Hodge looks back on county coun­cil ten­ure

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CHERYL MATTIX

ELKTON

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.

HODGE

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