Betterton voters to elect mayor, 3 council members
BETTERTON — Wayne Gilchrest thought he was finished with politics after 18 years on Capitol Hill.
But here he is, a former nine-term U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 1st District seeking a seat on the Betterton council.
Gilchrest was sworn in Aug. 14 as the appointee to fill the seat vacated when Ed Zellers resigned in July.
Per town charter, Gilchrest is required to stand for election at the next election — even though Zellers’ term does not expire until 2020.
He is one of four candidates for three seats in Saturday’s municipal election. The others are Brandon Onheiser and incumbents Harry Marcy and Bob Pyfer.
“This is temporary. I’m not making a career out of the town council,” Gilchrest said in a telephone interview Sunday.
He has a full-time job as the director of the Sassafras Environmental Education Center at Turners Creek, a position he has held since 2010.
But a lot of the front-burner issues facing Betterton — stormwater management, erosion control, safe drinking water and getting a new sewage treatment plant online — are coincidentally priorities for Gilchrest. And he has experience dealing with relevant government entities such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment.
It was an easy sell to lure him back into public service, even if it’s only for a couple of years.
“For a time I can be of assistance to the town council,” Gilchrest said.
He has aligned himself with Donny Sutton, who is seeking a second four-year term as mayor, Marcy and Pyfer in a campaign flyer that has been circulated throughout the town.
“The mayor has been doing a good job staying abreast of issues. … The town has done a good job of securing grant money amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Gilchrest said in the phone interview.
His personal investment in Betterton is long term.
“There are lots of young people in the town, many of them went to school with my children. I want to energize a new generation to become active in local government,” said Gilchrest, channeling his former Kent County High School civics teacher persona.
Town hall is the polling place for Saturday’s election; the hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Onheiser is the self-described outsider in the fourman council race.
He moved from Baltimore City to Betterton seven years ago, drawn to the area because of the slower pace, less congestion and rich history.
“I was tired of the city life,” he said in a phone interview Sunday.
Onheiser is self employed as a jewelry maker and craftsperson.
This is his first bid for elected office. He said he was a campaign volunteer in Baltimore in 2004 for Jim Kraft, who won a seat on the city council that year and served until 2016.
Onheiser said he is devoted to his adopted hometown, which is one of the reasons he has thrown his hat into the ring here.
He is married to mayoral candidate Kenneth Traynor.
Onheiser and Traynor have said in separate interviews that they believe the current office holders have shown favoritism to their friends.
“I like to treat everyone equal and I do not feel that is happening,” Onheiser said Sunday.
He doesn’t think it proper that incumbent Marcy has spent time out of state during the last couple of winters.
“How can he get anything done when he’s away?” Onheiser asked rhetorically.
Marcy, seeking a second term, acknowledged that he had missed some council meetings due to travel.
The town in 2017 adopted a teleconferencing system that makes it possible to “dial in” during the meetings.
“Through telephone, texting and emails I have been working for the town, so I have never been too far away,” Marcy wrote in an email Sunday.
He said he has no travel plans for this winter.
A Pennsylvania native, Marcy moved to Betterton full time in 2012 after retiring from his dentistry practice.
He purchased his home on Idlewhile Avenue in 1999 and had been coming here part time since then.
“Betterton is a great little town with wonderful people,” Marcy said in his email.
He added: “We have a skilled, competent team in place poised to effect unprecedented improvements to our infrastructure. What we have planned is only the beginning. With the challenges of the requirements of utilizing the grant monies, it is not the time to change the team who will be building out these projects. … I am very proud of what we have accomplished for Betterton. We have more to do.”
Pyfer is seeking election to an eighth term. He said his top priority is updating the town’s sewer and water services.
He has lived in the same house on Third Avenue for 50 years, raising a son and two daughters there.
In that time he has had two careers — 30 years as an industrial mechanic for Chrysler at its Newark, Del., plant and 20 years as a tractor-trailer driver for David A. Bramble Inc..
Pyfer said he attended the council meetings before he was elected because he’s “always been interested in what was going on” and had a “vested interest.”
He described his long tenure as an elected official as fulfilling and enjoyable.
In addition to the council race, incumbent Donny Sutton is being challenged by Kenneth Traynor for mayor.
Sutton won election in 2014 in a two-man race as the successor to longtime mayor Carolyn Sorge.
Prior to that, he served 24 years on the council.
Sutton is a Chestertown native, was educated in Kent’s public schools and has lived in Betterton since 1981.
He has been employed as a land surveyor with McCrone for 41 years.
Traynor is making his second bid for elected office. He was defeated four years ago when he ran for a seat on the council against Marcy and Pyfer.
He has a Ph.D. in business from the University of Connecticut. He had been a professor of marketing in the College of Business Administration at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He said he is now a professor emeritus with Pennsylvania’s public university system.
He said he was a zoning officer and an appeals officer for 10 years in Clarion, Pa.
Traynor has been a fulltime resident of Betterton for 12 years.
The annual salary for the mayor is $1,800. A council member’s yearly pay is $900.