Moore Becomes First Cecil County Executive; McCarthy and Hodge Sworn in to Council; Amigos, Smipkins Absent
There was an air of enthusiasm, hope and optimism for Cecil County‚Äôs future in the county administration building in Elkton Monday as Tari Moore became the county‚Äôs first-ever County Executive when the clock struck noon and Charter government ushered in a historic, new era in county government. Also, Dr. Alan McCarthy and Robert Hodge were sworn in as members of the new County Council.
US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1), state Del. David Rudolph (D-35) and Harford County Executive David Craig ( R) had front-row seats for the ceremonies and enthusiastically congratulated Moore, McCarthy and Hodge on their victories in the November election.
But noticeably absent were Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, both R-36, and hold-over county commissioners/Council members Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3.) Broomell and Dunn are aligned with the Smipkin political organization led by Smigiel and Pipkin, who had actively opposed fellow Republicans Moore and Hodge for election.
The Smipkins have mounted yet another campaign against Moore in the past few days, since she announced she had changed her political party registration from Republican to ‚Äúunaffiliated‚ÄĚ so as to remove the Smipkin-controlled Cecil County Republican Central Committee from determining Moore‚Äôs replacement on the County Council for the District 2 seat. But the Smipkin‚Äôs anti-Moore efforts have been unsuccessful so far and prompted a backlash against them from some leading state GOP conservatives. [See separate separate Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/12/smipkins-howl-over-loss-of-power-to-new-cecil-county-exec-moore-state-gop-conservatives-bite-back/ ]
After taking the oath of office administered by Circuit Court Clerk Derrick Lowe, Moore said in her inaugural address that the county stood ‚Äúon the brink of a new frontier.‚ÄĚ But for the past two years, she said, the county has been plagued by ‚Äúbickering, and dysfunction and inaction and poor decision-making.‚ÄĚ (The board of commissioners was controlled during that time by Broomell, Dunn, and James Mullin, R-1, who was defeated by McCarthy in the April GOP primary.)
‚ÄúThe voters told us that you have had enough of this,‚ÄĚ Moore said, and ‚Äúsent a clear message that you expect more, and that you will not tolerate the division and aimlessness that have sometimes characterized our politics in the recent past.‚ÄĚ
Moore said she had ‚Äúheard that message ‚Äú and ‚ÄúI am here to say that change starts now, today.‚ÄĚ
Going forward, the county will need ‚Äúthe cooperative best efforts of all Cecil County citizens, both in and out of government, and without regard to party affiliation,‚ÄĚ she said. And the county executive must ‚Äúact in the best interests of all the people of Cecil County, without regard to their party affiliation,‚ÄĚ she added.
Consequently, she said she decided to change her political registration from Republican to ‚ÄúUnaffiliated‚ÄĚ late last week so that when she resigned her commissioner/Council seat to become County Executive it would be up to the new County Council‚ÄĒnot the Republican Central Committee‚ÄĒto ‚Äúchoose the person best qualified to fulfill that office.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThough I honor the Republican Party, under which I campaigned and have long been proud to align myself with the very best principles that party stands for, I believe that my duty to all the citizens of Cecil County now transcends party affiliation,‚ÄĚ she said.
Under the county Charter, if Moore had retained her GOP affiliation, that party‚Äôs local Central Committee would have compiled a list of three candidates to submit to the County Council. The current Central Committee is fully controlled by the Smipkins and would predictably nominate people who pledge allegiance to that organization. In practical political terms, the County Council would likely deadlock 2-2 (Hodge and McCarthy against Broomell and Dunn,) Then the County Executive could pick her replacement‚ÄĒBUT she would have been limited to a name from the Committee‚Äôs three-person list.
But now, the GOP committee is out of the power picture and members of the County Council can nominate anyone as long as they are registered voters and live in District 2. However, it is likely the Council will again deadlock, 2-2. But in that case, Moore would now be free to make her own choice to fill the seat without being limited to the party committee‚Äôs list of nominees.
The Council has until 1/3/13 to act on the vacancy and Moore said she hoped the Council would reach agreement on ‚Äúthe very best qualified person to fill this vacancy.‚ÄĚ But if the Council fails to make that decision, ‚Äúthen it will be my duty to fill that seat by appointing the person best qualified to hold that office.‚ÄĚ
In conclusion, Moore asked for all citizens to work together for the good of the county. ‚ÄúTogether we will build Cecil County‚Äôs future,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe have a big job to do. Let‚Äôs get to work.‚ÄĚ
Meanwhile, McCarthy– a Chesapeake City veterinarian and businessman who overwhelmed Mullin in the GOP primary and won the largest vote-margin victory of any contested race in the November general election‚ÄĒoffered an olive branch to the absent Broomell and Dunn.
‚ÄúIf everyone would give a little, we could all get a lot done,‚ÄĚ McCarthy said, adding that all Council members should ‚Äúput aside our partisan feuds.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúTomorrow the work begins,‚ÄĚ he added. The new County Council is slated to hold an organizational meeting Tuesday morning and its first formal business meeting Tuesday evening.
Hodge, who served as a County Commissioner for four years before winning re-election in November, said he had to ‚Äúconfess‚ÄĚ that he did not support the shift to Charter government because he feared the county would select ‚Äúthe wrong person and put too much power in the hands of one person.‚ÄĚ But with the election of Moore, he said he had changed his view and felt the voters had picked the right person for the job.
And, commenting indirectly on Moore‚Äôs shift to the ‚ÄúUnaffiliated‚ÄĚ column, Hodge said, ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think [people] are going to care if we are Democrat or Republican or if we are unaffiliated,‚ÄĚ as long as the elected officials ‚Äúget the job done.‚ÄĚ