In an administrative session on August 28, the Council discussed the next steps they must take to appoint a new County Executive after the previously chosen candidate declined the appointment. There were many questions from councilmembers about the appointment process and the timeline for selecting a new County Executive. Much of the discussion centered around whether the 45 day timeline outlined in the County Charter is binding, or whether the Council could extend the deadline to allow more time to find a candidate that could garner the necessary four votes. Legal advice from the County Attorney and the Council Attorney suggested that they were able to continue the search beyond the deadline of September 9th, and the Council ultimately decided to again accept applications until September 14th.
The Council is in uncharted waters in their efforts to appoint a new County Executive. Wicomico only moved to the charter form of county government in 2006, and since that time only two individuals have served as County Executive. This will be the first time in the County’s history that a County Executive is appointed by the Council.
What has happened so far:
- Wicomico Council Begins County Executive Selection Process
- County Executive Bob Culver’s untimely passing triggers Section 407 of the County Charter which states that if a vacancy in the position of County Executive occurs after the first 12 months of an elected term, the vacancy shall be permanently filled by resolution with a majority vote of the members of the County Council within 45 days after the vacancy occurs (in this case the deadline would be September 9, 2020).
- County Administrator John Psota is serving as acting County Executive.
- After the deadline for applications on August 11th had passed, four candidates emerged: State Delegate Carl Anderton who represents part of Wicomico County in the General Assembly, District 5 Councilmember Joe Holloway, former county Finance Director Michele Ennis, and Rene Desmarais a cardiologist who ran in 2014 for a seat in the House of Delegates.
- Holloway Withdraws His Name From Wico. County Exec. Race
- After legal advice and guidance from County Attorney Paul Wilber, Council Attorney Robert Taylor, an Attorney General’s opinion, and the county’s Ethics Commission, it was determined that councilmembers would not be able to vote for Councilmember Holloway, and he withdrew from the race.
- Wicomico Council Names Rene Desmarias as New County Executive
- The Council conducted interviews in a socially distanced public session at the Wicomico County Youth & Civic Center on August 20th where candidates were asked a variety of questions and had the opportunity to share their vision for the county.
- Following interviews and after a closed deliberation period, Council Vice President John Cannon put forth Anderton’s name for consideration, a move supported by two of the Council’s Democrats: Councilmembers Josh Hastings and Bill McCain. The remaining Councilmembers voted against the proposal and subsequently selected Desmarias for the role, with Councilmember Nicole Acle making the motion.
- Newly Chosen County Executive Declines Post
- Dr. Rene Desmarais said in a statement: “Thank you for the opportunity to become the next Wicomico County Executive. Although it would be a privilege to lead our great county, I must respectfully decline to accept the appointment. I wish you the best in your future selection.”
- Wicomico Council Meets to Readdress County Executive Appointment
- In an administrative session on August 28th, the Council decided, after much deliberation, to reopen the application window and has set a new deadline of September 14th.