Hodge looks back on county council tenure
— County Council President Robert Hodge will formally end his tenure on the county council today at noon when Jackie Gregory is sworn in to replace him.
Hodge was first elected in 2008 to a fouryear term as a county commissioner and was re-elected in 2012, transitioning to the county council as the county made the change to charter government.
Hodge, who owns a trailer storage company and a portable restroom company, opted not to seek a third term in order to devote more time to his business operations.
“My business is growing and needs my attention,” Hodge said. “Frankly, I don’t know how I did it for the last eight years. I have many things on my plate.”
Hodge has always taken his public service job very seriously, devoting a lot of time to understanding issues as well as attending meetings and community events.
Before running for office in 2007, Hodge had already been involved in the business community through the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce and the Cecil County Economic Development Commission with a keen eye toward reducing regulations that deter business growth.
Hodge’s legacy includes the distinction of serving on the last board of county commissioners and the first county council in Cecil County’s history.
“From the time I began to start thinking about running for office and the time I actually took office, the economy had tanked,” Hodge said
Helping lead the county through the recession was probably the biggest challenge he faced during his tenure, Hodge said.
“I’m proud that we maintained services and never laid off anyone,” Hodge said. “( Former Gov. Martin O’Malley) took away many of the county revenues to help balance the state budget during that period, making the county’s job even more difficult.”
Hodge gives a lot of credit to conservative financial leadership under Budget Manager Craig Whiteford for keeping the county’s finances stable.
Another big challenge, according to Hodge, was what he calls “O’Malley’s land grab,” referring to O’Malley’s no-growth policies for rural Maryland, such as Plan Maryland.
“O’Malley said his policy was aimed at stopping sprawl and clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay, but he wanted to direct growth to the cities, not rural areas,” Hodge said.
Hodge is also proud that the county has been able to protect property rights during the last eight years, standing against some of the state’s wishes, and he hails the Cecil County School of Technology as one of the top projects accomplished during his tenure.
The new county council had some firsttime duties delegated to it under charter, such as adopting a strategic plan and setting up a policy and procedures manual.
“Charter gave us a whole new day and I think the transition went fairly smoothly,” Hodge said, noting the camaraderie and adherence to Roberts Rules of Order was helpful.
As council president, Hodge felt he had the responsibility to explain proposed legislation and other issues to help the public understand what the government was doing.
“I feel bad about walking away with all of my institutional knowledge, but I’m not going anywhere and am willing to help in any way I can,” he said.
During the transition, Hodge has provide Gregory with lots of information and has made himself available as a resource for her.
“I’ve encouraged her to get involved with Maryland Association of Counties and learn what she can about the state,” he said.
Hodge is also a member of the Business Initiative Committee, which he pushed for in the last weeks of his term.
“I hope we can come up with some ideas to encourage more contracts to go to local businesses,” he said.
In addition to focusing on his private business interests, Hodge said, there’s a good chance he’ll be taking more vacations.