Newly elected Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett has announced the membership of his 30-person transition team, which includes his own brother, Art Helton and wife, four failed city council candidates, a former city mayor, a former Havre de Grace police chief and a handful of annexation opponents.
The group, which convened Tuesday night in City Hall and will operate under the control of Helton, has until mid-January to report back to Bennett with information about the failures in city government operation and function.
In forming his team, Bennett was apparently looking for a broad cross section of folks that represented talent in various areas as well as a population diversity representing a cross section of Aberdeen’s citizenry, according to Helton.
Evidently, there are a few names yet to be added to the list once confirmed by Bennett. Any guesses?
Helton said the January report from the transition team will be made public and shared with the council members when the work is finished.
“We are not making policy, merely gathering information for the mayor’s use,” Helton said in an email.
So what do you think? Recognize any more of these names? Bennett asserts this is not a witch hunt, but it looks like this group is just a few torches away from being an outright brute squad. I wonder if this task force has folks working in City Hall encouraged or terrified?
What follows is the complete, unedited text of the Bennett transition team press release announcement, as crafted by Helton and Democratic jack-of-all-trades George Harrison:
Newly elected Aberdeen Mayor Michael Bennett has appointed a 30-person advisory team to give him a thorough, in-depth review of all aspects of city government to “see where we are and where we need to go to put the city back on track.”
In an initial meeting with the diverse group at City Hall Tuesday night, he said they had but a short time to gather information and report back to him by the end of the second week of January.
You are looking for the good, bad and the ugly, “ he told the group at the City Hall meeting. “But I don’t want anyone to think this is a witch-hunt. This is all about learning city processes, serving our citizens, and employee satisfaction.”
I want as thorough a study as possible in the limited time frame available so that I can see where we are and where we need to go to put this city back on track,” Bennett said. “Before we can move forward we need to see where we are with the budget, how the administration functions, how effective are our police services, and what we should expect are the future needs for water, sewer and basic infrastructure.”
“I want to know your assessment of what can be done better,” he told the group. “One of the things I heard most clearly during the campaign was that there was a break down in city services. We need to change that.”
Bennett divided the transition team into four sub-committees, each with distinctive duties. The overall team is co-chaired by Arthur H. Helton, Jr., a commercial property developer and landowner in Aberdeen and a Bennett supporter in the recent election. Helton is a former State Senator who served on a number of senate committees and Governor’s commissions, including the Sondheim Commission which studied state and local taxes and spending, and the Scanlan commission which reviewed the state’s personnel system.
Helton told team members he would act as coordinator with the four sub-groups and help facilitate their efforts to gain information. “My job is to make sure we are coordinated and focused on getting a comprehensive report to the mayor in the timeframe he has asked for.”
Other members of the transition team include representatives of civic organizations, the business community, religious organizations, retired military, APG contractors and citizens.
Bennett said the team will work independently of the City Government, but with the coordination of staff. Neither he nor members of the City Council will be involved until after they have completed their investigations and provided him with a report.
The largest sub-committee is Administration with 15 members, chaired by Tony Bennett, a brother of Mayor Bennett who owns the Famous and Spang Insurance Agency in Aberdeen. This committee will be looking into how city government works and interacts with the public, with an emphasis on good customer service.
Other committees include Budget, headed by Cynthia Wallace, a licensed CPA who has over 15 years experience in budgeting and financial reporting. Their charge is to look at trend lines, how past budgets compare to the current budget and analyzing what to look for in the future.
Police Department, chaired by Randall Holt, retired Major in the Maryland State Police, and former Havre de Grace Police chief. His group will look at police procedures with the view of determining if personnel are being used effectively.
And Water, Sewer and Infrastructure, chaired by Joseph Swisher, Chairman, Aberdeen Planning and Zoning Commission, who has been active in Aberdeen Proving Ground support efforts and other development programs in Aberdeen. This group will focus on processes within Department of Public Works and determining current and future infrastructure needs and the best way to finance them.
Members of The Mayor’s Advisory Team:
Cynthia Wallace – Bernard Backus – Art Helton
Tony Bennett – Steve Johnson – George Englesson (Past Mayor)
Bruce Garner – Ann Helton – Chuck Doty
Arlene Swarthout – Rev. Ken Telsee – Paul Kertis
Karen Heavey – Mike Wallace – Fred Silva
Rick Bruno – Phyllis Grover – Randall Holt
Rick Denu – Zilpha Smith – Bernard DeWitt
David Carter – Michael Mullin – John Landbeck
Joe Swisher – Bill Braermann – Dr. Billy Richardson
Dr. Sandra Landbeck