NORTH EAST — County councilmen Bill Coutz, Al Miller and George Patchell pledged Monday before hundreds of witnesses to serve the county diligently and faithfully in the oath of office as they ascended to the county council.
Coutz and Miller, both Republicans, replace Joyce Bowlsbey, who chose not to seek re-election after one elected term, and Dan Schneckenburger, who was defeated in the 2018 primary election. Patchell was re-elected for a second term.
The inauguration ceremony, held in the Upper Chesapeake Ballroom in North East, also saw Sheriff Scott Adams; Register of Wills Lyn Nickle; judges of Orphans’ Court Bob Amato, Carolyn Crouch and William Harris; and Cecil County Board of Education members Christie Stephens, William Malesh and Diana Hawley sworn into office.
This year's election ushered in a large number of new faces into public office for the county — in total eight out of 13 races saw new individuals elected. In some cases the incumbent was defeated in the primary election, others saw the incumbents not seek re-election, and still more were races where the officials were term limited, disallowing a third term.
Monday's ceremony included music provided by the Rising Sun High School Chamber Choir and the North East High School Orchestra, a presentation of colors by the sheriff's office honor guard, and a reception with refreshments.
County Executive Alan McCarthy opened the ceremony with a speech that celebrated those that were being sworn in that day, commenting that they each agreed to take on a momentous task for the next four years.
“This job might appear easy, but our elected officials put in more time than you could ever believe in this job … [It’s] harder than you imagine," he told the crowd assembled. "It’s important that once elected and sworn in, we do the best we possibly can for our organizations and office to fulfill missions for which we are elected to act in a nonpartisan, and most certainly, in the best interest for all our residents.”
McCarthy also took time to comment on the animosity that has recently plagued politics across the country, noting that “egotistical and questionable attacks on foundational principles” had a lasting and damaging effect on government institutions. He hoped that this “dark cloud” on American ideals of integrity and fair play would pass without tarnishing America's reputation as a world leader.
“Good government should not be based on who gets the credit, but whether the citizens benefit from decisions that we make and the positions and the stances we take,” he said. “Good government is effective, efficient, transparent, responsive and it’s most certainly accountable.”
In closing, the county executive thanked the county council for its hard work over the past two years, as it addressed many of its legacy issues. But now is the time to push even harder, since the challenges will only increase in difficulty.
After the councilmen were sworn in, each gave a speech that matched the personalities exhibited while they were out on the campaign trail. Coutz spoke the longest of the three councilmen, and thanked his mother and his wife, Gaby, for their endless support. He also emotionally paid tribute to his father, a teacher and a coach for his service in his community.
“Although he’s not here with me today, I think he would be very proud,” Coutz said. “As your new councilman, I will work tirelessly to serve the citizens no matter where that takes us in the future … I won’t forget where we came from. I look forward to a very bright future with all of you.”
In a shorter speech, Miller repeated that he was humbled that the people would place their faith and trust in him. He added that he was blessed by the love and support from his parents, fiancée Karen Bearsch, his children and grandchildren as well as his team.
“This is a responsibility that I do not take lightly, and I’m very excited to get started,” Miller said.
Patchell was characteristically brief in his comments, using a few words to thank everyone for coming out to the ceremony.
Adams, who won a second four-year term in an uncontested race, noted that he felt very humbled to be first elected. Now, he acknowledged that he didn’t know what to expect going forward, but today he felt more confident when facing the future.
“I will say that over the last three years we’ve reduced the crime rate 20 percent, and so far this year, it’s been reduced 12 percent,” he said to thunderous applause. “That’s not because of me. That’s because of the wonderful people who are working for me … I hope you all know I take [being sheriff] with the utmost responsibility and will strive to do my best every day.”
Nickle, who won a new term as register of wills after losing the job four years ago, offered her sincere gratitude to the voters as well as her family and campaign staff, for re-electing her to a fifth career term. Harris, who won his first race as judge of the orphan’s court, paid tribute to his mother, since his inauguration fell on what would have been her birthday.
Freshman Board of Education member Hawley thanked members of the Cecil County Public Schools for welcoming her in, and paid tribute to departing Board of Education President Dawn Branch.
“It’s a big honor to take her place, and I have big shoes to fill,” she said.
Stephens, another newcomer to the Board of Education, promised she would serve with virtue, integrity and backboard in what she considered a “great honor” of a position. Meanwhile, Malesh trumpeted the power of education to overcome poverty and adversity, and called for unity between education and county officials.
“We aren’t just the Board of Education. We are Cecil County,” he said.