An orderly transition of power took place at Monday’s Chestertown Council meeting when a 3-1 vote elected Ward 1 Councilman David Foster as Mayor.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Meghan Efland and Ward 2 Councilman Tom Herz joined Foster who voted for himself. Ward 3 Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver voted for himself.
The nomination of Foster comes nearly a month after former Mayor Chris Cerino resigned on April 6. According to the town charter, the council had 45 days to fill Cerino’s vacant seat before the Chestertown Board of Election Supervisors would step in and hold a special election.
All council members agreed to select a mayor from among the members.
“I think all of us are familiar with the major issues,” Foster said. “We also have experience working with each other and know each other’s quirks.”
“We have four talented people here,” said Tolliver. “All of us are quite capable of handling the responsibilities. We know each other and we understand the issues that are on the table.”
While Tolliver was adamant about choosing someone from within the council, he was hesitant about selecting a mayor so soon and wanted to wait until the May 17 council meeting–to give those interested in the mayor’s seat time to prepare a case for their nomination.
But Tolliver agreed when the vote came to nominate a mayor during the meeting. Foster, Efland and Herz wanted to avoid cutting it too close to the 45-day deadline to fill the vacant seat. The council had until May 21 to appoint a mayor from within the council before triggering a special town-wide election.
“I would recommend that we try to reach a decision this evening,” Foster responded. “We have one more meeting [before the deadline] and I think it’s just pushing it to the wire. I think we know each other pretty well right now and my own recommendation is that we go ahead and nominate and vote this evening for someone amongst the four of us.”
When the nomination process began, Tolliver and Foster each nominated themselves.
“I think it’s no secret that I want to do this, it’s no secret that I’m nominating myself,” Tolliver said. “There’s a lot of experience that I’ve had in life that many of you aren’t aware of where I’ve served in roles of leadership in managing the efforts of other people. I have a thorough understanding of the issues that are on the table. I believe that I have the ability to handle the job and the pressure that goes along with it.”
“I would like to be mayor,” Foster said. “For those who didn’t know me before, I’m a civil engineer, an urban planner with a commitment to sustainable and equitable development. I have 40 years experience working with state, local governments both in the U.S. and overseas.”
“I’m a retired foreign service officer, and I also worked for a number of years with the EPA,” he continued. “I’m also a veteran of the Peace Corps, the Marine Corps, and Vietnam. I believe that the people in Chestertown are our most important resource and I’m old enough to know that I don’t have all the answers.”
The transition comes less than a month after former Mayor Chris Cerino resigned on April 6. Up until the May 3 meeting, council members took turns as acting mayor for the two weeks between scheduled council meetings. The original plan was to have this continue until the fall election, but the idea was later struck down by the town’s attorney, who said an election would be compulsory if the council failed to abide by the 45-day deadline in the charter.
Foster will be officially sworn in at the May 17 council meeting by the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Kent County.
With the election of Foster, the council must fill his vacant Ward 1 seat within 45 days by a registered voter of the town who is at least 21 years of age and has resided in the town for not less than one year from the previous election–and not less than 30 days from the previous election in Ward 1.