SALISBURY – Months after calling into question the hiring of a county lobbyist, officials this week received their first update on the lobbyist’s efforts.
On Tuesday, Assistant Director of Administration Weston Young presented the Wicomico County Council with an update on efforts taken by the county’s new lobbyist since his hiring last June.
“We’ve contracted with State and Local Advisors to assist us with our interests at the state and federal level,” he said. “This provides us a permanent presence in Annapolis.”
Last fall, the council held a work session with representatives of the Wicomico County Executive’s Office after learning that the county had hired lobbyist Paul Ellington of State and Local Advisors earlier in the summer. At that meeting, officials questioned the administration’s reasoning for hiring the lobbyist and spending $30,000 upfront for his services.
“We have several things we need to get through …,” County Executive Bob Culver told the council in October. “He can open doors we can’t open.”
Back on the agenda this week, Young highlighted Ellington’s efforts in Annapolis during the current session of the Maryland General Assembly. He noted that the lobbyist has focused on legislation and funding related to the airport, Wicomico River maintenance dredging and several capital projects, including Field 7.5 at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex.
“He’s using his existing contacts and relationships and making our time in Annapolis much more efficient,” he said. “We have a few bills this year that threaten some of our revenue sources and we’re working to counter those, especially in light of Kirwan.”
Council members this week, however, questioned Ellington’s effectiveness.
Councilman Joe Holloway said Ellington’s services include promoting the interests of both the legislative and executive branches in Wicomico County. But he noted that the council had yet to receive communication from Ellington himself.
“We’ve never seen him, had any emails from him or had any updates on what he’s done other than what you’ve done today,” he said.
Holloway also questioned the justification for spending $30,000 for Ellington’s services.
“One of the harder things to conceptualize with a lobbyist is you won’t always have instant results …,” Young replied. “There’s a lot of work that goes into that, so it’s not a defined product in the end besides representing us and helping us in getting our initiatives put forward.”
When asked if Ellington’s contract would be renewed later this year, Young said officials haven’t yet discussed the issue.
“I’m confident we’ll have a very positive return on investment for what he’s been doing,” he said.
Young added that he wanted to seek the council’s support and input in the future.
“A few minutes ago, you said you wanted our buy-in, and I agree with that,” Council President Larry Dodd said. “I think we can accomplish a lot more if we’re all on the same page. We need to work together while it’s going on, not after the fact. When it comes to issues our council is facing, our county is facing, this is about as low on the bar as it gets. Nonetheless, it’s worth talking about.”