Republicans pick chairman as council nominee

Mark McIver.

The Republican Central Committee will submit another list of four names from which Wicomico County Council members can select a new member to represent District 2.

The roster will include three names from the previous list, plus a new contender: the chairman of the Central Committee itself.

Austin Whitehead.

Austin Whitehead, whose district residency status sent the council into confusion last week, withdrew his name from consideration this week. Meeting behind closed doors Monday night, local Republican Party leaders agreed to place Mark McIver’s name into council consideration.

A longtime Salisbury business owner and Nanticoke Road resident, McIver is well known in political circles, having served as an early adviser to Congressman Andy Harris and previously leading issues committees for the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.

The council has set a special session for Monday night. The council could publicly interview McIver for the post, then make a selection. The council will also consider the other nominees: Nicole Acle, Julie Brewington and Joe Collins.

Joe Collins.

At the July 16 council session, Collins and Whitehead each failed to win appointment on tied 3-3 votes. The other two nominees, Acle and Brewington, didn’t receive voting consideration.

The County Charter mandates the pertinent political party’s Central Committee selects nominees for total council consideration. Marc Kilmer, a Republican who was re-elected to the western Wicomico seat in November, departed the council effective June 15.

His exit set off a succession process in which the Republican panel — chaired by McIver — screened and interviewed more than a dozen contenders, and then presented four nominees to the council for selection.

The charter, however, doesn’t offer any instructions for a council deadlock in replacing a member, which propelled council members into uncharted territory.

After a week of consulting with lawyers following a series of deadlocked votes regarding appointment of a replacement colleague, Central Committee members agreed to present another slate.

On Monday, meanwhile, Whitehead sent an email to council and party officials asking to withdraw his nomination.

“After much consideration and thought, I have decided that I no longer wish to be considered as a nominee for the vacant Wicomico County Council District 2 seat,” he wrote.

He then hinted that he might seek the seat when it comes up for special election in 2020.

“If I am to serve as a Wicomico County Councilman,” he wrote, “I wish do so via election rather than appointment.”

McIver, speaking in his role as Central Committee Chairman, said Whitehead’s residency status was confirmed by the County Attorney. In his interview with the council, Whitehead said he is a lifetime resident of the Clara Road and Pemberton Drive area.

When voting last week, however, the three Republicans said they wanted more time to review rumors that Whitehead was possibly living outside of District 2.

Maryland law gives elected officials some leeway on residency. Domicile is determined by intention — an official can have multiple residences, but only one domicile, which is defined by where you intend to maintain permanent residency.

In Maryland, the example most-often cited begins at the top of the chain with the governor. Larry Hogan spends most of his time in Annapolis, but is domiciled and registered to vote in Prince George’s County.

All of the original nominees were vetted and approved by their party’s Central Committee. The panel used an applicant’s voter-registration address to determine residency.

The charter calls for a reappointment within 45 days of a resignation, making July 30 the deadline.

District 2 is the county’s largest in terms of area. It includes most of the county’s western communities, including Sharptown, Mardela Springs, Quantico, Hebron and Nanticoke. The district also encompasses communities just east of the Wicomico River, including Eden, Allen and Shad Point.

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

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