Wicomico Council Debates Charter Commission Agenda

SALISBURY – An unexpected whirlwind of emotions were displayed during this week’s Wicomico County Council meeting as officials discussed the new Charter Commission’s agenda.

In July, the council requested names be submitted by those who were interested to serve on a Charter Commission. The commission’s responsibility will be to review the County Charter, which was adopted in 2004, and recommend any amendments to the council before the next election.

Once the council reviewed the list of nominees and made a few change changes, which finalized the list to 13 names, a couple suggestions were made to add to the charter commission’s list of items to discuss.

Councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes asked if whether the requirements to be a county council member should include a minimum of education level, such as a high school diploma, could be added to the commission’s list of considerations.

“One of the things that come to mind … is somebody’s qualification and whether or not they are suitable for the position,” Sample-Hughes said. “I say that because we make very stern decisions, decisions that impact a lot of citizens in this county.”

Councilwoman Stevie Prettyman felt that setting such qualifications would set back the county’s level of democracy.

“That is up to the voter whether or not to vote that person in,” she said. “I don’t want to be the judge of whether somebody is intelligent because I know a lot of people … they dropped out of school and they have made a career for themselves.”

Sample-Hughes accused her co-members of taking her suggestion personally. Council Vice President Joe Holloway said he couldn’t help but take it personally.

“There is only person that hasn’t graduated from high school on this council, and I’m it,” he said. “I’ll admit it and I’m not proud of it … I can tell you one thing, I have gained a lot more lessons in life than a lot of people on this council through hard work.”

Council President Gail Bartkovich broke it up by explaining that every member is entitled to add a question to the Charter Commission’s list of items to review.

“The voters have the final say on all of this,” she said. “We may not like what they propose but that is not our final decision to make.”

Bartkovich added her own question to the list, and that is for the commission to consider the requirement of elected official’s residency.

“We’ll see what comes out of the committee,” she said.

The county council also gave an update this week on the process of the county changing to an elected school board.

“This resolution asks for one question on the ballot to the voters of Wicomico County and that would be ‘do we want to change to an elected school board’,” she said. “It would be a straw poll so it would not be bonding.”

If the resolution passes through the state’s representatives, it will return to the county council to create a second legislation to establish the details of the proposed elected school board.

“This question that goes to Annapolis right now for a strictly non-binding, straw poll, it is an opinion of the voters of Wicomico County and would need a lot of detail work in the next step,” Bartkovich said.

The council came to a consensus that the resolution will be re-submitted in its original format, which explained the current school board’s members are appointed by the governor and the county council has received numerous requests to have the members to be elected into the board, and that the citizens of Wicomico County will have the option to vote in a “straw poll” to submit their own opinion.