Efland, Herz to serve 4 more years after uncontested election

CHESTERTOWN — Meghan Efland and Tom Herz will return for another four years on the Chestertown Town Council after the two unchallenged incumbents collectively tallied 28 votes in Tuesday’s municipal election.

The town charter does not allow for write-in votes.

There were no requests for absentee ballots, according to Town Clerk Lynda Thomas.

All that’s left to be done is for the town’s three-member Board of Supervisors of Elections to certify the election, according to Thomas.

In an interview Tuesday night, after the polls had closed, Thomas said she would be reaching out to the elections supervisors on Wednesday.

Herz (Second Ward) and Efland (Fourth Ward) each were elected to a first term in 2019. Herz defeated two-term incumbent Linda Kuiper, while Efland ran unopposed as the successor to Marty Stetson who opted not to seek a fourth term.

This go-round, Herz and Efland both were unopposed.

Herz garnered 13 votes and Efland 15.

The polling place was the Chestertown firehouse, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The last ballot was cast at 7:45 p.m. by a voter in the Second Ward.

According to Thomas, there are 780 registered voters in the Second Ward and 789 in the Fourth Ward.

Unlike some other municipalities in Kent County, Chestertown’s town charter does not speak specifically to uncontested elections.

In Millington and Betterton, for example, there is no election if a race is uncontested.

At Monday night’s regularly scheduled council meeting, during ward reports, Efland said at a future date she would like the council to talk about maybe amending the town charter as it relates to uncontested elections.

She said she already had emailed Town Manager Larry DiRe about this being discussed before the next election.

“It’s a significant cost to the town,” Efland said, guesstimating that the last election’s tab was about $6,000.

In 2021 and again this year, Chestertown contracted with New Jersey-based vendor Electec Election Services.

Mayor David Foster, who was unopposed in his bid for a first full mayoral term in 2021, and Herz both seemed to be amenable to discussing Efland’s concerns at a future meeting.

Councilman Tim O’Brien said he would like a future discussion on adjusting the town’s election schedule to align with the congressional schedules.

Prior to Tuesday’s election, The Evening Enterprise by email asked Herz and Efland what they think the three biggest challenges are for Chestertown in the next four years.

Efland listed aging infrastructure, economic development/smart growth and affordable housing.

Herz did not respond in time to meet The Evening Enterprise’s deadline for pre-election coverage.

In an email Tuesday morning, Herz listed infrastructure enhancements, expanding open spaces and supporting the town’s downtown as priorities for the next term.

He said Chestertown’s growth and prosperity bring with it the responsibility to ensure that the town’s infrastructure can meet current and future demands. A key challenge will be to initiate a series of capital improvements that address this need.

“We are in the process of upgrading our roads, utilities, and are working to make our town’s buildings more energy-efficient. These improvements are critical to maintaining the high quality of life our residents enjoy and to accommodate the growth we are experiencing,” Herz wrote in the email.

He said the complexity lies in managing these upgrades while keeping tax rates unchanged.

“This will require strategic planning, efficient use of resources, and seeking state and federal grants to supplement our budget,” he said.

According to Herz, one of the lessons learned during the pandemic was that preserving and growing open spaces is paramount.

“It is vital for the wellbeing of our families that Chestertown offer safe and enriching outdoor experiences. The challenge here is to balance development with conservation,” he said.

The town’s approach includes partnering with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and Washington College to develop the Chestertown Heritage Trail.

Herz said the town also aims to enhance existing parks and facilities, ensuring they remain attractive and useful for residents of all ages.

He described the town’s downtown area as “our event space,” and said it is the “heart of Chestertown’s community life and economy.”

According to Herz, one of the challenges for the next four years will be to support the downtown area in a manner that sustains its vitality, promotes the Eastern Shore’s heritage and sparks responsible economic development.

He said he intends to encourage local entrepreneurship, assist Main Street Chestertown in completing and implementing the Downtown Strategic Master Plan, and work on attracting investments that align the town’s character and long-term vision.

A software developer and technical project manager, Herz has lived in Chestertown’s Second Ward for 22 years.

Efland has lived in the Fourth Ward since 2014.

She is director of supply chain for PRS Guitars, and will mark 20 years with the Stevensville-based company in May 2024.

In her email reply to The Evening Enterprise, Efland said aging infrastructure is a topic of discussion among many towns “regularly” at the Maryland Municipal League conferences.

“These projects have significant costs, which need to be planned out and budgeted. Examples are road paving, aging town owned buildings, storm water, etc.,” she wrote in the email.

As to economic development and smart growth, Efland noted that the Chestertown Planning Commission is currently updating the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

She said two key questions are: How do we attract new businesses? How do we retain the ones that have made Chestertown their home?

On the issue of affordable housing, Efland wrote in the email: “In the past few years the property values have had significant increases, but we need to make sure there are homes (rental and ownership) available.”

Chestertown has a mayor and four council members. Their four-year terms are staggered.

Chestertown’s council meets the first and third Mondays of each month, beginning at 6 p.m.

The other sitting members of the town government are Councilmembers Tim O’Brien (First Ward) and Jose Medrano (Third Ward) and Mayor David Foster.

 

 

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