Mark Willis has been selected by the board of county commissioners to succeed Terry Shannon as county administrator for Calvert County, upon her retirement later this year.
Willis currently holds the post of director of planning and zoning, a position he has held since May 2016.
“I grew up in this county as a tenant farmer in a house that didn’t even have a bathroom — we used an outhouse,” Willis said. “I could not even fathom the idea of becoming the county administrator.”
Willis said he is a public servant and that there is no better way to give back to the county and that he is more than privileged to be able to serve as county administrator, an opportunity that he said he would not have if it was not for Shannon’s tutelage during his 19-year tenure in the county.
“I am very pleased about the selection of Mark Willis as the county administrator selectee,” Shannon said of her successor. “He has strong leadership and communication skills. His customer service skills are excellent. I believe he will do a fantastic job for the county and the citizens we serve.”
Prior to leading the department of planning and zoning, Willis was the deputy director of the county’s enterprise fund operations under the department of public works. He held that post for six years but had been an employee of DPW for 15 years.
Retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, Willis was originally hired by the county to establish and supervise the fleet maintenance division before expanding his responsibilities to highway maintenance to include snow removal.
As the former deputy director of enterprise fund operations, Willis also managed water, sewer and solid waste, keeping purview all four divisions.
Willis served in the armed forces for 20 years first as an enlisted marine in combat ground and then a marine officer in charge of combat logistics for 10 years each.
“The Marine Corps teaches discipline. One my favorite times spent in the Corp was as a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina,” Willis said.
Willis said he is also a graduate of Army Logistics Warfare College, which is a masters level education.
For planning and zoning, Willis has purview over the county’s planning and development review, zoning, permitting and citizen relations, long-range planning, inspections and permits, and appeals, variances and exceptions. He and his staff also facilitate the Calvert County Planning Commission.
“His experience from the military, growing up here in Calvert County and his experience as being in county government makes him well suited for the job,” Commissioners’ President Thomas “Tim” Hutchins (R) said.
Hutchins admitted that he has watched Willis more closely than any of the other department directors because of his role with ushering the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan Update for 2040.
“His leadership is outstanding. His make it happen attitude of trying to be able to help the constituent whether it be a developer or individual private party — it’s not us and them. It’s all of us together. He brings that to the table,” Hutchins said.
Hutchins said he is looking forward to more of that type of leadership.
Willis hopes his entire body of work helped him garner the county government’s highest non-elected post and his ability to demonstrate that he could communicate well to the public under pressure during the comprehensive plan process.
Willis will continue in his current role in planning and zoning until January, as the department continues updating the county’s antiquated transportation plan and embarks upon the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance Rewrite as well as all seven town center master plan updates.
“Now I am doing two jobs,” Willis said of his collateral duty of running his department and learning the county administrator’s duties, as Shannon steps down Jan. 3.
“Ultimately, if I can properly perform all duties of the county administrator — that is my first priority,” Willis said. “However, I want to be known as the person that retained the county’s rural character through multiple facets of land preservation — that’s what I’d like to be known for.”
Willis acknowledged that some might find that hard to believe given the overarching debate between development and preservation that unfolded during the comp plan process.
“I want to take action that makes us all better, not just me — for all of us,” Willis said.
Deputy County Administrator Wilson Parran will remain in his post. It is unknown who will replace Willis.