollitt has faced some criticism for not running a campaign that at least matched Culver’s in terms of tone.

“I don’t think it would have mattered,” he said. “When you’re in office, you’re running every day. My thought was that I had eight years of good solid progress during a really tough (economic) time, and if people would stop and actually compare the two of us — where we’ve been, what we’ve done and how we’ve looked at the road ahead and how we’ve been preparing for it, I just didn’t think there was a lot of room for fault there.

“But that’s why we have elections,” he said.

Pollitt said repeatedly that he has no regrets.

“I’m leaving proudly. I think we’ve established the position at a very high bar. We did well, getting through the recession. We’ve put the public’s fiscal health back on top, and I hope that people would appreciate that, even if they might not understand that.”

Pollitt concluded: “We’ve set the bar for county executives to come — they’ll need to be engaged in the community and know you do need to make a lot of tough decisions. Sometimes (the decisions) are not politically popular, but when you weigh all of the factors, they’re the right ones.”

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

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