ST. MICHAELS — Gov. Larry Hogan toured both St. Michaels and Councell Farms in Cordova Monday afternoon, Oct. 19, mingling with small businesses and local residents in a public display of appreciation and support for the Eastern Shore community as it struggles with economic woes and a pandemic.
Hogan, who stopped to take pictures and discuss the hardships of the pandemic with many Talbot County residents along his tour, said he was thinking about Marylanders when he decided to come out and visit the Eastern Shore.
“I know the people have been struggling across the state and the Eastern Shore is no exception,” he said in an interview. “We wanted to show our support for the local businesses and talk about programs that will help these families.”
Hogan’s visit to Talbot County was part of a larger tour of the Eastern Shore. The governor announced a $10 million aid package for agricultural farmers and met with local watermen about the future of the industry in Dorchester County on the same day.
Hogan began his tour of St. Michaels just before 2 p.m. on a sunny and cloudless afternoon. The motorcade parked near St. Michaels Crab & Steak House, and Hogan walked through the entire downtown area, stopping by multiple shops including American/Holiday, Carpenter Street Saloon and Foxy’s Harbor Grille.
At Foxy’s, Hogan was asked by a local resident about his choice to write-in Ronald Reagan on his 2020 ballot, and then publicize it.
“Well, in Maryland, it’s not going to be very close,” Hogan said of the 2020 presidential election.
The governor was welcomed with open arms at many of the establishments. Some residents said he was managing the coronavirus pandemic well, while others suggested he should run for president in 2024, a topic Hogan has teased in the past.
The governor discussed the pandemic with a local couple and said the state was “working hard” to support them.
“Right now, our economy is doing better,” Hogan said, adding that “so are the numbers with the virus. We’re striking a balance.”
Maryland’s unemployment rate is at 6.9%, and the state has confirmed 136,154 cases of COVID-19, 23rd highest in the U.S.
During the tour, Hogan was joined by first lady Yumi Hogan, Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder, and Rep. Johnny Mautz, R-37B.
Mautz, who represents Talbot, Wicomico, Caroline and Dorchester counties, said he was appreciative of the visit to his local communities.
“To come out and meet with these businesses is really important,” Mautz said. “There were some politics in this — some smiling and grinning — but it gives him a perspective on what people are going through, and the government needs to get out there and meet with the people.”
Hogan asked employees at Charisma Clothing Boutique how they were managing during the pandemic, and told them, “It’s been a tough time for small businesses, but we are doing everything we can to support you.”
Afterward, the governor traveled to Councell Farms and gave owner Phil Councell a citation in “recognition of leadership on a local and national level” for his implementation of safety measures during the pandemic.
At Councell Farms, Hogan relaxed as he toured the grounds. He playfully jumped on the moon bounce with Councell’s children and posed for photos in a model tractor before he left the farm after 4 p.m.
“Councell Farms in Cordova has provided Marylanders with farm-fresh products and family fun since 1981,” Hogan said. “Outdoor activities present lower risk from COVID-19 than indoor activities, and we continue to encourage Marylanders to get outside and safely enjoy the fall weather.”
Tasey Councell said she was appreciative of the visit and delighted in showing the governor around.
“We showed him how we made (the business) completely outside, with spots for hand sanitizer and sneeze guards,” said Councell. “Everyone enjoyed him coming to see us; it was great. He jumped around with my kids.”
Mautz, who joined the governor for the entire trip, said the tour went well and the local community had long needed a visit from the governor.
“I think it’s overdue because we need to get people out and talking and moving forward,” he said. “But we are getting back to making policies and talking to the people affected by (coronavirus) regulations.”