Bet­ter­ton vot­ers to elect mayor, 3 coun­cil mem­bers

Kent County News - - NEWS - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­

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.

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