ELKTON — Looking to continue to serve his Cecil County neighbors with a helping hand, an open mind and an occasional joke, Council President Bob Meffley has officially filed for another four years in office.
“I’m not a politician," Meffley told the Whig. "I’m the kind of guy that if you have a problem, I’ll come to your house and ask, 'What can I do? How can I help?’ What you can say about me is that I push to make sure the decisions are right and they benefit the people.”
The Republican councilman, who had no political experience when he first ran for the District 1 seat, is the third and final incumbent to file for the 2020 election. County Executive Alan McCarthy and Council Vice President Jackie Gregory are also both seeking second terms.
Meffley, 67, is a small business owner who quickly rose to one of the highest offices in county politics when he first ran for council in 2014. He has lived in Chesapeake City for 58 years, and owns H&B Plumbing. Meffley decided to run as a way to give back to the community, and he ran on a platform of a business approach to government as well as being a man of the people.
The incumbent councilman had no previous experience in politics before 2014, and was swept in when county voters turned their backs on the Democratic Party. In that election, the voters pushed out longtime Democratic office holders in favor of Republican newcomers. In every county election since, Republicans have won all offices.
Meffley views re-election as a way to capitalize on the experience he’s gained in the past three years and continue to work for his constituents.
“Anyone who ever gets a council job will realize there’s a learning curve in the first year," he said. "You have to learn how the system works. The second year you get more involved, and in the third year you get more vocal."
In the past year, Meffley has made himself known as someone who is not afraid of disagreement with the McCarthy administration. Although he was one of two votes for McCarthy’s first budget with a tax increase —but with a deadlocked council it which ultimately went into effect without any of the council’s proposed cuts.
Meffley was also the architect behind a compromise that cut McCarthy’s proposed sewer rate increase from three years to two years. When he became council president earlier this year, the council hired a new attorney to examine the council’s role in charter government.
Overall, Meffley said that he supports McCarthy’s plan to move the county forward with infrastructure growth and financial stability, although it’s not an easy task. But he would have no issue with defeating bad legislation that stems from the Cecil County charter and Code.
“The code said commissioners, so now it says county government. Well, who is it?” he said. “I’m working to change that. I’m going line by line through it, and in the next two years I’m going to make it very easy for who sits [in council president’s chair] next. It won’t be gray anymore, it’ll be black and white.”
Meffley considers himself a champion of transparency, often asking Gregory to meet with the administration with him. A council president usually meets with the county executive and the administration on a regular basis to serve as a go-between for the council.
He also is responsible for setting the agenda for council meetings, and has not shied away from controversial issues like when Rising Sun officials made the case for its utility expansion despite the administration’s plans to preserve the land surrounding the town.
“To me it’s important for everyone to have a voice,” he said. “I’m the kind of guy who’ll find a light and turn it on, make it transparent for everyone.”
Looking forward, Meffley said that he wants to see through a bill that would make it possible for small contractors to buy out permits in the case a business decides to renege on the contract. The bill has failed in the General Assembly in the past.
Other priorities include continuing infrastructure expansion and repairs. He agrees that the county should continue to complete the gaps in Route 40 infrastructure in terms of sewer and water lines, as well as natural gas to attract more businesses. In turn, new businesses and more jobs will help stabilize the county’s tax base — and the county residents will reap the rewards.
“If you build it, they will come," he said. "We’ll get the roads fixed. We’ll get the schools built. We’re going to get the quality parks and recreation programs. We have everything here that anyone could want."
Heading off repeated criticism on the tax incentives the county offers to lure more businesses, Meffley points out that most of the costs will come back with the permits.
“What people don’t understand that in today’s world you have to give them something,” he said. “With deferred taxes in 5 or 10 years, some of these permits are more money than a deferred tax.”
Other priorities include improving school security and supporting educators, although predicted funding mandates from the Brit Kirwin Commission would be challenging, he said.
His hope is in the next four years is to see through several items he started, continue to listen to the people and fight for them.
“You look at the individual, and that’s the way I think government should be run,” he said. “You’re in a political party but just because something’s coming from someone else, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Whatever makes Cecil County better.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly states Council President Bob Meffley voted against the 2016 tax increase. He voted for it, with then-Council President Joyce Bowlsbey. Then-Council Vice President Dan Schneckenburger, Council member Jackie Gregory and Council member George Patchell voted against it. We regret the error.