The Board of Commissioners appointed civil engineer Michael “Trent” Wolfersberger to the Calvert County Planning Commission for District 2, opting not to reappoint Dorothy McHugh during Tuesday’s meeting.
The board also reappointed Theresa Maria Buehler for another term.
The decision came counter to the planning board’s recommendation to reappoint both McHugh and Buehler, whose terms expired last December.
No motion was introduced reappointing McHugh, instead Commissioner Earl “Buddy” Hance (R) motioned for Steven Oberg to be appointed to the planning board.
“I think it is important to have a representative of the planning commission that represents agricultural views,” said Hance, a farmer and former state secretary of agriculture.
Hance said there has always been an unwritten rule that someone from the agricultural community would hold membership.
“When [Mr. Michael Phipps] was removed from the planning commission, he was the agricultural rep, but we’ve been now four years without that viewpoint,” Hance said. “Having diversity is very important in my opinion.”
Hance said Oberg grew up in Calvert, owns a farm and has served on the Calvert County Agricultural Preservation Board for 10 years.
Hance thinks Oberg’s background would be beneficial as the county triages complex issues regarding land preservation in the upcoming zoning ordinance rewrite.
Oberg is also an Annapolis-based lawyer and his wife, Julie, is the deputy secretary of agriculture at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, a post Hance once held.
Hance received no support for his nomination.
Instead, Commissioners’ Vice President Kelly McConkey (R) motioned for Wolfersberger, and Commissioner Mike Hart (R) seconded the motion.
McConkey said he agreed with Hance on the need for an agricultural representative, but felt that Wolfersberger was also part of that community.
“He’s lived in Calvert County since 2012. He bought a piece of property. He’s taken some courses. He’s thinking about doing some farming,” Hance said, referring to information on Wolfersberger’s application. “I don’t believe he brings to the table any background knowledge to support the [agricultural] industry we have here in Calvert County.”
Hart felt Wolfersberger’s background in civil engineering would be helpful on planning issues involving building and development.
Wolfersberger’s wife, ----, owns GoldenWolf, a logistic support management company based in Huntingtown.
“I’m excited,” Wolfersberger said in an interview with The Calvert Recorder. “I am looking forward to bringing my expertise to the commission.”
Wolfersberger said he has a long history of engineering, construction, development, environmental work, and more recently, sustainability and agriculture.
Wolfersberger said he is focused spring through fall on farming, but works part-time for his wife’s company.
He said he recently purchased a farm in Owning, but is doing a test run of hops on a friend’s farm in Chesapeake Beach.
Support for Buehler’s reappointment was a near unanimous, 4–0-1 decision.
Commissioner Steve Weems (R) recused himself from the two separate votes because of “family relations” to a potential appointee, but informed the Recorder that his vote would not have change the outcome of both appointments.
McHugh steps down immediately from the planning commission after serving seven years. She was the second-longest serving planning member behind Robert Reed, who joined the board in 2001.
Other board members have served three years or less.
McHugh told The Calvert Recorder that when she retired as CEO and President of the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce after 14 years, she was encouraged by former Commissioners’ President Pat Nutter (R) and then Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) to apply to fill a vacancy on the planning commission due to a member’s death.
“They felt I brought a developer’s perspective and home-based businesses to the commission, which they were lacking at that time,” said McHugh, who also served on the county’s Economic Development Commission.
McHugh agrees with Hance that diversity is needed, especially from an agricultural perspective.
“As the county moves forward with the zoning ordinance, subjects like [transfer development rights] are going to play a very visible role in the conversation,” McHugh explained.
McHugh said Wolfersberger brings a couple of different perspectives.
Planning Chairman Greg Kernan brings parks and recreation. Vice Chairman Steve Jones brings law enforcement.
Buehler brings the business perspective. Richard Holler brings his experience as a school superintendent, county administrator and mediator, James Toohey brings education.
“However, having the addition of the farming community perspective — that helps round it out a bit,” McHugh said.
Nonetheless, she wishes Wolfersberger well and said the planning staff was amazing and that she enjoyed working with them and “if he gets the kind of support that I got, he’ll be fine.”
McHugh said she had an inkling that either she or Buehler or both of them may not be reappointed when the BOCC delayed the December reappointments until after the comprehensive plan was adopted, possibly to avoid putting someone new into the complicated process.
As for her legacy, McHugh wants to be remembered for always being prepared and doing her homework, and for accepting the planning chairmanship during a difficult time.
“After Commissioners [Maurice] Lusby and Phipps were removed, that was a time of chaos. I stepped in and steered the ship while there was a lot of behind the scene noise,” McHugh said, referring to the former members’ removal, suspension and litigation with the county.
McHugh was also known for listening to the community, for candidly expressing her views, and for challenging the status quo.
McHugh, who is currently the president of the Calvert Library’s Board of Library Trustees, is uncertain how she will fill the void here in Calvert.
However, she has her eye on a possible role in the establishment of a sister city program with the town of Filey, England.
Kernan confirmed with the Recorder that he received the candidate applications and recommended the re-appointment of both McHugh and Buehler.
The chair said he based McHugh’s reappointment on her many years of service, experience, wisdom, insight and patience.
“During a critical time when both Lusby and Phipps were removed, she was a tremendous asset. She gave us stability,” Kernan said, noting that she will be missed.
Kernan agrees with Hance and McHugh that the planning commission could benefit from having someone from the agricultural community, especially with the TDRs on the horizon, but there is enough time and they will rely on staff and the agricultural community input, and continuing education.
Kernan said that he plans to welcome Wolfersberger personally on Wednesday and get him up to speed on a set of text amendments coming before the planning board soon.
“I’d like to do for him what was done for me when I came on board,” Kernan said. “Carolyn McHugh was helpful to me — she gave me the lay of the land.”