CHESTERTOWN — The town council can be assured of having at least one new member in 2020 as Meghan Efland is running unopposed for the Fourth Ward seat currently occupied by Marty Stetson.
Citing concerns over hearing loss, Stetson in August announced that he would not seek a fourth term.
Also on the Nov. 5 ballot are two candidates running for the Second Ward seat: two-term incumbent Linda Kuiper and challenger Tom Herz Jr. They will speak Tuesday, Oct. 29 (7 p.m.) at a League of Women Voters-sponsored forum at Chestertown town hall. The forum will be livestreamed on the LWV's Facebook page.
Only registered voters in the Second Ward will be eligible to vote for candidates in the Second Ward, and only registered voters in the Fourth Ward will be eligible to vote for candidates in the Fourth Ward.
The polling place is the firehouse at 211 Maple Ave. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Our focus in this article is on Efland, who grew up near Chestertown and has lived on Campus Avenue for five years.
She has worked for Stevensville-based PRS Guitars for more than 15 years, currently as the director of supply chain. She manages a team of 18 employees that is responsible for purchasing, sourcing, inventory control, production scheduling and warehousing. She works with a cross departmental team for product development, strategic planning and short- and long-term budgeting for projects and capital.
“My experience working with people from a diverse background to achieve a common goal and working under tight financial plans directly relates to the Town Council,” she wrote in an email.
Efland said she had attended council meetings from time to time, especially when a topic interested her.
She threw her hat into the ring after attending the town and county budget meetings earlier this year.
“The income and expenditure information surprised me and I became concerned with infrastructure in town and if there was a large expense, there was no money in the budget to deal with it,” she said. “I love being a member of this community and have a business, strategic planning and budgeting background, so I’m hoping to give back by utilizing my skill set.”
She thinks it is important for the Town of Chestertown to tap into resources offered by the Maryland Municipal League, a state organization helps advocate and support city and town governments.
“I’d like to work with MML and identify and connect with other local municipalities to understand how they have addressed similar financial issues, encouraged business growth and town revenue and work to implement similar ideas,” she wrote in an email.
She said the council should continue to push the county for tax support for the services the town is providing such as police protection, street maintenance and trash pickup — a cause that is being led by First Ward Councilman David Foster.
Efland said she also believes the town should develop a strategic plan, focusing on its strengths, addressing its weaknesses and laying out short- and long-term goals, and “doing a deep dive on how to achieve these goals.”
Soon after Efland is seated in January, the council is expected to take up the issue of what to do with the Chestertown Police Department — maintain the status quo, be absorbed by the Kent County Sheriff's Office or some sort of hybrid.
She supports keeping the CPD and significantly reducing its budget.
“I see a great value in having our own police department,” Efland wrote in an email. “Acting Chief (John) Dolgos has long term experience in the department and his insight will be needed to reduce the budget. Partnering and building a stronger relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and reviewing resources, like equipment and training, that could be shared is something that needs to be extensively explored.”
Another issue that has occupied a lot of the council's attention over the last year — and was brought back to the front burner after manager Sabine Harvey abruptly resigned in September — is the hugely popular Saturday farmers market in Fountain Park.
Efland agreed with Harvey that an independent board, and not the council, is the preferred oversight.
“An independent board provides more focus on the success of the market and more resources — people power, new ideas and experience from those already involved,” she said. The board should include vendors and members of the community to assist the market manager.
Efland said she was saddened by Harvey's resignation. The token program, which Harvey introduced this summer to allow SNAP and WIC coupons, has brought more of the community to the market and provides healthy, locally grown produce to a wider group, Efland said.
Other than when she was attending college and living out of state briefly, Efland said she has lived within 10 miles of Chestertown and has been an active member of the community for most of her life.
While attending high school, she worked at Twigs & Teacups. Over the summers while in college, she worked for local attorneys Alex Rasin and Paul Bowman. In her 20s she bartended at the Fish Whistle as a second job.
She is a graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, with a degree in sociology and anthropology. She worked as an archaeologist and teaching assistant for Historic St. Mary’s City, a state-run 800-acre living history museum on the site of Maryland’s first Colonial settlement and capital.
"I am fascinated by the history of the Chesapeake area and our unique environment. To strengthen my knowledge professionally, I have also taken courses in financial accounting, engineering, project management and logistics," she said.
Earlier this summer she was appointed vice president of the board of RiverArts. She has taken classes in the clay studio, and currently volunteers as a monitor and teaching assistant for beginners’ wheel classes.
She and her partner Marc have been together for more than 12 years. She has two stepchildren, who now are both in their mid-twenties.
In an email, Efland said: "When I think about Ward 4, I see a neighborhood that is changing. Many of the houses were built in the 1950s and 60s, and have only had one or two owners. There have been many families moving into our neighborhood and they are choosing it because of the community that has been built over the years."