BERLIN- Berlin Town council member Ellen Lang was elected Vice President of the Council at the first town meeting since Mayor Tom Cardinale passed away unexpectedly on May 3.
The meeting convened with a prayer of remembrances for Mayor Tom, as the Town Council called him, before Interim Mayor Gee Williams read a statement.
“Although we recognize that we are a community family in mourning, we also have an obligation to each other to carry on with the business of our town, to address the needs and concerns of the thousands of beating hearts who remain, and to prepare for those who will join Berlin in the years ahead,” Williams said. “I want to assure you that the responsibilities and services you expect of the town of Berlin will not suffer during this time of transition. The business of the town will not be slowed or stagnated by the untimely death of Mayor Cardinale.”
With the mayoral spot up for election in the fall, Berlin will not hold a special election for Mayor. Town Council Vice President Gee Williams will serve as interim Mayor.
“That special election is not necessary if the next scheduled general election is within six months,” said town attorney Dave Gaskill.
Instead, the town will transition with Williams at the helm. “This allows for an orderly transition,” Williams said. “All business that can be completed and done will be done officially and as soon as possible.”
Williams, the Director of Development and Marketing for the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, has adjusted his work schedule to handle Mayoral duties. “I’ve realigned my hours working there so I can be available for office hours here every Friday afternoon,” Williams said.
With the interim Mayor working in Salisbury, the town needed a Council vice president available in Berlin during the work week for immediate decisions and signatures, he said.
“Given those parameters, I would nominate Ellen. She’d be easily available,” said Councilmember Paula Lynch. Councilmember Ellen Lang works in Berlin.
However, the decision was not an easy one. “I nominate Dean Burrell,” Councilmember Elroy Brittingham said.
The vote was split, with Lang receiving two votes, from herself and Lynch, and Burrell receiving two votes, from himself and Brittingham.
“We have a 2-2 vote,” said Williams. “This is a very good example of how this arrangement would work in the next few months. I don’t vote unless there is a tie.”
The Town Council rarely has a tie vote because it has five members, but with Williams stepping into the Mayor’s spot, the Council is reduced to four. The Town Council usually votes unanimously, however, so Williams may not be called on break many ties.
“I know that Dean works in Salisbury like I do, and Councilman Brittingham works in Bethany Beach in the summer months,” Williams said. “They both have my full confidence and hopefully continued friendship. I therefore cast my vote for Councilwoman Ellen Lang.”
Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary said there have been no problems during the changeover. “It seems like it’s going to work out fine,” said Bambary. “The transition is going along smoothly.”
Lang will be easily accessible to execute documents, she said, and they have worked out communication channels to keep the information flowing between the town and interim Mayor despite his restricted presence at Berlin Town Hall.
The work of the town is getting done despite Mayor Cardinale’s death because the staff has not changed, she said.
Several of the projects and initiatives that began or progressed during Cardinale’s tenure came up before the Town Council Monday night, including the wastewater plant expansion, affordable housing, and stormwater flooding.