As the drama continues between the Wicomico County Council and the Wicomico County Executive’s Office, things took a drastic turn this morning and now many people, much like myself, are scratching our heads and completely puzzled by a press release that was sent out by the Wicomico County Council, and information coming in over the weekend.
On Friday, I unfortunately read a social media post by Ms. Heather Lankford, that said the following:
We all have “y’s”/“why’s” in our lives.
“Y’s” that bring us to a point of choice. Equally, “why’s” that we ask ourselves for betterment or clarity in life choices.
Today I have been met with both as I reflect on my position of Acting Deputy Director.
On February 22, 2023, I was blessed to be publicly announced as Acting Director of Public Works. While it may sound simple, or to some daunting, I was fully immersed and enthusiastic. I had many managerial background opportunities and experiences personally that molded what I felt would create better communication, employee retainage, budget and financial monitoring, and creating and enhancing leaders visions and strengths in each of the 3 departments.
I also knew that my focus couldn’t solely remain on the leaders, but those that persisted through change and their work ethic embodied what was best for completion of tasks that highlight their skills. I worked hand-in-hand with an extremely supportive Executive staff and answered calls/emails in length within a timely fashion to each Council Member during this time period.
On May 17, 2023, I was presented to Council to extend my Acting capacity, in which Council could not come to a consensus. Waiting has never been the issue. My only focus – pursue my goals to work for the best interest of the County and the constituents. I continued to find and resolve issues that the public and Council aren’t even aware of, which in essence is the objective, so that no one has to panic and business continues as usual.
However, despite all of the positive, responsive, and professional decisions made, Council decided to defund any position over Public Works I could fill, despite the County Attorney fulfilling his job in providing his legal opinion. In the face of all of the negative, untrue comments and frankly, unprofessional statements and actions of the Council in their beliefs that I’m not qualified, I continued to personally engage with constituents that requested assistance from their respective Council Member with no success and I stepped in and attempted communication to Council and was met with lack of answers and courtesy.
I worked nights, weekends, holidays, and continuously invested time in researching and educating myself on additional ways to assist Public Works and the County.
So here I am, enduring 4 months of outlandish and untrue allegations by the Council and still standing strong, knowing my abilities and worth. I successfully managed near 100 people of all trades, personalities, and backgrounds. I managed and set a budget of nearly $30 million dollars and created ways to improve and/or work with companies to apply lower rates to save constituent monies and improve time management.
Today, I hit my “y’s”/“why’s”. Why am I not engulfed in my passion of engineering and more focused on the unnecessary background noise of those whose minds won’t change until a Court Ruling? Well, it was because I believe in truth. I don’t believe in one-sided and personal vendettas. I don’t quit on my team that worked so hard to transition and get where they are today. It is because so many have stood behind me and beside me along this journey. All of this unfactual calamity is an unnecessary weight that no one person should bear or carry the weight of while executing critical decisions daily and having a home life.
This brings me to the “y” in this situation. A task and decision that I have not made lightly on which bend to take. Instead of being engulfed by the noise, I stepped back to view the bigger picture.
In the leadership I had that supported me, I was able to lead others. I can comfortably and confidently say that the supervisors at each department will seamlessly transition and continue to run with the learned skills and confidence I’ve assisted instilling within them. My direction has been stuck in this “y” road break decision on assisting Administration to complete these large tasks and finalize a few major projects in getting to a point of fluidity, execution, and comfort. Due to this, my road, at this time, turns to the direction to remove myself from the negativity and lurking court matters and while also silencing the demeaning words about myself as a person and professional, by standing firmly in the Manager Engineer Role.
Should the Court resolution conclude, I may or may not adjust my sails at that time. For now, I will regain time with my son and family, and not be overshadowed by the unnecessary background noise. I will continue to work side-by-side with Public Works and the Administration, while realizing I am one person, and more importantly, a mother who wants to cheer her child on, rather than be engulfed in watching contentious Council Meetings, only to be met with disrespect and attempted belittling words.
This isn’t quitting or losing, it’s winning by choosing to pursue my bigger passion and serve the County on some of the largest and impactful projects to come, while also regaining my time with my son.
The Executive Administration has asked me to stay as Acting Deputy Director until these large tasks were completed, and I am now comfortable handing it to the team I’ve lead and Administrative leaders. Fortunately, our working relationship is strong, and we will work hand-in-hand should there be any hiccups or snags along the way, but I fully envision not even the slightest ripple in transition with the teams built on the strong foundation they were guided by within these past 7 months.
With much gratitude to those that stand by me,
That left me with a lot of questions and sadness, knowing that this young ladies, name, reputation, and morale, had been run through the mud and deflated, and instead of her and her family having to deal with negativity, she decided to take the high road and just move on to serve the county in an alternative means.
Then, early this morning, I received an emailed press release from the Office of the County Executive stating the following:
Sanitary District Team
As many citizens know, the implementation of our Water and Sewer Plan has been a top priority of this administration. The first step of this plan was to get legislation passed to allow Wicomico County to have a Sanitary District. This legislation unanimously passed in the Spring and will become effective October 1, 2023.
As we rapidly approach that date, we will need our very best team in place to ensure the success of this plan, even in its infancy stages. That team includes Amanda Pollack, an Engineer for the Center for Watershed Protection, and our very own, now Head of Engineering, Heather Lankford.
While we are saddened to lose Ms. Lankford as our Acting Deputy Director of Public Works, her love and passion for Engineering will significantly benefit the County and play a vital role in establishing the Sanitary District. We know she did not make this choice lightly, but we respect her wishes and look forward to our continued success on this project.Sanitary-District-Team (wicomicocounty.org)
This was pretty much the same thing that Ms. Lankford stated in her social media post.
Then, approximately an hour and a half later, I got a somewhat puzzling press release from the Wicomico County Council stating the following:
Acting Deputy Director of Public Works Dismissal
The County Council was informed by Director of Administration Bunky Luffman late Friday afternoon, September 8th, that the Administration has reversed its action on Ms. Heather Lankford serving in the capacity as the “Acting Deputy Director of Public Works”.
Ms. Lankford was one of two individuals whose appointments had been rejected by the Wicomico County Council within the past several months. Mr. Luffman reported that Ms. Lankford has been placed in the “Manager Engineer” position within the Department of Public Works and that he will be overseeing the Department until the County is able to hire a new Director.
No further explanation was given for the restructuring of Ms. Lankford’s role in Public Works.
Ms. Lankford originally served as the Acting Director of Public Works for a period of 90 days as allowed by the County Charter. However, following the 90-day probationary period as Acting Director of Public Works, the County Executive unilaterally appointed Ms. Heather Lankford in the unauthorized capacity as Acting Deputy Director of Public Works on May 17, 2023.
The County Charter does not recognize, nor provide for any such position as Acting Deputy Director.
The Wicomico County Council looks forward to continuing to rectify these outstanding hiring discrepancies as to avoid the unnecessary and costly measures associated with any further threats of litigation.23-0913-New-Release-Heather-Lankford-Manager-Engineer-FINAL (wicomicocounty.org)
That would be puzzling enough, and if you aren’t confused already, stand by because it gets better…..
About an hour and a half later, I got an email response from Director of Administration Bunky Luffman stating the following:
Members of the press, I want to apologize for having to respond to a county council press release that was sent several minutes ago pertaining to a personnel issue in Wicomico County.
The narrative in the press release surrounding my interaction with the council office is unfortunate and not an accurate accounting of the discussion. I’ll refer you to the attached press release County Executive Giordano sent earlier this morning, which speaks volumes of our office’s faith in Ms. Lankford’s abilities.
Bunky Luffman(Sent via Email)
Director of Administration
So let’s break this down piece by piece.
-First and foremost, I want to be abundantly clear that in my opinion and by reading Ms. Lankford’s post, she is upset and not happy with the way this all turned out, however for the benefit of her and her family, this was the choice SHE chose.
-Next, the County Executive made many pre-election promises and assured the community that one of her top goals was the Sanitary District and the implementation of our Water and Sewer Plan. No matter what has happened between the County Council and the County Executive, Mrs. Julie Giordano has stayed true to her promises and is continuing to push forward to get things done, which speaks volumes of her character. It goes to show that she isn’t just about making “Political promises”, much unlike some other people here in this county.
-Next, the County Council basically, from the way I see it, fabricated a story, to make them shine brighter in a very dim light. As you all know, I don’t sugarcoat anything, I call it as I see it, and I see this as a completely irresponsible fabrication of the truth. Ms. Lankford was NOT dismissed and the Administration did NOT reverse its action on Ms. Heather Lankford serving in the capacity as the “Acting Deputy Director of Public Works”.
-Then, we have the Director of Administration Bunky Luffman stating that what the County Council is alleging is untrue.
Now, having the County Council and the County Executive having a disagreement is one thing but when one of those groups of individuals, who just so happen to be our government legislature, the County Council, releases a public press release, that is a lie, that is absolutely detrimental to an individual, such as Ms. Heather Lankford, then that is egregiously concerning to me, as it should be to every single Wicomico County resident, as it sets the county up for a MAJOR lawsuit.