Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Former County Commissioner Sonny Bloxom will be taking over as the county attorney next year.

Ed Hammond’s retirement will mark the end of an era in Snow Hill. The longtime Berlin resident, never shy about expressing his thoughts on any given day, was more than simply the county’s advisor on legal issues. In the days there were five commissioners, he was often referred to as the “sixth commissioner.” Now, that there’s seven commissioners in office, thanks to a complicated redistricting process, that moniker has been altered to the “eighth commissioner.” Combine his unique personality with three decades of being the county attorney and it’s no wonder some found him to be more involved in policy and making decisions than perhaps the position suggested. That’s contrary to most solicitor positions. In most governments, such as Ocean City and Berlin, the hired attorneys speak when spoken to and when information and advice is requested of them. Otherwise, they are not overly involved in the regular meetings. That’s not the case with Hammond. However, in most cases, it’s worth pointing out he knew more about the issues and the background than the commissioners who have come and gone over the years. That’s why he often chimes in with sidebar comments on the issues being discussed.

His replacement, Bloxom, a long-time commissioner who stepped down from office to take an unsuccessful shot at state delegate last year, will likely fall into that category as well. Bloxom has far more legislative experience than a majority of the board. One aspect that may separate the two attorneys could be how they deal with the media. Hammond has always seemed to have a general disdain for the media (or maybe it was just this newspaper). There were times when he was cordial, but more commonly he seemed annoyed by phone calls from the press, suggesting on more than one occasion a reporter’s call was simply for “free legal advice,” which was always good for a laugh.

Although he was not the most convivial of folks at times, there’s no doubting Hammond’s knowledge of government, his familiarity with 30-plus years of issues and his influence in the county. It will be interesting to observe the transition over the next couple months.

Although slots is a controversial issue, there should be no mistaking organized gambling is already a huge player in the state. Although slots would represent a huge expansion of the industry, it’s a misconception for people to think the state does not already depend heavily on gambling to fund government operations. For years, the gambling found on every street corner in the state has been big bucks for Maryland. It appears it’s only growing. In a letter to the governor this week, Comptroller Peter Franchot reported gambling revenue is booming, despite all the woes with the current economy. With December’s numbers obviously still out, the comptroller reported lottery sales are up 12 percent. Specifically, ticket sales for Mega Millions are up 60 percent and 27 percent for the Instant games.

The Berlin Lions Club presented the 37th edition of the Berlin Christmas Parade last Thursday. The parade is as popular as ever with a long line of entrants and huge crowds flocking to the town for the event. It’s always a huge event for Berlin, but this year seemed different. It marks the first year that The Globe, Atlantic Hotel (Solstice) and Rayne’s Reef have been up and running under their new ownerships for the parade. Over the years, what this event has become is a locals’ party, making the parade the secondary attraction, and these establishments reap the rewards, but also deserve credit for the advanced preparations that went into making the event special. They did not simply sit back and expect the crowds, which are inevitable on parade night each year, much like Arts Night in the fall. Both the Hotel and the Globe had refreshments, for all ages, and food available for purchase outside and offered special attractions inside. The Globe even had portable heaters set up for those who could not fit inside. The Berlin Christmas Parade is a tradition in and of itself, but with the revived spirit of these business people and others, it’s taking on a new life.

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