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Gunsallus sworn in as Easton Town Council President
Newly elected Easton Town Council President Frank Gunsallus was sworn into office at the Town Council meeting held on Monday, September 18, 2023. Gunsallus won the Special election held on September 12, after Mayor Megan Cook vacated the seat of Council President following her win in the mayoral election held in May.
After the initial approval of minutes, Mayor Cook took to the podium and swore in Gunsallus while he was flanked by his wife Iryna and his baby daughter, Maria. Following his oath, Gunsallus was congratulated by the crowd with a standing ovation.
He was then welcomed by the Mayor and Council, and received hugs from close family members in attendance. Once Gunsallus took his seat at the head of the council he addressed the audience, “I am humbled and honored by the trust you have placed in me. Our journey ahead is filled with challenges, but together we will surmount them and achieve great things for our town.”
Gunsallus continued, “With your continued support and unity, we will make Easton a beacon of hope and prosperity. Thank you, and here’s to our bright future ahead.”
In their closing remarks, each of the council members acknowledged and welcomed Gunsallus to his seat. Ward 4 Council Member Reverend Elmer Davis said, “Congratulations, and I’m looking forward to working with you and our colleagues. We do have a lot of work in the Town of Easton where all of us have to be on one accord to move forward.”
Each council member also praised Ward 2 Council Member Don Abbatiello for his service as Acting Council President during the vacancy left since the mayoral election in May.
Ward 3 Council Member David Montgomery noted, “I’d like to start by thanking Mr. Abbatiello for his service. I think you have been a model of a Council President as well as a colleague, and I really appreciate what I’ve learned from you in the 110 or 120 days that I’ve been here.”
At 35 years old, Gunsallus is the youngest person elected to the seat of Easton Town Council President. Gunsallus is active in the community serving with the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce as well as the Easton Rotary Club. He is a graduate of Easton High School and later Studied International Relations at Salisbury University. With the birth of his daughter Maria, Gunsallus’ family have now seen four generations as Easton residents.
Town of Easton hosts Council of State Community Development Agencies Tour
On Monday, September 11, 2023, the Town of Easton hosted a Council of State Community Development Agencies (COSCDA) tour in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
COSCDA is a national organization that specializes in collaborating with states to help promote and enhance community development programs that better communities. Each year COSCDA visits a different state, and the state selects one town to tour and highlight relevant projects in their region. This year Easton was selected as the town to represent Maryland for this tour.
Mayor Megan Cook said, “It is really an honor to be chosen to represent the state of Maryland for this, especially as a relatively small town. The fact that we are able to promote so many important and interesting projects on a national stage is remarkable. We’re very proud to show off so much positivity and progress around our community.”
The tour brought in over 150 visitors from around the country to visit various grant-funded programs taking place in and around Easton. They were brought in on four large charter buses that each had a detailed schedule covering highlighted projects. These project locations they visited were Housing on the Hill/Buffalo Soldier House, the Talbot Senior Center, Channel Marker Inc., Critchlow Adkins Children’s Center, SHORE UP!/Early Head Start, St. Vincent de Paul, and Galloway Meadows Apartments.
The Town staffed each bus with a dedicated tour guide who narrated through relevant information prior to each stop. Town Planner Lynn Thomas, Easton EDC Executive Director Holly DeKarske, Easton EDC Director of Strategic Initiatives Deena Kilmon, and Town Purchasing and Grant Clerk Dawn Hutchison each took on the role of Tour Guide for their respective buses. In addition to her role as tour guide, Hutchison was also instrumental in planning and executing the tour schedule.
Once guided to each location, guests were met by staff professionals with expertise in their project site to give a localized tour of the premises. Guests were given a unique look into each location and were able to ask specific questions related to the funding and follow through of these projects.
Town Manager Don Richardson, who helped guide the Housing on the Hill portion of the tour said, “It was a really impressive showing. Each group that came through were engaged and asked intelligent questions about the funding and construction processes involved. You could tell that they were interested in the Town, and genuinely enjoyed the experience.”
After touring the locations, the buses all ended their routes at the Tidewater Inn where the guests were greeted with drinks and hors d'oeuvres. After finishing up with the food and drinks, they moved inside to hold their annual awards ceremony.
Mayor Megan Cook added, “I think it’s really important for people to see the positive effects these decisions have on our communities — to be able to see how far grants and funding go towards helping people in their everyday lives. It all sounds nice on paper, but to be able to experience that kind of change in person — I think that’s really special.”
Easton’s plastic bag ordinance prevents circulation of over 1 million bags in first month
Since the passing of the plastic bag ordinance on April 2, single-use plastic bags can no longer be found at the checkout lines of any Easton, Maryland stores. Easton residents have been exclusively using reusable bags (and supplemental paper bags) to bring home their groceries and goods for a little over a month now. To see how big of an impact this has made, the Town of Easton and Easton Economic Development Corporation (Easton EDC) have teamed up to see just how many bags the ordinance has prevented from hitting the streets since its passage.
Easton EDC Director of Strategic Initiatives Deena Kilmon said, “We reached out to the larger local chain stores to get a gauge on how many bags they were going through each month. It was the best way to see where we stand after the ordinance passed.”
After surveying 11 of the largest stores in town (department, hardware, and grocery stores), 7 stores replied with their pre-ban monthly intake of single-use plastic bags. Of the 7 stores that replied, they accounted for 1,006,000 bags that would have circulated around Easton in the last 30 days.
Town of Easton Communications Specialist Greg Mueller remarked, “Make no mistake, this is a low estimate. Some stores we reached out to couldn’t supply us with their numbers, and we only targeted the larger stores. There’s still a substantial amount that would be coming from medium-sized and smaller stores around Town.” Mueller continued, “Even without all of the data, 1 million bags in 30 days is a pretty staggering number for a Town of our size.”
“We’re just really proud of our Town right now,” Kilmon added. “From our residents to our businesses, everybody has been chipping in to help make this work, and it’s nice to see some numbers backing up that we’re headed in the right direction.”
Businesses have seen a slight uptick in paper bag usage, but reusable bags have been a hot commodity around town. “Almost everywhere we went, they said their reusable bags were flying off of the shelves. Some stores were even restocking daily,” Kilmon stated. She added, “this is really encouraging, because the purpose of the ordinance was to motivate people to be proactive and focus on reusable totes — lessening the environmental impact across the board."
Easton EDC and Town of Easton plan to give updates on the plastic bag ordinance intermittently throughout the year. Mueller said, “seeing these numbers is a great help, and puts things in perspective, but it will be nice to see how this is positively affecting local watermen, sanitation workers, landfills, and even the average citizen. Time will tell.”
Easton swears in Megan Cook as first female Mayor,
along with new Ward 1 and Ward 3 Council Members
On Monday, May 15, 2023, history was made in Easton, MD as Megan Cook was sworn in as the first female Mayor in Town history. After winning the Municipal election held on May 2, Megan Cook took her oath of office at the May 15 Town Council meeting and received a standing ovation from the tightly packed council chambers.
Following the applause, Cook’s first action as Mayor was to swear in Maureen Curry as Ward 1 Council Member and David Montgomery as Ward 3 Council Member. Former council members Al Silverstein and Ron Engle wished their new replacements the best of luck, and offered assistance as needed in their transitions.
Former Mayor Willey also addressed the new mayor and council speaking highly of Cook saying, “she’s certainly capable of doing a good job, and I look forward to seeing her do that good job and having the support of the council that she’s going to need,” Willey also added, “buckle up, ‘cause it’s getting ready to take off guys.”
Mayor Cook’s prior role as Town Council President was left vacant due to the change, so the council held a vote to elect an acting president until a new election can be held. Ward 4 Council Member Reverend Davis nominated Ward 2 Council Member Don Abbatiello for the Council President position which was unanimously approved by the new council.
Mayor Cook delivered her first statements to the Council, beginning by expressing her gratitude towards former Mayor Willey and his efforts and accomplishments over the years. Cook said, “your unwavering commitment to public service and tireless efforts have made a lasting impact on this Town. Easton is Easton because of you.”
Mayor Cook continued by addressing the historic moment at hand, “I know people elected me because they see I have the skills, the experience, the insight to lead this great town, but the significance of this moment, of being the first woman elected to Mayor of Easton is not lost on me. Tonight marks a monumental milestone in the journey towards equality and progress.”
Before delving into more traditional town business, Cook added, “I hope to make a meaningful impact for the women who will follow.”
Previously, Mayor Megan Cook was elected the Ward 4 Council Member in 2009, where she served for 11 years before being elected as Council President in 2020. She is very active in several communities around Easton including: co-chairing the community built playground “Project Idlewild,” co-founding CarePacks of Talbot County, serving as Project Manager for Play in Color, Assistant Coaching the Easton High School Tennis teams, and working as Tennis League Director for the Y at Washington. Mayor Cook lives in Easton with her Husband Landy and their three children.
Arbor Day Foundation names Easton a 2022 Tree City USA®
This spring, Easton was named a 2022 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation to honor its commitment to effective urban forest management.
Easton achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program’s four requirements: maintaining a tree board or department, having a tree care ordinance, dedicating an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita, and hosting an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. “Tree City USA communities see the positive effects of an urban forest firsthand,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “The trees being planted and cared for by Easton are ensuring that generations to come will enjoy to a better quality of life. Additionally, participation in this program brings residents together and creates a sense of civic pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”
If ever there was a time for trees, now is that time. Communities worldwide are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, energy use, and extreme heat and flooding. Easton is doing its part to address these challenges for residents both now and in the future.
More information on the program is available at arborday.org/TreeCityUSA.
Town of Easton acquires new street sweeper for Public Works team
The Town of Easton has deployed a new street sweeper for its Public Works team. The new sweeper, a Tymco 500X Air Sweeper, is used to quickly clean Town streets of trash and debris. This addition brings the department’s fleet back to 2 units after one of their sweepers broke down and was decommissioned last year.
The new sweeper’s operator, Tim Streckfus, is glad to have the new unit. Streckfus remarked, “Absolutely I’m excited we have it. It is very satisfying to see the streets look pristine after a run.”
The Maryland MS-4 Stormwater program requires the use of these vehicles to keep stormwater from containing unwanted contaminants. The truck's contents are emptied into a proprietary area and transported to the EastonTransfer Station where the weights are recorded in the MS-4 Database.
Public Works Maintenance Division Manager Mike Young stated, “The sweepers play an integral part in keeping our storm drains clear. Lots of dirt, trash, leaves, and whatever else hits the streets will find its way into our storm drains if they’re not kept clean.” Young continued, “Keeping our storm drains clear also helps to keep runoff from making its way to the Chesapeake Bay. As an added bonus the Town looks cleaner too.”
MD Board of Public Works approves $5M grant for Easton Woodland Park
On Wednesday, March 15, 2023 the MD Board of Public Works approved a grant request for funding the purchase of Easton Woodland Park. The grant, funded through Program Open Space, awards the Town of Easton $5,121,742 to be used in the purchase of Easton Woodland Park, a 197-acre parcel of land on the eastern side of Oxford Road, near Cooke’s Hope. This approval was the final step in the grant process after the MD General Assembly approved their portion of the request on February 7, 2023.
Mayor Bob Willey noted, “This approval was the final piece of the puzzle for us to acquire the Woodland Park land. Now that we have it, we can move forward with our plans to preserve this space for our community. We are very excited for this to come to fruition, and we look forward to seeing our community enjoy this space for many years to come.”
Once the land is acquired, the Town of Easton has plans to use the area as a wooded park and recreational space for its citizens. At 197 acres, it would become the largest park in the Town of Easton.
Parks and Recreation Director Lorraine Gould said, "This is such great news for the Town of Easton. With this approval we will be adding our only wooded park and the largest park in the Town. It is a tremendous expansion to our parks network." Gould added, "A peaceful walk through the woods along natural trails, it will be a nice experience. We're really excited about being able to offer that!"
The acquisition of the property will also safeguard the plot from any future development, and will help to satisfy a significant portion of the restoration requirements for Maryland’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. The MS4 Permit aims to advance Chesapeake Bay restoration while reducing flooding and making communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Easton Police Department welcomes two new officers
On Thursday, December 15, 2022, Easton Police Department welcomed two new officers to the force: Officer Cordero Proctor and Officer Mitchell Reeley. Officers Proctor and Reeley graduated from Wor-Wic Community College’s Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy after six months of training, and were immediately sworn in by Mayor Robert Willey following their commencement ceremony at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean CIty, MD.
Now that the officers have taken their oath of office, they must successfully complete a three-month Field Training program to satisfy the requirements for full certification as a Maryland law enforcement officer.
Prior to starting with the Easton Police Department, Officer Cordero Proctor worked with a plumbing company in Severn, Maryland. He is an active member of Maryland Air National Guard. In addition to receiving his badge and certificate, Officer Proctor was also awarded for expert marksmanship with a pistol at the commencement ceremony.
Officer Mitchell Reeley attended Easton High School and went on to serve in the United States Marine Corps from 2017 to 2021. He received a combat meritorious promotion to the rank of corporal in 2020. Prior to starting the police academy, Officer Reeley was attending Montgomery County Community College.
The Easton Police Department is excited to have both Officer Proctor and Officer Reeley join our team!