ELKTON — When current Cecil County Administrator Dan Schneckenburger moved to Florida he felt that it would be a permanent move, but the request from then Republican Candidate Danielle Hornberger to be her chief-of-staff, following her primary win in June, was too good to pass up.
Schneckenburger has previously called the opportunity to work as the county administrator as a “dream job” and during a recent interview he reiterated how excited he was to be in the position. He noted that he is a supporter of Hornberger’s platform and was excited to get a chance to work with her to move the county forward.
Schneckenburger is no stranger to Cecil County government, having served on the county council from 2014-2018. Schneckenburger said that before his move to Cecil County he spent 37 years in the county in a variety of capacities that put him in direct contact with businesses and business organizations throughout the county.
While in Florida, Schneckenburger worked with CareerSource as director of business services. A role where he said he did a lot of things directly applicable to his current position with the county, including economic development initiatives and workforce training and development.
After accepting the role to act as Hornberger’s head of administration he noted that he worked directly with her to develop a transition plan in order to be able to hit the ground running upon her possibly being sworn in in December.
“After the primary win we knew we had a good chance (of winning the general election,” Schneckenburger said. “Based upon what we knew about Cecil County, the general election was favorable to her winning.”
Hornberger and Schneckenburger, not wanting to wait until after the November election, which would have forced them to try to throw an administration together in about a month decided it would be more prudent to take their time and make sure they were making strong decisions for the county’s future.
“We knew there would be some major changes,”he said. “We had to make sure we were making the right decisions.”
He noted that making the right decisions on who to bring in as part of the administration takes time and he said that based upon taking the time to make the right decisions he believes that the current administration in Cecil County is the most qualified in the county’s history.
It was also important to be able to hit the ground running because the county, like the entire country, is facing some significant issues.
“COVID-19 has impacted the entire county government,” he said. “One of the things that was important with the transition plan was how to handle COVID.”
He noted that in Florida he gained a lot of experience in dealing with CARES Act funding issues, experience he was able to bring to Cecil County.
He noted an important component in the first months would be working closely with the Department of Health in order to facilitate the process of vaccine distribution, among other similar elements of helping to curb the COVID-19 outbreak here in Cecil County.
Schneckenburger said that one of the other important aspects of the transition was modifying county government to make it more efficient and streamlined.
“We found a lot of our (the county’s) policies and procedures are not aligned with proper human resource policies,” he said noting that the goal of the Hornberger administration would be to create a more professional organization.
To that end, Schneckenburger said the county would be evaluating its entire workforce to determine a better framework for employees, considering issues like how the county wants to grow its workforce and providing better opportunities for advancement. He noted that a strong human resources component is something that is seen in the private sector and in well run government agencies and that the administration would be seeking to move the county in that direction.
He spoke well of new Human Resources Director Michelle Campbell Ennis and her organizational leadership and that she is working on evaluating the HR department and will be providing a blueprint moving forward.
Schneckenburger said the administration is also in the process of working on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget and that one of the primary issues would be to provide more fiscally conservative budgets than prior administrations. He said the county will be looking at ways to provide tax relief for its citizens, noting that this prong has been a cornerstone of budget discussions for the new administration.
“Fiscally we feel we can lower tax burden,” he said. “To do that we have to increase our commercial tax base and create jobs.”
To that end, Schneckenburger spoke of the importance of bringing in Steven Overbay as Director of Economic Development, who he noted is bringing in a strong knowledge of Cecil County from his time working with Harford County Economic Development.
“It has been seamless with him (Overbay) coming on board,” he said. “We haven’t missed a step.”
He noted that one of the goals for Overbay will be to work to diversify the county’s economy. As the county already has a strong manufacturing component and is seeing a rise in the logistics industry, the goal will also be to look for ways to add additional types of businesses to the county to ensure growth specifically along the Route 40/ I-95 corridor.
“We have a tremendous growth corridor,” he said. “I am very excited about the interchange at Belvedere Road. I feel like that is going to be a major enhancement and will help the county for years to come.”
Schneckenburger specifically reference future development at Bainbridge as being one of the projects he is excited about, noting that it has been 30 years in the making.
Small businesses are also very important to Hornberger’s administration, Schneckenburger said, noting that small businesses have a tremendous impact on the economy in Cecil County. He noted that the county is working with the Maryland Department of Commerce to help provide relief for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, noting that with respect to the small businesses the county has reached out to there has been 100 percent buy-in participation for the programs.
He said that one of the primary goals for the county would be to ensure the viability of the county’s small businesses as we continue to move through issues brought about by the pandemic.
One of the other improvements during Hornberger’s administration will be to the county’s emergency services apparatus. Schneckenburger also noted that there will be significant changes in the county’s emergency services, including plans to rebuild the entire organization and developing a more collaborative relationship with the volunteer firefighting associations.
One of the main issues that Hornberger campaigned on was trying to curb the county’s opioid epidemic. To that end Schneckenburger announced that the county would be holding an opioid summit sometime during the spring whereby the county would bring together all interested stakeholders to discuss plans and initiatives to help cut down overdose deaths in the county by highlighting areas of necessary improvement in the county’s current strategies to combat the issues.