School board nominees fall short in council vote

The matter of appointing a new Board of Education member to represent District 3 was returned to the Nominating Commission, after Wicomico County Council members repeatedly reached tie votes at their meeting Tuesday.

Gains Hawkins.

Council members, at different times during the meeting, nominated and voted for the two candidates – Gains Hawkins and Tonya Laird Lewis – but both times the vote was 3-3, with Council President John Cannon abstaining.

He declined to vote because Hawkins’ daughter is employed by Cannon’s wife and he felt there could be a conflict of interest.

Tonya Laird Lewis.

The three Republican council members – Marc Kilmer, Larry Dodd and Joe Holloway – voted for Lewis, but against Hawkins; the three Democratic members – Bill McCain, Josh Hastings and Ernie Davis – voted for Hawkins, but against Lewis.

Under the elected system implemented last year, the council is entering more uncharted territory. The matter could be placed back in the hands of the Nominating Commission — whose members would again provide the council with candidate names — or the council could possibly hold another vote before a June 3 deadline, with one or more members switching positions.

If the committee is summoned to take action, it is unclear if Hawkins and Lewis can apply again and if the June 3 appointment deadline can be extended.

The successful appointee will fill the seat vacated when Board of Education member David Goslee died in February. He had been elected in November.

The swearing-in date was tentatively set for June 3, and the term ends Nov. 3, 2020, aligning it with the next General Election.

The annual salary is $3,700.

Although he didn’t vote, Cannon told the Salisbury Independent both candidates interviewed well.

“I do think what we need to do in the future is to streamline the process as a whole. It’s the first time we’ve done it and it seems to me, personally, there are too many public hearings that we’ve established and we need to reduce the number,” Cannon said.

Hawkins, who headed the public relations departments at both Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and who is active in the local Democrat Party, applied saying he has strong writing skills, especially penning press releases, speeches, marketing materials and advertising, while also managing staff.

He supports schools Superintendent Donna Hanlin’s “Imagine 2022” plan, raising community awareness of importance of a first-rate public school system and securing better understanding of disciplinary challenges confronting students, faculty and staff.

Lewis had said she is a “highly involved and dedicated parent within Wicomico County” and listed her career objective as maintaining “a positive cooperative relationship with the schools and board officials in Wicomico County” and enhancing her educational and professional skills in “an environment which advocates for children’s learning and safety.”

Since March 2016, she has been a substitute teacher and said she is skilled in “maintaining an effective teaching and learning environment.”

From 2009 to 2012 she was a certified nursing assistant and geriatric nursing assistant, working at Berlin Nursing and Rehab and also worked at Heaven’s Angel Home Care, assisting patients with daily activities and core exercise functions.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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