TRAPPE — Trappe Town Commissioner Walter Chase has filed for re-election. He has served on and off the council since 2004, but joins a competitive race with four candidates seeking election for three council seats on May 11.
Town planning commission member Brian Schmidt has filed as a write-in candidate, as has Don English, a longtime council member. Trappe Town Council President Nick Newnam is also seeking re-election. Norm Fegel has reached his term limit and will not be running for re-election.
The current makeup of the Trappe Town Council is being challenged by two outside candidates during a contentious time — the town has joined a lawsuit defending a discharge permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment for the Lakeside at Trappe development.
ShoreRivers and Chesapeake Bay Foundation allege the discharge permit was given despite the state skirting the permit’s public input process. The organizations also allege it was awarded with complete disregard to serious environmental concerns. Multiple Trappe residents have filed affidavits with both organizations.
Chase is a native Trappe resident, longtime police officer for the Easton Police Department, the first African-American police chief at the EPD and the first African-American to join the Trappe Town Council. Chase last won election in 2017 and his term expires this year.
The commissioner has voted in favor of the 2,501 Lakeside housing-unit development, including a revised concept plan last year. Chase backed his position in an interview.
“The majority of the town wants this and that’s why I voted for it each time,” he said. “I know some people have different opinions about it, and that’s their right.”
Some Trappe residents who have joined the lawsuit against the development’s discharge permit and wastewater treatment plant have raised health concerns. Those include the Lamberts, who live 2,000 feet from the spray fields, as well as Faye Nave, Steve Harris and Rebecca Eismann.
Chase said he and other commissioners are considering hooking the town up to Easton’s wastewater treatment plant, primarily because it would be easier for the town.
“I think it would be in the best interests of the town of Trappe because I’m certain it would bring our water and sewer (bills) down,” he said. “And if we did not hook on with Easton, I am certain there would be no pollution from the wastewater plant.”
Chase also has confidence in the developers to follow through with the development, arguing that Rauch Engineering hit a rut during the housing crisis of 2008. But the town is in debt $3 million from upgrading its wastewater treatment plant, in part because of the expected development.
He said the development would grow the town’s tax base and pay off debt. The commissioner also argued that Trappe needs to grow into the 21st Century, a major part of his campaign and re-election bid.
“It hasn’t grown very well,” he said, saying Lakeside at Trappe is a good start. “But not only the development. I’d like to see more (businesses) downtown.”
Chase grew up in Trappe, one child in a large family of 14 children. He’s a descendant of Nate Hopkins, a former slave, Union soldier in the Civil War, and a religious leader credited with forming Scotts United Methodist Church. Hopkins is celebrated every year in Trappe with Uncle Nace’s Day parade.
He graduated from the old Moton High School, class of 1953, and studied agricultural education for two years at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). During college, Chase said he was interested in law enforcement, and joined the Easton Police Department afterward.
“When I started, the town was segregated,” he said, and “when I was hired, it was to police African-American neighborhoods.”
He eventually became the chief of police, creating history at EPD.
“It was really quite an experience,” he said. “If you really look at it, Easton has not had an African-American reach the rank of lieutenant since me. This is reality.”
Chase earned an associate’s degree in law enforcement from Chesapeake College in 1978. Chase also graduated from the FBI National Academy. He was inspired by the FBI after assisting agents with a local bank robbery.
He moved to Oxford for thirty years, but has lived in Trappe since 1998.
“I’ve always wanted to stay here,” he said. “I have one brother and three sisters in Trappe.”
Chase also has five grown children. One daughter lives with him and one of his sons lives in Salisbury.
Chase is retired but he served for 38 years with the Easton Police Department. He first ran for a town council seat in 2004 when Lakeside at Trappe was first being discussed.
“I wanted to see the town grow and I was trying to bring business to Trappe,” he said. “And when the town was talking about the development, I was supportive of it.”
Before serving on the council, Chase had served on the town’s planning commission and board of appeals, along with the Talbot County Board of Appeals. He has also held office as a member of the Talbot County Democratic Central Committee.
He was involved in the Maryland Police Training Commission for more than 20 years and has been a member of the Maryland Police Chiefs Association, the International Chiefs of Police Association and the Talbot County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 18.
He has served many years with the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, including terms as president and vice president. Chase is also a member of the Easton Star Lodge and has been a member of the Talbot County Historical Society and served on the boards of Channel Marker, Inc., and the Neighborhood Service Center in Easton, among others.