BERLIN — Of the three available positions on the Berlin Mayor and Council, only one is being challenged in the upcoming election.
Consequently, Berlin Mayor Gee Williams has been re-elected as has long-time Berlin Councilman Elroy Brittingham.
Councilwoman Lisa Hall, who represents District II, will have to defend her seat on the council come Oct. 9. Hall is being challenged by 24-year-old Ronald Marney, a Washington Street resident who was the only non-incumbent candidate to file for the election before the deadline, which was Monday at 5 p.m.
While Marney said that he is overall satisfied with the direction town leadership is steering Berlin, he admitted that he thinks a new set of eyes and ideas would benefit the council.
“I’d like to offer the town my services,” said Marney.
One of the pet projects that Marney is interested in pursuing is one that most people in Berlin have become unhappily familiar with, especially in the last month or so — stormwater.
“I’d really like to see Berlin flooding issues resolved,” he said.
Marney acknowledged that the town is already doing a lot of work to set-up a long-term fix for stormwater-related issues in Berlin. However, he asserted that immediate steps also need to be taken to alleviate flooding.
“Long-term plans don’t help people now,” said Marney.
If elected, he said that one of his early goals is to push to have ditches re-graded around town in an attempt to provide short-term relief from potential future flooding.
A Berlin native who has also spent time living across the bay, Marney graduated from Stephen Decatur High School (SDHS) in 2006 and went on to pursue a degree in Planning and Zoning, doing his undergraduate study at Salisbury University and receiving his Masters at the University of Nebraska. He has served for several years as a volunteer within Berlin’s own Planning and Zoning Department.
Despite his desire to spark some change in town, Marney reiterated that he is supportive of the direction Berlin is heading.
“I’m very happy with Berlin,” he said. “I’m a long-term resident. I love my town.”
After learning Monday that he is unopposed, Williams said this week that only having one of the three available positions challenged didn’t surprise him.
“I don’t read a lot into it,” he said, adding that the lack of public interest in office doesn’t seem to be a blanket approval of town policy or extreme apathy on the part of residents.
Instead, Williams joked that the vast majority of people “have better sense” than to get into politics, especially at a small town level where every constituent is also a neighbor. Also, he mentioned the drag that the office can have on a typical schedule.
“It is demanding in terms of time, energy and time spent away from your family,” said Williams, who was first elected as a councilman in 2003 and was appointed mayor in May of 2008 after then-Mayor Tom Cardinale’s death. Williams then secured his first full-term as mayor in the fall of 2008.
Williams did point out that if there was “widespread dissatisfaction” with town leadership then the open mayor’s seat would almost definitely have been strongly contested.
While Williams said he’s glad to see someone young and fresh running for office in Berlin, he revealed the desire to see incumbent Lisa Hall retain her seat. “I do hope the voters of Berlin return the entire town council to office,” he said, elaborating by saying that the council is “in the middle of a lot of work” at this time.
It should be noted that stormwater is also one of the biggest issues Williams is running on, with the often repeated intention of looking into a town-wide Stormwater Utility, a process he hopes to get rolling this fall when the results of a University of Maryland stormwater study on Berlin are expected to be revealed.
The third position on the council available this fall is that of District III, where like Williams, incumbent Elroy Brittingham will also run unopposed. Brittingham has served on the council for 24 years with another four on the way.
Berlin’s election will take place on Oct. 9 and the polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.