Patchell to Resign from Cecil County Council for Perryville Town Post, Setting Off GOP Nominations, Council Vote; Quiet, Respected Voice of Reason Departs

September 20, 2021


Cecil County Council member George Patchell (R-4), a two-term elected official from Perryville and a consistently thoughtful and nonpartisan voice on many local issues, is resigning from the panel to take a job as the Perryville town administrator. His departure will set off a potentially politically fraught process, led by the local Republican Central Committee to nominate three names for his replacement and a vote by the remaining four Council members to fill the seat.

Patchell submitted a letter of resignation on Friday (9/17/2021) but he delayed the effective date for a month, until 10/17/2021. That time frame will still give him a voice in a number of major issues pending before the Council, including solar farm legislation.

All five current members of the Council are Republicans, and Patchell told CECIL TIMES that he will retain his GOP party affiliation as he heads out the Council door—a step that sets a major role for the Republican Central Committee, which is dominated by non-elected partisans aligned with County Executive Danielle Hornberger, her husband, Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-35), and Vincent Sammons.

Sammons is a conservative political gadfly who stacked the committee with appointed allies after most of the GOP primary-elected members resigned over the past several years in response to Sammons’ chairmanship, which included holding meetings in his basement instead of a public venue. Sammons recently resigned from the panel, apparently on a temporary basis, so he could get a seat on a once-a- decade county Redistricting Commission, which will redraw Council district lines based on the 2020 census. [SEE previous CECIL TIMES report on the commission and Sammons here: ]

If Patchell were to switch his voter registration to “unaffiliated,” at least for the short time period it would take to fill his seat, the Council members would be empowered under the county Charter to pick his replacement on their own. But by Patchell retaining his GOP affiliation, the Central Committee is empowered to submit a list of three nominees to the Council, which then votes on a name from that list. If the Council deadlocks on a choice, then the County Executive would make a selection.

(That’s what happened at the start of Charter government, when former Council member Tari Moore switched to “unaffiliated” from Republican shortly before being sworn in as the first Cecil County Executive in 2012. But the Council deadlocked, 2-2, on its own nominee so Moore was able to pick her own replacement on the Council, and she selected Joyce Bowlsbey, a Republican. [SEE past CECIL TIMES report here: ]

In an interview with CECIL TIMES, Patchell said, “It’s not in my DNA” to switch his long-held Republican party affiliation to ‘unaffiliated’ as he leaves office. He acknowledged that some county residents will be upset by that decision, and the potential political bloodbath that may ensue. But he said his decision was consistent with the path he had traveled throughout his political career, to “vote your own conscience and not be beholden to anybody.”

That credo sums up Patchell’s Council service, and was widely respected among current Council members, who expressed their admiration for Patchell’s honest and calm demeanor on the panel. Fellow council members cited his record as a ‘man of his word’ who could disagree with others on a particular issue without being “disagreeable” or partisan.

“George always had a lot of common sense,” said Council President Bob Meffley (R-1). ”He often had a different perspective” on issues, Meffley added, and “He didn’t just do things to climb the ladder” politically.

While Patchell was often silent at Council meetings and worksessions as issues were thrashed out, when he did weigh in with questions and concerns, especially in past years’ budget deliberations, his observations were given substantial weight by his colleagues.

Councilor Bill Coutz (R-2) commended Patchell’s fundamental “decency” and said he “made every decision based on what was best for Cecil County.”

“We didn’t always agree,” said Councilor Al Miller (R-3). But he said he always respected the fact that Patchell’s decisions were based “on doing what he thought was best for Cecil County.” And “I’ll miss him, Miller said of Patchell, since “his knowledge, experience and honesty were huge.”

Patchell said he would miss the “positive discussions” with his Council colleagues and reflected on the accomplishments of his years in office. He said he was most proud of helping to move the county forward with positive economic and jobs development and educational advances, especially the creation of the School of Technology.

He said “it hurts me personally” when some residents and politicians denigrate the county’s accomplishments and future. “I love Perryville and Cecil County,” he said, and everyone should work together to ensure a positive future.

Patchell was the long-time executive director of the Cecil County YMCA and recently was promoted to the post of regional vice president for the Y on the Eastern Shore, which required frequent travel to Easton and other sites. He will be retiring from the Y to accept the post of Perryville town administrator, replacing the former long-time town administrator Denise Breder. She was credited with the initial contacts with Great Wolf Lodge that led to the venue’s decision to build its largest ever waterpark and resort in Perryville, which recently held its groundbreaking ceremonies.

In that post, Patchell will be stepping into a political hotbed after the recent election of Matt Roath as the town’s mayor. Roath, a member of the extended Hornberger family, defeated the incumbent mayor by a handful of votes. Since taking office, Roath has clashed with several members of the town council, going so far as to demand the resignation of at least one member who disagreed with him on policy issues.

Meanwhile, Cecil County is preparing for three Council seat elections in 2022 that will determine majority control of the panel.. Whoever is appointed to fill the remainder of Patchell’s current term will have to face the voters in the next election, if he or she chooses to run. Two other seats—Coutz’s District 2 seat and Miller’s District 3 seat—will also be on the ballot.

Coutz has not yet filed for re-election, although he is widely expected to seek a second term. Miller filed his paperwork a week ago with the Board of Elections seeking re-election and recently held fundraising events for his campaign.

Bob Gatchel, an actor and occasional GOP activist, has declared on social media his plans to challenge Miller in the GOP primary in District 3. Gatchel created a campaign finance committee in mid-June but has not yet formally posted candidacy papers with the state Board of Elections. He was recently appointed to the local GOP Central Committee to fill a vacant seat after several members resigned over concerns with the leadership of the then-chairman, Vincent Sammons

Miller is seeking re-election from a heavily agricultural district where his family has operated dairy and grain farming operations for multi-generations and he operates an agribusiness. He has been a staunch advocate of ag and land preservation programs, as well as county schools and technology education programs.

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