This week marks the conclusion of 30 years of representing Worcester County for Bud Church. After serving 10 years as a then-appointed member of the Worcester County Board of Education, including eight years as president, and then focusing on his real estate business for many years, Church decided to join elected political life when he ran in 2002 for the newly revamped District 3 commissioner seat. The district, which largely consists of West Ocean City and Berlin, was created after a major redistricting effort in 2000 that expanded the commissioners from five members to seven as a result of the county’s population growth. The redistricting also gave Ocean Pines its own commissioner with the District 5 seat. As commissioner, Church served as president of the board for five years, 2009-2014.
Church was recognized by his peers at the commissioners meeting Tuesday as well as at the Board of Education meeting. Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor remarked Church signed his certificate of tenure while he was a teacher in the county. He said, “This is the one public servant, from the board of education to 20 years as a county commissioner, who has always supported public education in Worcester County. … He’s always been there, and he’s always had that focus in his public service that if it’s good for kids we’re going to take a look at it.”
Church has served five terms in Snow Hill and each election has been fairly smooth ride. The hardest win came during the first District 3 election after the redistricting in 2002 when he secured 56% of the vote, defeating Susan Wenzlaff, a former school board, 1,668 to 1,312. In 2018, he won 65% of the vote; in 2014, 71%; 2010, unopposed; and in 2006, 59%. It got easier for him as he served, which should serve as votes of confidence for Church for the representation he provided over his career.
After a private meeting with the Ocean Pines Association about renaming of the community’s skate park for her fallen son, Tiffany Knupp went to Facebook to express her disappointment, setting up an online back-and-forth between the OPA and the Justice For Gavin group. The Knupp family has requested in exchange for funding commitments to better the facility the park be named after her 14-year-old son, an avid user of the park who died in a July hit-and-run collision. No charges have been filed in the tragedy as of Thursday.
“I have been working with board members since August trying to get the votes for the renaming of the skate park that was verbally promised to me from the beginning. Lengthy discussions have led to the conclusion that the vote will not happen due to the relationships with the Matt Ortt Companies. I know this is true, and so does the board,” Knupp wrote on Facebook. “ … I expressed again how we simply want to give back to our community and support the skate park for years to come. The HOA could care less about that section of the park and it shows. It’s an eye sore and they have absolutely no future plans to change it. They offered an “annual award” in Gavin’s memory. In the same breath asked that I make a public statement so that the media would back off. What is an award going to do in the long overdue improvements that the skate park needs? How is an award going to bring the skate community and families together? Your award will not shut us up. We will honor Gavin and make positive changes in our community but it will not be in OP. You as board members have tarnished our love for this neighborhood and our home. You have made me fight for this skatepark during the hardest months of my life. I’m tired. … As a community we deserve better. … You have won. I hope you continue to watch as we contribute as much as we can to our absolutely amazing community. All around the outside borders of OP. You have not done your neighbors justice and I’m sure will continue to do to what’s best for you, not us. Please kindly take the meaningless award and shove it up you’re a—”
The OPA Board issued the following response: “… At a meeting held on Monday afternoon with Mrs. Knupp and OPA Directors Colette Horn and Doug Parks, a discussion was had regarding the request for renaming the skate park. Mrs. Knupp held true to her desire for it to be renamed, but added that she had heard the Board was not in full agreement to support the request at this time. Directors Horn and Parks presented the idea of an annual award in Gavin Knupp’s name that would be presented each year at the annual meeting in the same manner as the annual Sam Wilkerson award. The Directors promoted the idea of a partnership with the foundation she and her team created, and that the foundation would drive the selection criteria and details for the award. Mrs. Knupp agreed that it was a good idea and supported the notion that as an annual award her son’s name and legacy would be preserved over time. At the conclusion of the meeting, she agreed that a motion for the annual award be put on the agenda for the upcoming board meeting, then hugged Director Horn and shook hands with Director Parks as she left. We felt that an agreement by all parties had been made at that point.”
The OPA statement continued, “… the business relationship that the Association has with the Matt Ortt company has nothing to do with a decision to rename the skate park … Nothing could be further from the truth, as the Matt Ortt company does not oppose the renaming of the skatepark and has informed Ocean Pines on more than one occasion. … the Board concludes that Mrs. Knupp is not interested in the award concept that she agreed to at the meeting on Monday. However, should she reconsider the issue at some point in the future, the Board is open to reconsider the idea of an annual award in her son’s name.”