CECIL CHATTER: Cecil County Annapolis Clout; Cheers to Cheryl

December 20, 2016


The Cecil County Council is considering a proposed $157,000 budget amendment for severance pay costs to three ousted department heads under the new administration of Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy and to hire lobbyists in Annapolis to get the state government to pay more attention to the county’s economic development and transportation concerns. About $45,000 of the total is expected to cover the costs of one or two temporary lobbyists.

At the Tuesday 12/20/16 County Council worksession, the panel discussed the proposal, and Council President Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) noted that most of the requested funds were to cover the severance packages for the former department heads. Upon taking office in early December, McCarthy fired three department heads: Lisa Webb, the former economic development chief; Donna Nichols, human resources director; and Scott Mesneak, information technology chief for the county. Given that the firings were sudden (not to mention shortly before the holiday season) the county is offering transitional assistance, including some benefit costs required by state and federal laws.

Councilor Dan Schneckenburger (R-3) questioned how much lobbyists would cost and what their role would be. Al Wein, the county Director of Administration, said McCarthy wanted to get a larger voice in Annapolis on key issues such as economic development and extension of the MARC commuter rail line to Elkton.

Nearly every time that Gov. Larry Hogan announces some new grants or other initiatives, Cecil County is usually left off the list entirely or receives a pittance compared with even smaller Eastern Shore counties. For example, in about $1 million in new criminal justice grants announced this week, Cecil County got nothing. And in a related, 12/8/16 criminal justice grant announcement of $2.9 million, Cecil County’s Sheriff’s Department only got $19,772 for an automated license plate reader—while many other much smaller counties got a lot more money, such as nearly $38,000 to Queen Anne’s County on the Shore for juvenile crime programs.

As CECIL TIMES has previously reported, Cecil County was near the bottom of the list for state capital budget expenditures in Hogan’s most recent budget. And when Hogan made his first and only visit to Cecil County as governor this summer, he brought no new aid initiatives—unlike his many visits to Western Maryland and Southern Maryland that have benefitted from Hogan’s budget largesse, no doubt related to those areas’ overwhelming support of Hogan in the last election. Cecil County gave Hogan an over-the-top majority vote, too, but has not received similar post-election attention from the Hogan administration.

That may or may not be related to the former administration of Tari Moore, who while a Republican county executive for Cecil County, endorsed or donated money to two Democrats running for county executive positions in the state. In particular, Moore’s support of a Democrat running unsuccessfully against moderate Republican Alan Kittleman—a strong Hogan ally in Howard County—upset many fellow Republicans in the state.

If Gov. Hogan has not paid much attention to Cecil County, why not try to make the county’s case before the General Assembly and state agencies in Annapolis? McCarthy seems to be putting a very modest investment into trying to change the picture for the county in Annapolis.



Cheryl Mattix, the venerable and veteran county government reporter for the Cecil Whig, is hanging up her pen and notebook and retiring from the newspaper. So her long career could not go without notice on Tuesday, as she attended her last Cecil County Council worksession.

She was surprised with a round-robin recitation of a special proclamation in her honor read by members of the County Council.. And there was also a heavily-frosted cake, wishing her “Good Luck, Cheryl.”

Stephanie Palko, Cheryl’s former colleague at the Whig for many years and more recently a friendly competitor at the Cecil Guardian, had a few tears in her eyes as council members read their tribute proclamation. But then, true to form, Stephanie came through with a hilarious shopping bag full of gag gifts, such as an adult coloring book for future retirement entertainment, a tiny alcoholic beverage, and a pencil bearing the name of a recent losing candidate for a write-in campaign for the local school board. The pencil was highlighted as the first collectible for a post-retirement new hobby: pencil collecting.

It won’t be the same at those Tuesday County Council sessions without Cheryl. She held a long memory of county people, government history, and political knowledge that will not be easily replicated.

When the Whig was sold for the first of many times in recent years—and a wholesale staff layoff and cost reduction scheme put into place– she should have been named as the new editor of the newspaper. She had all the knowledge, experience and credentials for the job. But instead, the Aussies, hedge funds and banks that then ruled the financial and editorial roost at the Whig chose a male youngster, who to this day does not live in Cecil County, as the chief editor.

It was an injustice that upset many in local government, social and news circles. But Cheryl continued to do her job with grace, grit and good humor.

It’s the end of an era in local news with Cheryl’s retirement. It will take at least three or four people to replace her substantively, but of course the Whig won’t dedicate such staff resources to coverage of county government and politics.

So enjoy your retirement, Cheryl, and take pride in all you accomplished and contributed to Cecil County for so many years.

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