Two candidates vie for Hurlock District 3 Council seat

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HURLOCK — Hurlock’s election is slated for Nov. 7 at the Hurlock Elementary School from 8 am-6 pm. Two districts will vote to send a representative to the Town Council this year. Running unopposed in District 4 is long-time Councilman Rev. Charles Cephas. The District 3 race pits current council member Russell “Rusty” Murphy, 53 against Lynda “Lyn” Vinson.
Mr. Murphy was appointed in July to fill the seat left vacant when former Councilman Parker Durham resigned. He is running to keep the position. Married to Julie Ann (Mills), Mr. Murphy has a daughter and a son. Mr. Murphy moved to Hurlock five years ago from Federalsburg.
A United States Navy Seabees veteran, the candidate has worked for United Parcel Service since July 1988 and is a member of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 355. An active member of Bethel United Methodist Church, Mr. Murphy is also a member of the Board of Trustees and a current council member for district 3 in Hurlock.
The Banner asked each candidate what three issues facing Hurlock they consider most important and what suggestions do they have for resolving those issues.
For Mr. Murphy, the first issue is growing businesses. He said he would “Keep the invitations open for small and large businesses to explore the opportunities in Hurlock. We are on track in doing that currently and more business means more dollars for other businesses that already exist. There are endless opportunities here which would hopefully bring new residents as well. I would love to see more people move here and fall in love with the people and town as I have done.”
A second problem is “revitalizing an aging town.” He responded, “As most small towns in America are facing, revitalizing Hurlock is no different. The Mayor is working hard as usual along with the Town Administrator in addressing this problem. We have older structures, old water lines, old water drainage system, and our roads are in need of repair. We have made much progress in these areas but much more (needs) to be done.”
Third, Mr. Murphy sees the need for more community events. “When you take the first four letters out of community this is what community events brings, UNITY. I feel we need more events in the dormant months. I love when we have festivals, parades, or any events that unite us as a community. I am in favor of flea markets, outdoor movies, or any activities that enable us to see friends, neighbors, and celebrate life together. The flea market is a no brainer with all the fruits, vegetables, and crafts we produce in our area. Again, people coming to our town bring dollars to other existing businesses.”
Hurlock has a “Strong Mayor” system of governance as opposed to a “Council-City Manager” form. Under this system the mayor is the chief executive; the town council is the legislative body. As chief executive the mayor is not a member of the council; proposes the budget; appoints department directors, and has veto authority. The council is supposed to elect its own presiding officer, set its own agenda, approve the budget, and can override a mayoral veto. In Hurlock, the position of council “president” was eliminated a few years ago.
Asked Mr. Murphy’s opinion about the Strong Mayor system, he said, “I feel it is a scaled version of the way our country operates, one President and only a five person Congress. We, in Hurlock, are lucky to have Mayor Joyce Spratt. I always knew she was a dedicated, hard working Mayor, but I really did not know how hard she worked until recently. When you have someone like her, the current system really works well.”
A few years ago council members’ salaries were reduced from $14,000 to $10,000. Asked if he favors lowering or raising current pay, Mr. Murphy answered, “I do not think council member salaries should be lowered. I personally am not persuaded to do this job for the monetary benefits. However, I do think that after a first term you should receive an increase in pay if re-elected. You must be doing your job if re-elected and should be rewarded as such. I believe that the raise should be grandfathered in to compensate existing members. Our Mayor is another topic: She deserves and has earned a significant raise in pay.”
Lyn Vinson, 67, is a 40-year resident of Hurlock. She taught school, was a radio station account executive, worked for Talbot County’s Health Department, Juvenile Services with at-risk youngsters, and Dorchester County public schools. She owned a property title search business and served as a Paralegal and assistant to her late husband, town attorney for over 30 years, Hugh Carter Vinson. She follows politics avidly, particularly on a local level, and decided to run for office because she is concerned about Hurlock not “running well” and believes she can “do better.”
Ms. Vinson was eager to dispel a rumor that has been circulating since she announced her candidacy. “If people think I’m blind and can’t do anything they’re wrong.” She uses a “reader” donated by the Lions Club for whom she frequently speaks. “I read a lot. I also prune trees, get up on the roof, clean my own home, cook, care for animals, and even cross streets safely and frequently and I will not cost the town one red cent in assistance.”
Updating the Town Charter is issue #1 for Ms. Vinson. She sees the Charter as a “pathway, a guiding light for the harmony of the town. Council members must know what their duties are and what they are not. It has not been updated for 20-30 years. The council is supposed to be talking to its citizens and meeting separately from the mayor with scheduled public work sessions.” She would like the council to approve checks over certain amount, like $2,000, at town meetings.
The second issue is the town’s appearance which, she says concerns residents. “I don’t know if people understand that there are good public programs and grants available to help people – homeowners and even some renters. There’s also a battery of townspeople willing to volunteer.” She sees Hurlock as “our own entity and we should not try to be like any other towns. We have so much to offer as just ourselves.” She says “tightening the ordinances and strengthening them is part of what the council can do to help the appearance.”
Another way to improve the appearance is to bring townspeople together more so they “buy in to how their town looks.” Ms. Vinson favors more get-togethers other than fall festival and Christmas. “We have watermen, farmers, musicians, artists – It’s the perfect place for a farmers’ market or a flea market so every person feels like they CAN take part. They tell me they don’t come to town meetings because they feel like they don’t matter. They say ‘They have their plan and they’re going to do their plan and it doesn’t matter what I say.’ I say ‘it does matter.’ The end of the meeting is the time to voice your opinions and concerns. Now we have the Main St. Committee and I’d love to see more citizens take part in that.”
The third issue is bringing jobs to the local area.“We’re all interested in bringing businesses to town that will be helpful to our residents. What do we need here? A small-scale hardware store would be welcome. But we have to do more than just ‘welcome them.’ We need businesses that our people can support. We could offer tax credits and hook-up abatements; create a small business development fund; and continue to improve infrastructure.”
Responding to the question about the Strong Mayor system, Ms. Vinson believes it should be discussed and explained so citizens understand it better. As part of that discussion, she feels that if the current staff has too much work the council could review the administration’s structure. “I would like to take the burden of running the city off of the mayor. Anyway I can be of service, I will, because since I’m retired can dedicate time to pick up the slack. And I love to serve people. It’s what I want to do.”
In response to lowering or raising salaries, Ms. Vinson answered, “Salaries and benefits were raised to astronomical limits in past decades without public knowledge. While previous administration put a salary cap at $10,000 it’s still out of line with other towns our size. Neighbors should not be taking so much from their neighbors for what they presently do.”
Mr. Murphy says, “Come out and vote. You don’t get anything done unless you have a voice. Vote for me on Nov. 7 and ‘Let Me Be Your Voice!’I have a lot of ideas and energy and would love a chance to go to work for you! Thanks to all my supporters and helpers!”
Ms. Vinson adds, “People matter and their voices matter. The council and mayor are there to hear those voices before they act. The people are the town, not the mayor, not the council – the people.”

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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