SALISBURY — The Wicomico County Council this week reluctantly approved the appointments of nine key department head positions after a discussion to table the actions in order to wait for County Executive Richard Pollitt’s much anticipated restructuring plan.
Earlier this summer, 44 Wicomico employees took advantage of the county’s early retirement incentive plan and left their respective positions on July 1. In the wake of the mass exodus, which included several department heads, Pollitt proposed a major restructuring of government including the elimination of certain positions and the reconfiguring of others in the interest of cost-saving.
While awaiting Pollitt’s proposed restructuring plan, the County Council on Tuesday had before it for approval the appointments of nine department heads including many positions occupied by acting directors. However, some on the council wanted to table the approval of the appointments until the restructuring plan was revealed.
“We’re waiting for the reorganization of our county government by Mr. Pollitt,” said Councilman Bob Culver. “My feeling is we should put this off for now and do all of this at one time.”
However, acting Director of Administration Sharon Morris explained the appointments were proceeding on a separate but parallel track from the reorganization plan.
“The confirmation of the department heads is not part of the reorganization plan,” she said. “None of these positions before you today have anything to do with Mr. Pollitt’s reorganization plan.”
However, a clearly divided council could not immediately come to terms with approving the appointments before their respective roles were defined.
“I tend to agree,” said Councilman Joe Holloway. “We’ve heard about this reorganization plan since the budget process, which has been a long time ago now.”
Others, however, said it made perfect sense to put the department heads in place in advance of the reorganization.
“The leadership needs to be in place during that process,” said Councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes. “We need leaders in place making those decisions. I think we need to get our leaders in place and we need to vote on this today in the interest of continuity.”
Councilwoman Stevie Prettyman agreed the department head appointments and the restructuring plan were separate issues.
“I would prefer we act on this today,” she said. “I think what we’re trying to do is mix up two things that are separate. Do you want to turn back the clock today? The reorganization has nothing to do with what we have in front of us today.”
Council President Gail Bartkovich said delaying the appointments could run the elected officials afoul of the charter, which includes specific language on the timetable for replacing department heads.
With that said, Culver made a motion to table the appointments, which failed by a 3-2 vote. As a result, the council approved the nine department head appointments before them, including Robert Bryant, General Manager of the Salisbury-Ocean City Regional Airport; George Kaloroumakis, Director for the Department of Corrections; Edgar Baker, County Attorney; David Shipley, Director of Emergency Services; Andrew Mackel, Director of Finance; Raymond Micciche, Director of Information Technology; Mary Schwartz. Director of the Wicomico Nursing Home; John Lenox, Director of Planning, Zoning and Community Development; and Gary Mackes, Director of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.