Kilby Files as Write-in Rival to Culberson in Cecil Co Council Race; Ex-Co Commissioner Challenges Hornberger “Mismanagement”

August 25, 2022

Phyllis Kilby, an eight-year veteran of the Cecil County Board of Commissioners and a leader in farm and civic groups, has filed with the Board of Elections (BOE) as a write-in candidate for the County Council seat now held by Donna Culberson (R-4), who was appointed to her seat last year and recently won the Republican nomination for the November general election.

Kilby faces an uphill fight, since her name will not appear on the printed ballot presented to voters. Instead, she will have to convince voters to write-in her name on the correct line for the District 4 Council race. By filing her write-in candidacy with the BOE, with required financial disclosures and campaign committee documentation, her write-in votes will be counted by the Board of Elections. Write-in votes for people who have not gone through the paperwork hoops of the BOE are not counted.

Kilby ran and won two terms for Commissioner as a Democrat, at a time when the Democrats held a majority party registration in the county, but Republicans currently hold a registration majority. Now, she is running as an “unaffiliated” or independent candidate, because, “I feel the problems facing our county require us all to work together,” she said in a statement announcing her candidacy.

Local Democrats did not nominate anyone for the County Council in their own party primary this year, leaving voters with just a Republican nominee for the three Council races on the ballot for the November general election. For years, local Democrats have failed to nominate any candidates for local offices, except for the county executive race in 2020 and 2016.

Write-in candidacies have had a minimal chance of success across the nation. But a historic come-from-behind write-in victory was achieved in 2010 by US Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). She lost a GOP primary election to a “Tea Party” ultra-conservative. But she waged a spirited comeback campaign as a general election write-in candidate, receiving overwhelming support from Native Alaskans who comprise about a third of the state’s population. Remote tribal villagers wore wrist bracelets with Murkowski’s name on them and propelled her to victory. To this day, she wears a gold-plated version of the bracelet to remind her of the grassroots supporters who propelled her to victory.

Kilby and her family are longtime dairy farmers and land preservation advocates in the county. They also created Kilby Cream, an ice cream and milk sales and delivery business, on their farm in Colora. The family sold the cows and ice cream business to relatives several years ago but retain ownership of the farmland which has been placed in permanent preservation easements. The farmland also hosts an anerobic digester, one of the first recycling devices of its type in the state, to convert cow waste and food waste into energy that powers electricity for the farm.

In recent years, Kilby has served as a volunteer member of the county’s library board of directors.

In announcing her candidacy on Thursday (8/25/2022) at her Colora farm, Kilby condemned the administration of County Executive Danielle Hornberger (R) and the role that fellow Republican Donna Culberson has played on the County Council to rubberstamp Hornberger policies.

“I am tired of the mismanagement and lack of transparency from the (Hornberger) Administration” and Culberson on the County Council., Kilby said. One of the Council’s main functions is to provide checks and balances to the County Executive and their administration,” Kilby said. “This past year has shown that Mrs. Culberson will continue to be a rubber stamp for whatever the County Executive wants.

Kilby emphasized the Hornberger administration’s mistreatment of law enforcement officers, saying, “How was it ethical to strip our Sheriff’s deputies of their pay parity clause just prior to awarding substantial pay increases to select administration employees? This happened as our Sheriff’s department was suffering from intense understaffing issues, a major concern for public safety.”

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report on the Hornberger administration’s treatment of Deputies and their contract negotiations here: ]

Kilby also criticized how “our award winning, highly transparent, county finance office [was] stripped of its key employees, at a time when our citizens were facing many Covid related financial unknowns…” Hornberger installed an Annapolis political operative, James Appel, who had no previous local government financial experience, as the county’s finance director. He only shows up to work in Elkton four days a week, or less, and has been largely absent for the past several months while he also earns over $41,000 a year from political consulting work for Republican candidates around the state. {SEE previous CECCIL TIMES report here: ]

In addition, Kilby said, “Permits and application processing times for citizens’ needs are at all-time highs.“ The County Council has recently held several discussions on the current multi-months long delays in getting needed inspections for permits to build or renovate properties in the county.

Culberson, a bill collections manager for local nursing homes and health facilities, has been a fully compliant backer of anything Hornberger and her chief Council ally, Jackie Gregory (R-5), want. Culberson has also staked out a position as a frequent questioner at Council meetings. Most of her aggressive questions show how little she knows about county government or basic legal frameworks for government and her propensity for blaming others for her failure to conduct basic research on county or state laws and procedures.

One of Culberson’s legendary uninformed questions came when county library executives mentioned how successful the small business librarian had been in supporting development of new small businesses in the county. “Why didn’t I know that,” Culberson asked, suggesting that the library was hiding the small business services from her. In fact, the county library won widely publicized national and state awards that specifically cited services to small business and multiple small business operators have testified before the Council about how the library helped them.

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