Bailey, Foster receive endorsements in First Ward race
CHESTERTOWN — With less than a week to go before the election that will seat two new council members and return incumbent Mayor Chris Cerino to his post, two candidates in the First Ward race have been endorsed by some residents in their ward who wield political clout.
Liz Gross, who announced in July that she would not seek a second term, publicly pledged her support of Owen Bailey in a gettogether Sunday at JR’s Past-Time Pub. She also submitted a letter to the editor of the Kent County News endorsing Bailey, whose mother Margo Bailey was a five-term mayor of Chestertown (1994-2013).
Jim Gatto, who was defeated by Gross in 2013 in his bid for re-election, is stumping for David Foster.
Former mayor Elmer Horsey (1977 to 1993) and his wife Joan and former First Ward councilman Peter Heller (1977 to 1993) also are supporting Foster.
Bob Miller is the other challenger in the First Ward, which has the only contested race in the Nov. 7 election.
Cerino is running unopposed in his bid for a second four-year term as mayor. Ellsworth Tolliver also is unchallenged for the council seat in the Third Ward.
Tolliver succeeds Sam Shoge, who announced this summer that he would not seek re-election because of a potential conflict of interest with his job as the economic development coordinator for Talbot County.
At the same time, Gross said she would step down at the end of her first term due to a family member’s health challenges.
In her letter to the editor, Gross said she was endorsing Bailey, 34, because he has lived in Chestertown for most of his life and has a deep understanding and commitment to the community. Gross said she believes Bailey is someone who will consider all sides of an issue and will work as a team player with the other members of the council and the Town of Chestertown’s staff.
“I believe that Owen Bailey will be open to dialogue and compromise when needed in order to serve the interests of all of our community, but especially those of the First Ward,” Gross wrote in her letter to the editor.
Most importantly to her, Gross said is that there be youth and energy on the town council.
“In interviews with the press last week, all three candidates mentioned the importance of attracting and keeping young families in Chestertown. How better to do that than including this generation in the Town Council? Without such representation, the average age of the Council members will be much closer to 70 than 40 or even 50,” Gross wrote in her letter.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Gatto, who also is a former chairman of the town’s planning commission, said he was supporting Foster, 74, because Foster “has done a fair amount of research on the community and understands the gaps in financial planning, the gaps in physical planning, the gaps in capital improvements and the gaps in open government that have been created over the last couple of years.”
In a joint statement Tuesday, Elmer and Joan Horsey said they were endorsing Foster because “we feel he has been actively involved in many aspects of our community and he has the experience in fiscal matters necessary for the job. We have found him to be a careful listener and he has the time necessary to represent our ward.”
Campaigning for the First Ward has been directed mostly to the Heron Point retirement community, which is where about half of the ward’s 750 registered voters live.
The League of Women Voters sponsored a forum there Wednesday night.
Gross is a resident of Heron Point.
Miller, 64, has lived in Chestertown full time since June 2016, when his wife accepted a job as the nurse practitioner at Heron Point. He has owned his home here since 2013.
A certified public accountant with an office in Chestertown, he has more than 30 years of experience in national and international nonprofits at the senior financial management level.
Foster’s career as an urban planner and civil engineer has taken him across the country and around the globe, until he and his wife returned to Chestertown full time in 2011. They have owned their home here for 20 years.
Home-grown candidate Owen Bailey is the facilities and administrative coordinator for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s Conservation Center in Easton.
Tolliver, 62, said he decided to throw his hat into the ring for the Third Ward seat only after Shoge said he would not run again. He believes it is important to have an African American presence on the council.
Tolliver grew up in Chestertown and is a graduate of Kent County High School. Retired from a career in education, he is now the pastor of Boardly Chapel AME Church in Pondtown.
Cerino, 49, said the main reason he has re-upped is “to try to finish what we started at the waterfront.”
A huge part of the waterfront project is the complete overhaul of the town-owned marina and the construction of an interpretive center that will include retail space and bathrooms.
The marina upgrade — dredging of the basin, a new boat ramp, new bulkheads, finger piers and a raised pedestrian walkway — has been the hallmark of the first term for Cerino, who is vice president of Sultana Education Foundation.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The only polling place is the Chestertown firehouse. Hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
All Chestertown registered voters will be eligible to vote for mayor. Only registered voters in the First Ward will be eligible to vote for the candidates in the First Ward, and only registered voters in the Third Ward will be eligible to vote for the Third Ward.
Information concerning ward boundaries can be found online at www.townofchestertown.com or by calling the town office at 410778-0500.
Forms and information regarding emergency absentee ballots may be obtained by contacting the town office.