Kerns named new councilman; police chief to leave & town meeting night will change

by Geoff Fox

A week after the resignation of former councilman Leo Murray during the June 8 town meeting, town officials have already appointed his replacement.

During a special town meeting last Wednesday, June 16, town officials unanimously voted to appoint David Kerns as the new town councilman. The meeting agenda specified the council would discuss options for filling Murray’s seat.

The recommendation came from Mayor Tim Smith.

Mayor Tim Smith swears in David Kerns as the new Hancock town councilman during a special town meeting June 16.

There was no discussion amongst officials, just a motion made by Councilwoman Misty Cubbage, the second by Councilman Roland Lanehart, Jr., and a unanimous vote in favor of Kerns.

Smith admitted it was short notice and swore Kerns in as the new councilman.

Kerns finished fourth in voting during the April municipal election, garnering 142 votes from the people of Hancock. His total was 12 votes short of Tim Boyer, who lost his re-election bid by one vote.

After the meeting, Smith said Kerns was a candidate who had run in the previous election who had some good ideas and could be a good fit on council.

Kerns said he has a lot of experience as a building inspector for Washington County and with that experience, he would know what goes on with building and developments.

“I know we were trying to annex some property and possibly have some new development, so I would have a lot to bring to that,” he said.

Over the next four years, Kerns said there is a lot of work in front of officials and the team they have is “pretty good.”

If they keep improving, the team could get a lot done.

The biggest challenge ahead of them though is going to be keeping the schools open in Hancock.

He noted the Board of Education gave the town a reprieve, so the town has to take advantage of that reprieve.

“We have to get to work and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Kerns said.

Police Chief position posted

Hancock will be getting a new chief to lead the Hancock Police Department after the position Jim Robison has held since being sworn in December of 2019.

Since long time Police Chief T.J. Buskirk retired in 2016, the town has gone through three police chiefs – Rich Miller, Rick Cook, and Robison.

Smith said Robison’s contract had come to an end and the chief wanted to go a “different route” with police work.

Robison had been offered a position in another location and took that job.

In an email on Friday, Robison said he had informed town officials prior to the April 14 council meeting he would not be renewing his contract, which ends on December 31.

“I also informed them that should a job opportunity open up for me after July 1 then I would be leaving then and they should begin the search for a new chief immediately,” he said.

His last day will be July 1.

Robison’s departure is the fourth significant town personnel change lately.

On June 8, Leo Murray resigned from council and Joe Gilbert was fired as town manager. Prior to that, Amy Gillespie was let go from her position of Economic & Workforce Development Program Director.

Meetings shift to Tuesday

A discussion that had come up numerous times in the past, most notably by former councilman, the late Nigel Dardar, about changing the meeting night from the second Wednesday of each month to the second Tuesday of each month will start to take place.

The first meeting held on a Tuesday was the June meeting. An ordinance will be introduced on July 13 during that month’s town meeting.

Smith said the move can proceed without the ordinance change under Maryland law.

“We can change our meeting if it’s in conflictual of people not being able to make it to meetings,” he said.

Smith said the suggestion to move the meetings to the second Tuesday came “a few months back” to temporarily move the meetings to make sure everybody could be there.

Once it was seen everybody could attend the meeting, Smith said they’d entertain the charter change to amend the date.

The town attorney will be involved in making the amendment.