Jackie Gregory Wins Split Vote for Cecil County Council President; Meffley Wins VEEP Slot after Gregory Push for Culberson Fails

December 7, 2022


It was the first meeting of the new Cecil County Council, with a 3-2 majority of close political allies of County Executive Danielle Hornberger elected in November, but things didn’t exactly go to plan at the 12/6/2022 worksession. Long moments of silence, accompanied by overheard stage whispers and visible head shakes, thwarted Jackie Gregory’s push to assert full control of the Council by getting herself elected President and ally Donna Culberson as vice president. (Gregory won, Culberson didn’t.)

Gregory was the vice president of the Council and a core advocate during the summer Republican primary campaign of a “slate” of candidates seeking to unseat two fellow GOP incumbents: Bill Coutz in District 2 and Al Miller in District 3. Coutz lost to Rebecca Hamilton in the primary while Miller survived vicious attacks, in glossy flyers financed in part by US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) and Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-35), the spouse of the County Executive. Gregory, whose picture and quotes were displayed on some of the attack flyers, is currently employed as a district aide to Harris and Danielle Hornberger previously held the same job for Harris.

After the elections, with a Hornberger-allied majority, it was a foregone conclusion that Gregory would get herself installed as the new Council President, taking over from the incumbent fellow Republican, Bob Meffley (R-1). But Meffley, aided by Miller, did not go down without a fight.

Culberson, who was appointed to fill a vacant seat a year ago and just won election to the Dist. 4 seat in November, nominated Gregory for Council president and Hamilton seconded the nomination. But Miller made an alternate nomination of Meffley, and Meffley seconded his own nomination. “I think that it is very, very important that the leadership in this Council be experienced people,” Miller said.

Meffley said that he always tried to be “ in the middle of the road” and work constructively with other Council members.

But Gregory won the vote, 3-2, with support from Hamilton and Culberson along with her vote for herself.

Then Gregory nominated Culberson to be vice president of the Council. And the drama began. She couldn’t muster a second supporter for the nomination while Miller put in a rival nomination for Meffley and Meffley seconded his own nomination.

Let’s go to the videotape.

Video live recorded in the ElK Room of the county office building by CECIL TV shows Gregory clearly turning twice toward Hamilton, seated next to her at the raised Council table, and forcefully speaking to her. Sources in the room told Cecil Times they heard two loud stage whispers by Gregory, telling Hamilton to “Second it.” Other sources in the room saw Hamilton shake her head ‘no.’

Culberson could have offered a second to her own nomination but stared into space without speaking. After some loooong moments of silence, with no second in sight or earshot, the only other pending nomination was that of Meffley. Then, when it was called to a vote, Gregory, Culberson and Hamilton bowed to the inevitable and joined Meffley and Miller to vote Meffley in as vice president.

The drama was somewhat surprising, since Hamilton was elected as a fervent member of the “conservative slate” and ardent supporter of the county Republican Women’s Club, of which Gregory is vice president. But since her primary win, Hamilton has been seen in the audience attending a few Council worksessions and, just a few days ago before her swearing in to the Council, she posted on social media about attending a day long conference in Annapolis about rural area issues.

Drama aside, in reality it is the Council president who sets the panel’s agenda and Gregory can be counted upon to be firmly aligned with whatever Hornberger (or the administration’s consigliere and county attorney Lawrence Scott) wants. But Meffley indicated later in the worksession that he will raise public questions about issues—such as demanding a full accounting of county finances and spending policies.

Of course, he raised many of those questions while he was Council president and still got no answers from the Hornberger administration.

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