Election Preview: District 5 Incumbent Faces Challenger

Election Preview: District 5 Incumbent Faces Challenger

Chip Bertino

BERLIN – Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino hopes to build on the success of his first four years in office if voters re-elect him this fall.

Bertino, who represents District 5, faces democratic challenger Judy Butler in November’s election. He’s eager to use the experience he’s gained during his first term to continue working on the county’s behalf, a job he loves.

“I feel very blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “The community gave me a great gift four years ago by electing me. I’ve done my very best to say thank you by working hard, being effective and responsive. I’d hate for them to want to exchange their gift come November.”

Bertino, a longtime Ocean Pines resident, spent decades in the newspaper publishing business before deciding to run for the commissioner seat held by Judy Boggs.

“I had been covering the county commissioner meetings for a lot of years and always had an interest in serving the community,” Bertino said. “When Judy Boggs announced that she was retiring it seemed like the time to make a move.”

One of Bertino’s top priorities as a commissioner is ensuring that county leadership has a good relationship with school system officials.

“I think we have had tremendous success over the past four years and I want to make sure that continues,” he said.

Bertino pointed to the cost of the new Showell Elementary School, which was initially estimated at close to $60 million. Bertino said that by working with Superintendent Lou Taylor and school board officials, he and Commissioner Jim Bunting were able to help decrease the cost.

“We were able to effect some very positive change that saved millions of dollars not just in the cost of construction, which is about $47 million, but also the debt that we’re going to have going forward,” he said. “We’re going to be bonding that in January I believe and the interest payments and whatnot are down, which enables us to be able to do other things with that money. I’m very proud of that. To me that’s a high point during the past four years.”

Bertino believes another key issue for the county is the rising cost of OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits). He said that even though the county was in better shape than some entities, there was still a ways to go.

“If we do not take action on that particular issue in the near future, in 10 years or so we could be in real financial dire straits,” he said. “It could become a crushing obligation. Steps we take now can offset that. Fortunately the economy’s doing better here in the county and across the state. We’re seeing more tax dollar revenues coming in and it’s an opportunity for us to make those decisions to fund that properly.”

Another focus for Bertino is the concept of limited government.

“I want to ensure going forward that we continue to limit the role of county government,” he said. “When things are going well it’s very easy to spend taxpayer money because it’s there. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean we need to spend it. If we are going to spend it, I think we need to be spending it on things that have a permanence within the community.”

He said new schools, for example, were worthwhile causes.

“I’d like to see us put money into those improvements because they have a lasting impact and I believe make for a much better educational experience for both students and teachers,” he said.

When asked why he was the best candidate for the District 5 commissioner seat, Bertino referenced his experience. He said that after his years of reporting on the commissioners’ meetings for the newspaper and then through serving on the board for four years he’d learned the ins and outs of county government.

“I’ve learned an awful lot,” he said. “It’s a position in which you evolve. You don’t have all the answers going in and I don’t have all the answers now after four years. I doubt in another four years I’ll have all the answers but what I will have is more experience of what works and what doesn’t work, a better understanding the nuances of a particular issue, what the ramifications are of not just an issue but a decision that’s made. That is something that’s learned by doing. I feel that I bring that to the table.”

He said he was also committed to continuing to host town meetings, which give him a chance to share news with constituents and to feature guest speakers.

“I believe strongly that as a county commissioner it’s my responsibility to articulate and demonstrate to the taxpayers what they’re paying for,” he said. “County government should not be some monolithic entity that is misunderstood or not understood or not able to be impacted.”


Judy Butler

Candidate Judy Butler wants to bring a lifetime of problem-solving experience and dedication to serving the community to the board of county commissioners.

Butler seeks election to the District 5 Worcester County Commissioners seat. The democrat faces incumbent Commissioner Chip Bertino in this November’s election.

“I believe that I can make a difference,” she said.

Butler, who moved to Ocean Pines from Howard County a decade ago, is a retired scientist. During her career she managed clinical medical laboratories and trained medical personnel. She also volunteered extensively with Howard County’s PTA. Since moving to the Eastern Shore, Butler has been active on various Ocean Pines committees and volunteers at Diakonia’s thrift store and the Rackliffe House. Her desire to serve the community is what prompted her to run for commissioner.

“I’ve always been active in service to the community,” she said. “I just felt a need to have another voice present themselves for the election.”

Among her key concerns are the environment and education. She pointed out the county didn’t have a resiliency plan.

“I believe that this county has a very important role to play in protecting this environment,” she said. “I know that we need a resiliency plan for this county. As sea level rises and climate changes we need to know how to help preserve our coastline.”

Butler said the condition of the coastal bays was improving but that work still needed to be done.

“We need to pay attention to what will impact them negatively,” she said. “I know we are a right to farm community and that’s wonderful and I believe in our farming, our agricultural businesses, but we also need to be smart about how we impact our waterways.”

Butler said she had long been an advocate for education.

“Right now I believe that our next step in aiding our youth to face the 21st century is to give them two years of free schooling—technical training, community college—beyond the 12 years.”

She said the state was already moving in that direction and that the county would have to facilitate that change. While some students might want additional academic schooling, others she believes will want technical training. Butler doesn’t believe the county’s technical high school is being used to its full potential.

“We should be using our technical school,” she said. “I think it’s underused right now. The youth, we’ve got to keep them here. We are a graying area. Actually, the whole Eastern Shore is graying. Our young people, we need to keep them here and to give them sustainable jobs.”

She believes Worcester County could offer a variety of sustainable jobs in solar, wind, software development and the like.

“I think county government can play a role in that,” she said.

Butler added, however, that broadband was an issue linked to economic development.

“There’s such a need,” she said. “Worcester County has the second lowest wages in the state. We need to look at 21st century jobs. We can’t hope to encourage businesses to come to the county without infrastructure. A key part of that infrastructure is high speed internet.”

As an Ocean Pines resident, Butler said another focus for her is the condition of Route 589. She said the road provided access to the largest community in the county.

“The time has come to widen Route 589,” she said. “For years and years and years there has been a drawing on the board for a dual lane boulevard with bicycle lanes. It just has to be done. We have to lobby until we can get there because there’s just too many people that that small stretch of road impacts.”

A related issue Butler wants to explore is public transportation. She said Shore Transit was the only service available to local residents.

“We have a lot of seniors in Ocean Pines who really could benefit from public transportation,” she said. “As time goes on we need to look at how we can bring that to them.”

When asked why she was the best candidate for the District 5 seat, Butler said she’d spent years assessing problems and solving problems as a scientist. She said she’d also done extensive study on working with people and mediation.

“I think that it’s time for balance on the board,” she said. “Another woman’s voice would be very helpful… I care. I listen. I would understand what is important to the people and respond to them.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.