- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s waterman Robert T. Brown was named last week as the president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.
Brown, 62, of Colton’s Point takes the helm of the association following the March 14 death from bone cancer of the former president, Larry Simns. Simns had been president of the association since it formed in 1973.
Brown served as the state association’s treasurer for the last several years and is the current president of the St. Mary’s County Watermen’s Association. He plans to step down from his local post, he said. Elections for a new St. Mary’s association president are planned for later this month.
“When Larry got sick I kind of took over a lot of his duties,” Brown said Wednesday afternoon when reached on his cellphone while catching catfish and gizzard shad.
Brown said during the last several months he has testified on numerous bills before the Maryland General Assembly that would affect Chesapeake Bay fisheries.
“I got my points across,” he said when asked about his recent lobbying efforts.
Brown said that he was recently appointed by the governor to the Tidal Fish Advisory Commission, and that citations for violations of state seafood harvesting regulations more than a dozen years ago would not interfere with his ability to successfully promote watermen’s interests in the Maryland.
He plans to listen to all involved, he said, and let his voice be guided by the Maryland Watermen’s Association’s board of directors.
The association’s executive committee has put together an action plan to continue the group’s work, according to a statement on its website, and “will move forward with an aggressive approach toward sustaining the watermen’s way of life on the bay, including attracting young watermen, while maintaining traditions and the seafood industry in the state.”
The group will address fisheries including blue crab, oyster and striped bass through stronger relationships with elected state and local officials and responding to sound science and work with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, according to the statement.
“Robert T. has worked on the water all his life. He should have a good understanding of all the problems facing watermen today,” Tommy Zinn, president of the neighboring Calvert County Watermen’s Association, said this week.
Zinn said that he and other watermen association leaders in the state will support Brown in his efforts to do what’s best for the profession.
“It was unanimous,” Mick Blackistone, executive director of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, said of the vote for Brown. “I would say that virtually every board member from all of the watermen counties praised what Robert T. has done for the industry over the years.”
Brown and the other officers’ names were put forward by the association’s nominating committee, and approved March 26 by the board of directors.
Blackistone would not say how many members the organization has, but pointed to the more than 5,000 licensed watermen in the state as a testament to the importance of the association.
“We work for the entire seafood industry” in the state, Blackistone said.
The president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association is paid “a small amount,” according to Brown, who declined to give an exact figure.
Brown said that he plans to curtail some of his time spent at work in St. Mary’s by hiring employees. He runs several businesses, including an ice company and aquaculture venture.
The St. Mary’s County Watermen’s Association will hold elections for a new president at the end of April, Brown said. “We’ve got a number of qualified candidates.”
Simns of Rock Hall was the face of Maryland watermen for many Maryland legislative leaders during the last four decades.
“Larry was a true leader, mentor, and friend to thousands of watermen throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” the association’s board wrote. “His passing from cancer at age 75 leaves a legacy that the Maryland watermen will never forget. Without him, the commercial fishing community and the seafood industry as a whole would not be what they are today.”
Other newly elected officers to the Maryland Watermen’s Association are Russell Dize, first vice president; Bob Evans, second vice president; Billy Rice, secretary; Mark Kitching, treasurer; and Russell Spangler and Moochie Gilmer, executives at large.