Back Talk: Looking Forward
Mar 25, 2014 11:06AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Prior to last year’s successful campaign—and subsequent appointment in November—to become Chestertown’s mayor, Chris Cerino had never run for public office.
Cerino, who served as chairman of the Chestertown Planning Commission at the time of his election, says he decided to run for mayor because he wanted to have a direct role in planning and implementing several “important initiatives,” such as revitalizing the town’s commercial centers and redeveloping its waterfront.
After a busy and exhausting campaign, Cerino won the election with 45 percent of the votes. His schedule, however, won’t be winding down anytime soon. In addition to his mayoral duties, Cerino serves as vice president of the Sultana Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides experiential education programs to nearly 10,000 students annually. He says he’s the first Chestertown mayor in more than 30 years to simultaneously work in office and hold a full-time job.
What’s Up? Eastern Shore recently spoke with Cerino to discuss his vision for Chestertown and what steps he’ll be taking to turn that vision into a reality.
Congratulations on winning the election. How did you feel upon hearing the results?
Winning the election was exhilarating. It was incredibly rewarding to see all of the hard work that my supporters put into the campaign had paid off. At the same time, it was somewhat daunting, as there is lots of work to be done.
What are some of the projects you’re going to be working on?
I would like to see Chestertown enhance its economy by better marketing (its) strengths—a gorgeous Historic District, our location on the Chester River, a thriving liberal arts institution in Washington College, a fantastic arts community, and easy access to incredible outdoor recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating, biking, and bird watching. The redevelopment of our waterfront is critical, in my estimation, to strengthen the marketplace in our Historic District. I’d like to work with our business owners to see how we can work together to stimulate economic activity throughout the entire community, including the shopping centers at the north end of town. Creating new winter events to keep tourism dollars flowing after the holidays is going to be critical. Finally, I would like to have as much public input as possible when making important decisions about the community.
That certainly seems like a lot of work. What’s at the top of your to-do list?
One of our big priorities is rehabilitating the town-owned marina on the Chester River. This was purchased by the town three years ago and is in need of a complete overhaul. Once this is accomplished, the development of a publicly accessible waterfront walk stretching for a half-mile along the river and circling back into town will greatly enhance the Chestertown experience for both full-time residents and tourists.
What areas do you think need the most improvement?
There has been a perception in recent years that the town government has not been “business friendly” over the past few years, especially during the recent recession. We need to reopen lines of communication with our business owners and work together to make sure that all of our businesses have the tools that they need to succeed.
There are so many wonderful aspects of Chestertown, what do you enjoy most about living here?
For me, the best thing about living in Chestertown is the easy access to the water. Kent County does a fantastic job of preserving public access to the Chester River, Sassafras River, and the Bay proper. For someone like me, who is basically a river rat, it’s paradise.
Cerino is succeeding longtime Chestertown Mayor Margo Bailey, who decided last year not to seek another term after 20 years in office. What’s Up? Eastern Shore also caught up with Bailey recently to reflect on her dedicated service to the town. Read the story here.