New Cecil County Sheriff, County Council Members, Sworn Into Office: New Era of Charter Govt.

December 1, 2014

What a difference two years—and an election—make.

When Cecil County’s switch from a Board of Commissioners form of government to a new Charter system– with an independently elected County Executive and a five-member County Council– was launched in 2012, the transition was marked by rancor and a boycott of the inauguration by the county’s state legislative delegation and two sitting Commissioner/County Council members.

But on Monday 12/1/14, the choices of voters in the November general elections were sworn into office for three County Council seats, a new Sheriff, and new office-holders for Register of Wills and two of three seats on the Orphan’s Court. And there was nary a negative word to be heard, as new and old county officials pledged to “work together” for the good of Cecil County and its citizens.

Sworn into office on Monday, at a packed ceremony with several hundred onlookers at the new Upper Chesapeake Ballroom at the North East fire company hall, were three Cecil County Council members: Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2), who served two years as an appointee but won election in her own right in November; and political newcomers Dan Schneckenburger (R-3) and George Patchell (R-4).

And Scott Adams became the new Sheriff, in a moving change-of-command ceremony that brought tears to the eyes of outgoing Sheriff Barry Janney. Janney did not seek re-election, after serving three terms in office, and he endorsed Adams as his successor. But Adams surprised many citizens and law enforcement community members when he announced recently that Janney would stay on as his subordinate in the agency, supervising the Community Corrections programs at the county Detention Center.

A telling difference from the ceremonies two years ago was the attendance of most of the state legislative delegation representing Cecil County at the Monday event. Two years ago, the leaders of the “Smipkin” political organization– state Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, both R-36– orchestrated a boycott of the inaugural events as a protest against County Executive Tari Moore briefly changing her political party affiliation from Republican to “Unaffiliated” so as to block the Smipkin-controlled GOP Central Committee from choosing her replacement for a seat on the new County Council.

But Pipkin resigned his Senate seat to move to Texas last year and Smigiel was defeated for re-election in the June, 2014 Republican primary. So it was a new day at this year’s ceremonies, as State Sen. Steve Hershey (R-36) who was appointed to fill Pipkin’s seat, newly elected Sen. Wayne Norman (R-35), and Delegates Jay Jacobs, Steve Arentz and newly elected Caroline County Delegate Jeff Ghrist (all R-36) made the trek to North East to show support for the new Cecil County officials.

Cecil County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) said that the election results two years ago were the “beginning of Charter government” in the county but now, “In my mind, this swearing-in completes the transformation from the Commissioner form of government to Charter government in Cecil County.”

Hodge said that the latest election results will enable the county government to become “more efficient and more responsive to the needs of our citizens.” He also said he had “very high expectations” that the newly-elected officials will “work together” in a positive fashion.

“There will be many challenges,” Hodge said. “But I think we will be able to overcome them.”

And, Hodge said, the presence of most of the state legislative delegation—along with the election of Republican Governor Larry Hogan—showed there was a “united” commitment to work constructively to “make Cecil County a better place to live, work, and pursue our dreams.”

[SEE Exclusive Cecil Times Video of Hodge’s remarks here: ]

Meanwhile, Scott Adams took his oath of office—administered by Clerk of the Circuit Court Derrick Lowe—as the new Cecil County Sheriff. The transfer of power from Janney to Adams was accompanied by a moving ceremony of transition, complete with a color guard of deputies bearing flags of the United States, Maryland, and Cecil County. As the transfer of the county flag was made with military precision from Janney to Adams, the outgoing Sheriff was visibly moved, with tears flowing down his cheeks as he handed the flag to Adams.

In remarks to the gathering, Adams thanked his family and county voters for supporting him in his run for Sheriff with “overwhelming support.” He pledged that “co-operation and partnership” would be the hallmarks of his administration. “That’s where I come from, and that’s what I know, and that’s what I’m going to do going forward,” Adams said.

[SEE Exclusive Cecil Times Video of Adams’ remarks here: ]

Cecil County Executive Moore acted as master of ceremonies for the event, and said that she was pleased that so many new officials were committed to “come together” for the benefit of Cecil County.

Also sworn into office on Monday were new Register of Wills Michael W. “Good Mike” Dawson, a Republican who defeated veteran incumbent Allyn ‘Lyn’ Price Nickels, a Democrat; incumbent Orphans Court Chief Judge Carolyn Crouch; and newly elected Orphans’ Court Judges Sally Saunders Camp and Pete Pritchard.

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