Opinion: While the race for Governor in Northampton was closer than expected, Northam still carried by 634 votes. If anything, this was a victory for a local boy. Other races in the county offer a similar take—homeboys took back the county.
In District 1, John Coker defeated Jackie Chatmon 692 to 402. In this race, Coker succeeded in garnering the “CBES sustainability vote”, essentially gaining the majority of Granville Hogg supporters. Chatmon on the other hand, as Chairman of the Planning Commission, found herself embroiled in the “Son of 2015 Zoning” controversy surrounding the latest draft Comprehensive Plan. While Chatmon is a smart, successful and accomplished woman (disclaimer, Chatmon is a good friend of the author), she was nonetheless tied to the CPAC group, a group that many in the county feel is less than reputable for reasons stemming from promoting over-development, unsustainable growth practices, and a hidden desire to unravel Chesapeake Bay protections—to essentially turn the Shore into Ocean City. For many who championed Granville Hogg and his loyalty and love of the Eastern Shore, they attached those qualities to Coker.
One of the more interesting events was the race for the at-large School Board slot, where Kevin Schwenk was easily defeated by Randy Parks. The race highlighted Schwenk, a recent come-here who resigned his post at Northampton High School against Parks, a retired teacher and administrator with close to 30 years’ experience within the county school system.
“Mr. Schwenk should explain why, after successfully motivating students at NHS, he elected to leave the position, and discontinue the programs which he resurrected. This appears to be a disconnect with his campaign positions.” This comment by a Mirror reader points to a disconnect that is crucial. His resignation, as well as his capriciously canceling theater productions such as Peter Pan, left many with the impression of Kevin as not so much a problem solver, but a quitter.
After deconstruction, at its core, some folks that voted for Parks said they found the Schwenk campaign arrogant, out of touch and at times insulting. The message taken by many was that Northampton families, the kids, the system in general is bad, and that only a millennial come-here has the answers to fix it. For those that have grown up here, graduated from here, have raised families that have kids in school here now, the message that “it’s all about the kids” or “let’s give them what they deserve” rang hollow. The real Shore rejected this notion outright; for Shore families, they already knew it was all about the kids (this is a county that gives over 60% of its revenue to the schools, and routinely approves of increasing that number).
There is no doubt that Northampton has its issues, such as generational poverty, but almost every other locality in the state has similar if not worse problems. The belief promoted by Schwenk and others that the School Board and School Administration doesn’t give a hoot about the kids was not palatable.
Kevin Schwenk is a wonderful person, and many really love him (the fact that he got 1000 votes speaks to how much many care for him), but the campaign message, while purporting to be hopeful, was for many parents, a little disingenuous, and ultimately left a bad taste in their mouths.
There is a feeling that many people who move here, and have not raised a family here, don’t see the whole picture. Those that have been involved in Shore sports realize there is another side to the living on the Shore. From tee-ball up through school ball, no matter the sport, over the many years you meet and become friends with so many families from all walks of life–you gain a perspective.
We have seen kids that started out playing tee-ball and are now pitching in the Yankee system, we have kids that graduated and come back to start some of the largest businesses on the Shore. In my little case, someone like Ashley Glennon who several years ago played Annie opposite my Daddy Warbucks, has now graduated from college and works for Microsoft. Despite the gloom that many are trying to spread about our schools and kids, there are thousands of stories just like this. The people of Northampton County really want someone like Andy Teeling, who is aware of the problems and shortcomings, but also the grand success stories—someone who, rather than pointing fingers, is willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work.
Just as in the Coker race, just as the county rejected the doom and gloom of the CPAC inspired draft Comp Plan, Northampton rejected a similar dark representation of their children and their schools, as well as the mythic notion that they are in need of a millennial come-here salvation.
They instead opted for a pragmatic administrator with 30 years of boots on the ground Eastern Shore experience.