By Brian Gilliland
(Oct. 24, 2014) Armed with a copy of the Constitution in his front pocket, Republican Ted Elder is a throwback candidate fond of simpler times, simpler solutions and simpler regulations.
A tall, lean man of quiet conviction and a soft-spoken voice, Elder sports salt-and-pepper black hair with a matching mustache. He isn’t much for small talk, equivocation or low stakes: Elder sees problems and sees himself as the one to fix them.
He’s managed a service station, worked as a mechanic and has served as the president of the Worcester County Bus Contractors Association for the past 20 years. In this capacity, he has also represented his opposition for the county commissioner’s seat, Virgil Shockley.
Elder doesn’t have a website and uses a Facebook page as his official campaign site. He isn’t on Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media Ocean City Today could locate. Shockley has a LinkedIn profile and a formidable online presence due to his many years as a commissioner.
“I’m well known for helping people. The people in my district know who I am,” Elder said.
Elder said he sees a financial crisis coming in the next few years, but hesitates to identify a source. He thinks there has been a gradual recovery from the collapse in 2008 and is satisfied that the county has been able to sock away a rainy day fund, but, he said, he thinks those funds will run out one day.
“And then we’ll need a way to fund services. I want to alleviate that,” he said.
Elder’s solution is a familiar one: cut waste. He said he believes there is a lot of waste in county government, including county employees. Elder said he has heard “numerous” reports of county employees leaving shifts early or starting late, and he said he means to make the department heads responsible for lax discipline.
“The man running the shop should know,” he said.
Elder then cited the county’s efforts to encourage recycling, and said he wanted to take a page from Ocean City’s book. The resort ended traditional recycling in 2010 and instead ships its waste to be incinerated as an energy source. Elder said he recycles and that he thinks everyone would like to, but with the looming financial crunch coming for the county, “Can you really afford $300,000 when we’re running short of money?”
The county would be able to afford it if we attracted more businesses, Elder said, answering his own question.
“Good paying jobs and businesses. We need hi-tech and even service jobs to support them,” he said. “Currently… (we’re known) as one of the toughest counties to build on because of county regulations and permitting.”
Maryland is a popular choice among editors of “business-unfriendly environment” lists, but Ocean City Today could not locate any data on the county level.
Elder is also concerned with education.
“The Snow Hill school costs about… $40 (million)-something but someone mentioned $50 (million)-something and they’ve got 300-some odd students,” he said. “Here in Berlin, we’ve got more students in our eighth grade than they have in the entire high school — one grade.”
Both the $40 and $50 million figures have been reported elsewhere. The construction project will cost around $40 million and the total project cost is expected to be about $50 million. The Snow Hill High School project was part of a revitalization effort starting with Stephen Decatur and Pocomoke high schools.
At the time of project approval in September 2013, Shockley was quoted as saying it took “15 years” for the project to be approved. According to figures by publicschoolreview.com, there are more students at Stephen Decatur Middle than Snow Hill High.
Elder is also concerned with what goes on inside the schools.
“And now we’ve got Common Core coming. Common Core was not designed by anyone in education at all. Common Core was the brainchild of rich federal liberals. Basically, what has happened is that no one has ever voted on it, no educators have ever been in on the planning of it. No legislators have ever voted on it.
“It’s been brought down by governors of the states through grant money. They accepted the carrot not knowing what it was going to cost us in the future,” he said.
According to www.corestandards.org, the official site of the Common Core State Standards, the National Governor’s Association (the bipartisan association of every state governor) and the Council of Chief State School officers (a nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments in primary and secondary education) led the development of the Common Core.
Teachers were involved in four ways: They served on work and feedback groups for the math and English language portions of the standards; teacher groups such as the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) brought teachers together for feedback; teachers were members of feedback groups on iterations of draft standards; and teachers participated in the public hearing phase of the adoption process. Forty-four states are part of members of the initiative supporting the measure, and five states have voted to repeal or replace the Common Core standards.
The Maryland State Board of Education adopted the standards unanimously in 2010. The governor appoints members of the board.
When it comes to governing style, Elder said he realizes he would be one of seven commissioners and he “usually” works well with groups.
“I can compromise and listen to both sides of the story. I may not make decisions sometimes until I see both sides, but I will seek out both sides. I look forward to working with the other commissioners,” he said.
What he said a commissioner cannot do is compromise those “certain issues in your heart.” For Elder, those issues are wasting money or hurting people.
While we may not ever see those items on a commissioner’s agenda, the broader ramifications are clear. Elder’s candidacy is based on a firm desire to streamline and support existing county structures and services rather than add to or augment them.