Chamber breakfast spotlights Senate-elects

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Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper The Dorchester Chamber of Commerce brought together our new Senator-elect and delegates for a meet and greet at the Holiday Inn Express in Cambridge. Pictured: Chris Adams, Sheree Sample-Hughes, Addie Eckardt and Johnny Mautz.

CAMBRIDGE — The Dorchester Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast for local business leaders to serve as a meet and greet with Senator-elect Addie Eckardt, Delegates-elect Chris Adams, Johnny Mautz and Sheree Sample-Hughes. The newly-elected representative team will be sworn in Jan. 14, in Annapolis.

Ms. Eckardt will be working in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, and says she is excited to get started and help get a handle on taxation and spending in Maryland, and especially the Eastern Shore. Ms. Eckardt gave a few remarks at the beginning of the meeting, and then stepped back to give her delegate team a better chance of introducing themselves.

“Thank you to everybody in the room for putting us where we are,” Senator-elect Eckardt began, “I think we’ve got a good team here.” For Annapolis in general, she said, “A lot of the old guard is not there, but there is so much newness, and so much excitement, and I believe that people have done their homework.

“I do not have specific legislation to give to you today, because one of the things that happens when you have a governor-elect of the same party, we try to work in tandem with the policy side. And they are, as we speak, trying to figure out how to move forward on a number of these issues — taxes and budget, the agricultural issues, fisheries. As I’ve said all along, we need to revisit our tax structure in Maryland.”

Ms. Eckardt touched on the need to encourage small businesses, and talked on the subject of farming and fertilizers in relation to the new proposed regulations for phosphorous and other nutrients in farm soils, and demonstrated a good knowledge of the farmer’s side of the issue.

After her brief comments she joked, “With that, I’ll shut up, because I could talk all day. I look forward to working with all of you, and I’m excited about this team. Here’s the rest of the guys.”

Sheree Sample Hughes grew up in Salisbury, has two children, an 11-year-old and a 16-year-old. She has been a member of the Wicomico County Council since 2006, and served as vice president in 2009-10.

“Public education runs close to my heart,” she said. “I have visited and polled business owners in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties to find out what was available, what were the resources, what taxes, what concerns the business owners had. Just a few weeks ago we had the opportunity to take a bus tour around the state. That was very useful, in that we got to meet so many individuals, so many businesses, and really learn what was needed here in the state of Maryland.

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Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper Senator-elect Addie Eckardt poses with the delegates-elect and the members of the Chamber board of Directors.

“Also, while I was serving on the County Council I always had quarterly meetings with my districts. It was an opportunity for people to come out and just have a conversation. We didn’t have an agenda, we just sat down and talked. If there was a specific issue in their area, people were informed. If I didn’t have the information for my constituents, I researched the issue and found the information for them.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity, I also know that I can only serve as a legislator and be really effective only if I can hear from each and every one of you. I look forward to the upcoming session, working with my colleagues, we’re a great team and we’re going to get some things done.”

Next up was Chris Adams. Mr. Adams’ family owns Value Carpet One Floor & Home in Salisbury, employing roughly 30 employees. He has also served as state president of the Maryland and Northern Virginia Floor Covering Association, which he is resigning from to avoid a conflict in his new position.

“I’m very humbled to be serving as delegate here next week. It is an honor to serve with Addie Eckardt and to take this opportunity,” Mr. Adams said. “Of course I’m going to learn a lot from Senator Eckardt, but I’m a small businesman and I understand your issues.

“One of the things in Annapolis that did frustrate me is that I didn’t see many small business people in Annapolis who instinctively understand those issues that you and I care about. As a small businessman, I like an environment of low taxes, light regulations, and an environment that invites businesses to populate here on the Eastern Shore. I quit my business for four months to run and win, and I did that because I wanted to be a voice for our small business community. We need people in Annapolis who understands before a law passes how that law is going to affect that business, and how it’s going to impact the employment situation.”

Johnny Mautz grew up in St. Michaels, working in his family’s restaurant, and also working at the Acme store.  “I recently had a person in the Acme in Easton say to me, ‘Hey Johnny, are you gonna fix all them problems in Annapolis?’ I thought about it and said, ‘Yeah . . . one at a time!’

“Larry Hogan is a businessman, he’s not a political ideologue, Mr. Mautz said. “He wants to find solutions, he wants to work with everyone who’s a positive influence. I think he’s going to approach this one step at a time also. There’s no silver bullet for overcoming challenges, you work hard and be smart and do your job, and you adjust. There are setbacks along the way; you make mistakes and you find ways to fix them.”

About the team of Larry Hogan and Boyd Rutherford, Mr. Mautz opined: “I can’t tell you how important it is that they’re making drug addiction and heroin a priority in the administration, to bring that out. Because it’s an epidemic across the country, it’s not just in one state or one area. The more you talk about it, the more you educate, the better we’re going to be. With them taking it to the top and taking a leadership role, I think that’s going to be a big help.

“I’m thoroughly excited about the upcoming session. We have an excellent team, everybody has been terrific to work with, and we’re going to be very busy. Our offices are always going to be open to you, and this is where we get our marching orders from. So please don’t ever hesitate to call, and don’t think that an idea isn’t important enough for us to know about; because your ideas make a huge difference.”

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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