Wicomico council will soon select new member

The six current members of the Wicomico County Council are expected to publicly announce Tuesday who will be joining their group and serving as the new representative for District 2.

Marc Kilmer, a Republican who was re-elected to the seat in November, departed the council effective June 15. Kilmer and his family moved to his native Idaho.

His departure kicked into gear the succession process, in which the Republican Central Committee screened and interviewed more than a dozen contenders, and then presented four nominees to the council for selection.

Though their choice must be a member of the same political party as Kilmer, with a seat vacant the panel is comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats. The person selected will likely have to appeal to a broader political spectrum.

District 2 is the county’s largest in terms of area. It includes most of the county 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.

The council hasn’t had to select a seat replacement since 2011, when it selected John Hall to replace Bob Caldwell, who died in office as the District 4 councilman.

In 2001, after Republican District 5 Councilman Richard S. Adkins Sr. died in December 2000, David Ennis was ultimately chosen to fill Adkins’ term, but didn’t run for the seat in 2002.

In 1981, the council had to replace two at-large members who died in office, Republican Emerson Holloway and Democrat Harry Hopkins.

The four finalists nominated to fill the seat have been publicly interviewed, two in a June 18 council session and two in the most recent meeting held July 2.

The nominees are:

  • Nicole Acle of Salisbury.
  • Julie Brewington of Eden.
  • Joseph Collins of Mardela Springs.
  • Austin Whitehead of Salisbury.

Nicole Acle

The owner of Medical Nutrition Therapies in Salisbury, Acle told the council in her June 18 interview that she is a former Pennsylvania resident who has lived in Wicomico County for 18 years.

In her interview with the council, Acle said education is her top priority, followed by economic development and the environment.

She said a key to improving education is to re-engage parents who have placed their youngsters into private schools. Pointing out that the council has no female representation, she described herself as someone “who could contribute some diversity and bring a voice to those who don’t have one.”

She also said that she was a small-business owner “with a calling to serve the community.”

She is vice president of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County. She is a winner of the Maryland Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service, a committee member for Salisbury Promise and a council member for Salisbury Youth Advisory.

She holds a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from Penn State University and a bachelor’s in Dietetics from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Julie Brewington

A Wicomico native and graduate of Parkside High School, Brewington is a Realtor with ERA Martin Associates in Salisbury.

She was a candidate for the House of Delegates in 2010 and the County Council last year.

In her council interview, she said it wasn’t her intention to apply for the open seat, but “a lot of people approached me and asked me to do so.”

Brewington, who ran for the at-large seat but finished third behind Republican John Cannon and Democrat Bill McCain, said she polled well in District 2.

“I took a look at District 2 and the votes I got in District 2, and it was pretty impressive,” she told the council. She said her support within the district suggests voters there would support her being appointed to the seat.

Brewington said her primary objective is to resist tax increases and “make sure the county doesn’t tax people into leaving.” She said maintaining quality of life and improving education are a priority, adding that the school system must remain accountable.

She studied Graphic Arts at the Art Institute of Atlanta in Georgia and has been active in Republican politics for more than a decade. She is a member of the Wicomico Republican Central Committee and is the former president of the Republican Women of Wicomico.

Joseph Collins

A pilot for American Airlines since 2000 and Piedmont Airlines for five years before that, Collins served in the U.S. Army and has lived in Mardela Springs since 1998. He moved to Wicomico in 1991 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Collins has had several local leadership roles, having been appointed to the county’s Redistricting Committee, elected to the Wicomico Central Committee and being appointed to the Board of Elections by the governor.

He told the council members that his top priority would be to represent the district and its citizens.

“My viewpoint of government has grown over the years,” Collins said. “To govern means to find a way forward – being considerate of both sides and many viewpoints – and then finding the best way forward for those you’re charged with representing.”

Because the airline pilot is often away from the community as part of his employment, the council asked many questions about his consistent availability. He said he would be able to balance both demands.

“I will represent the district and the citizens,” he said. “I will engage in outreach to all of the communities – everyone will have a voice.”

Austin Whitehead

The youngest of the nominees at age 25, Whitehead is widely regarded as one of the community’s rising young leaders.

A lifelong Wicomico resident and now a Realtor who operates Whitehead Rental Management Inc., he also works with his family selling homes with Whitehead Real Estate Executives.

He said education is his top priority and that promoting vocational skills is essential to the county’s long-term success.

He told council members that the county needs to attract more people and encourage home ownership. A supporter of Junior Achievement, he praised its mission to improve financial literacy and said that learning needs to occur across the county.

He also said Wicomico needs to build better partnerships with Salisbury University.

“The county needs to brand itself better,” Whitehouse said. “There are a lot of good people here, but too many just see the negative.”

He said the council needs to provide checks and balances in the running of county government, and council members must always be “a consistent contact point.”

Whitehead has a bachelor’s in Accounting and a master’s in Business Administration, both from Salisbury University. He began taking classes at Wor-Wic Community College at the age of 15 and had a professional career with a national firm before entering the real estate field.

Whitehead is an active SU alumni, serving of the Perdue School of Business Career Advisory Board and on the Alumni Association board of directors.

Cannon, who serves as Council President, said prior to the interviews that he hoped the nominees would have a good understanding of their role.

“Overall, the successful candidate should have a good sense of what the month-to-month responsibilities of the council are,” Cannon said in May. “It will be nice to see if they’ve done their homework and recognize the level of importance of quality life issues – public safety, education, roads – all the basic building blocks of government.”

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

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