County Executive Culver succumbs to liver cancer

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver died overnight Saturday, five months after learning he had virtually untreatable liver cancer.

His family issued a statement early Sunday. “The family of County Executive Bob Culver is sad to announce that he passed peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family this morning.  Well known for his spirit and tenacity, he had fought a courageous battle for several months.”

Culver, 67, a resident of Whitehaven village, was a former County Council member and lifelong Wicomico County resident. Before his election as the county’s top leader in 2014, he was well known in the local business community as an entrepreneur, having worked as a contractor, developer, Realtor and restaurant operator.

He was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2018, having bested two challengers in the general election.

In defeating incumbent County Executive Rick Pollitt in 2014, Culver ran on a pro-business, pro-economic development platform. He has governed during a positive economic cycle and has achieved notable feats, including building the county’s reserve fund, overseeing road repair projects, allowing alcohol sales at the Civic Center and ensuring that school projects remained on schedule.

Culver had declined to step down through his illness. He had said he would seek a liver transplant and even declared he would seek re-election in 2022.

“I’m not a quitter. I’m going to fight it,” Culver said in February.

Culver received several blood transfusions as an infant and apparently contracted Hepatitis B. His doctors at Peninsula Regional Medical Center had diagnosed him with hepatocellular carcinoma, sometimes called hepatoma, and referred him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for further treatment.

Recently, Culver had spent several days in PRMC as his condition worsened.

With the office now vacant, the County Council has 45 days to appoint a successor to serve until the 2022 election. That appointee would need to come from the executive’s political party — Culver is a Republican — and would have to meet the same qualifications for office as anyone who might seek the job.

County Director of Administration John Psota automatically becomes Acting County Executive until the council acts on a successor.

Only the second person to ever hold the post in Wicomico, Culver was known as an active leader known to engage in a seven-day work schedule.

One business Culver is known for locally was his creation of the paddle boat rentals operation decades ago in City Park — a business that lasted more than 30 years.

Culver’s top deputy, county Director of Administration Wayne Strausburg — who retired just last month — had worked at Culver’s side for the duration of the executive’s six years in office.

“My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Bob’s family, especially his children, Courtney and Chris,” Strausburg said Sunday. “I deeply appreciated the opportunity Bob gave me to serve.

“As was his nature, he fought until the end and was in daily communication with his staff.”

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, who is away on U.S. Army Reserve deployment, also saluted the executive.

“This morning I received the news from back home that we have lost our County Executive, Bob Culver — a courageous leader who continued to serve Wicomico until his final breath as he battled cancer,” Day said.

“I will remember Bob for both his toughness as well as his tender hearted spirit. Bob did what few ever will and answered the clarion call to service with dedication and pride as he served the citizens of Wicomico County,” Day said.

This story will be updated.

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