ELECTION 2022 Calvert Sheriff Hopeful Dave McDowell’s campaign blessed with big bucks by outgoing boss Mike Evans and car dealer Wanamaker that wants to be a sheriff-maker
News and Commentary
BY KENNETH C. ROSSIGNOL
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
PRINCE FREDERICK, MD. – Starting right at the main drag in Prince Frederick, early in 2021, the owner of Bayside Auto Group, Geoff Wanamaker, began guiding campaign funds to Patrick David ‘Dave’ McDowell, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the position of Calvert County Sheriff. Wanamaker’s contribution checks from the Chevy and Toyota dealerships, which sprawl along the busy lanes of Maryland Route 4, paved the way for an ambitious start for McDowell to land the top job as the top cop in Calvert County.
Should he win both the Republican nomination and the General Election in November, McDowell will consummate a quest for the office that his stepfather, former Prince Georges County Police Lt. Col. Vincent duCellier, sought in 1990.
Vincent duCellier was the Republican candidate for Calvert County Sheriff that year and lost to Democrat L. C. “Bootsie” Stinnett, a retired State Police trooper; however, he racked up an amazing forty percent of the vote.
Calvert Sheriff Bootsie Stinnett with deputies after successful drug raid
That was quite an accomplishment for a Republican in the traditionally Democrat stronghold of Calvert County at the time. Calvert’s population was soaring as refugees from Prince Georges County were overrunning Calvert as they fled the invasion of blacks from the district and inside the beltway neighborhoods with rising crime rates and drug dealing.
The exodus from P.G. County arrived seeking better schools, lower taxes, and safer communities to live in with effective law enforcement.
Ironically, McDowell’s mother, T. J. duCellier, married to Vincent duCellier, was in pitched battles, first with the ‘good old boys‘ and lackadaisical administration of Sheriff Adrian Joy and then with former Sheriff Stinnett.
The battle was on with former States Attorney Warren Sengstack as she published the Chesapeake Observer newspaper. T. J. duCellier had to bring a federal lawsuit against Stinnett to force him to provide press releases to her newspaper when he got ticked off at her coverage of the Sheriff’s department.
The Observer filled a role in Calvert, and Southern Anne Arundel that was and still is left empty as newspapers then and now spend their energy working to enhance the careers of local politicians instead of informing readers about government and holding officials accountable for their actions. The Observer of 1990 would have worn out Sheriff Mike Evans’s administration and threw cold water on any effort of Evan’s top dog to replace him in office in 2022.
The principal newspaper of Calvert County, the Calvert Independent, which was owned by the Washington Times, folded during the financial crisis of 2008 while the Chesapeake Observer shut down when the duCelliers moved to West Virginia. The Recorder has disappeared into a blended publication under new owners, including Charles and St. Mary’s publications, all of which were once owned by the Washington Post. The Post was sold in a fire sale to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.
Through her newspaper, T. J. duCellier criticized Calvert States Attorney Warren Sengstack for his failure in 1989 to charge the killer of Kevin Langley at Broomes Island as the Maryland State Police, and Calvert Sheriff Adrian Joy never bothered to push to lock up the killer, saying it was a beef between drug dealers.
Solomon’s Islander correspondent Pepper Langley, grandfather of the murder victim, led the charge to hold Sengstack accountable for ignoring the tragic homicide and led a protest outside the Bowen’s Inn where the incumbent state’s attorney was holding a political fundraiser in the 1990 election.
T.J. duCellier and the Langley family pushed hard for attorney Thomas M. Pelagatti to replace Sengstack as states attorney. While Pelagatti didn’t prevail in his bid for states attorney, in 1998, he was elected Orphans Court Judge and appointed Chief Judge of the Calvert Orphans Court under Gov. Martin O’Malley and is still an Orphans Court Judge.
Vincent duCellier assisted T. J. with the newspaper in his off time as he was employed as the Chief of Police of North Beach following his retirement from Prince Georges Police. One particular “hot mic” comment as he and another officer commented on the appearance of a local reporter, kept the emergency services and police circles buzzing with jokes for several months.
Therefore, police work runs in the veins of Calvert County Sheriff Lt. Col. Dave McDowell.
Dad was ‘on the job’; Mom was always telling cops how to do the job
Over the years, his dad, Vince duCellier, spent a career at Prince Georges County, became North Beach chief of police, and ran unsuccessfully for Calvert Sheriff. All the while, his mother, newspaper reporter, editor, and publisher T.J. duCellier, most every week, told the police how to do their job or questioned them about their actions.
McDowell touts his administrative experience as making him the right pick for the job as Sheriff in 2022. McDowell started in law enforcement by spending a year as a District cop in 1990; was hired to work at North Beach in 1991 for two years as a town police officer; worked in the P.G. County Sheriff’s Department for three years, and then hired by Calvert Sheriff Ward as a deputy in 1996. McDowell’s career path spiked under Sheriff Evans to the point where he became the patrol division commander in 2005. He has been a desk jockey ever since as Evans tapped him to run the agency for him as the Sheriff flitted from one event to another, posing and preening for photos, exercise videos, and checking on the status of expired drugs at the Asbury nursing facility in Solomons.
THE SHERIFF MERRY-GO-ROUND
Sheriff Stinnett ran for reelection in 1994 and was defeated in the three-way race by Independent Vonzell Ward, a former state trooper who later changed his registration to Republican. Ward was reelected in 1998, firmly embraced by the GOP, which was glad to have broadened their political base. Ward became the second black to be elected a Sheriff in Maryland history, the first being Joe Lee Somerville who won the position of St. Mary’s County Sheriff in 1978. Somerville was appointed Sheriff by Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel to complete the term of Sheriff George Sanger, who committed suicide in 1977.
Evans won the General Election in 2002, beating Calvert Sheriff John A. “Rodney” Bartlett, a Democrat. Bartlett, the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police president and former Prince Georges County Police corporal, was appointed to the Post by former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening following the resignation of Sheriff Vonzell Ward in May of 2001.
Sheriff Ward became the target of an investigation by the Maryland State Prosecutor after he allegedly harassed a deputy’s girlfriend and leaked confidential files of the Sheriff’s Department personnel. Both issues provided major hurdles for Ward, though only the leaked records resulted in a criminal action against him. On February 6, 2003, Ward entered a guilty plea in Calvert District Court to three misdemeanor charges of disclosing personnel records for sending the agency personnel record to three news outlets from a retail shipping store in Dunkirk. Judge Richard Palumbo presided over the trials and ordered that Ward pay a fine of $100. Annapolis attorney William C. Mulford II represented Ward.
Before running for Sheriff, Ward was a Maryland State Trooper. He retired on medical disability after he deliberately put himself in the position to block a fleeing vehicle in a high-speed chase at the intersection of Rt. 4 and Rt. 2 in Sunderland. Ward then began employment with the Maryland Secretary of State and delivered speeches for an insurance company to youth assemblies on the dangers of impaired driving. In one such speech, Ward invented an imaginary wife and child and explained later that he did so to dramatize the issue.
Bartlett’s appointment by Gov. Glendening started a significant brush fire in the county as the police union leader was selected to be Sheriff without consulting with local political leaders. The Calvert County Commissioners threatened to take away all of the police cruisers from Sheriff Bartlett and create a county police department as the county commissioners owned them.
Bartlett was able to quiet the storm. The move was dropped, allowing him to move on and improve the agency and beat two opponents in the Democratic primary – Leslie A. Meyers and Bernie Nutwell.
Democrat Sheriff Bartlett convinced the Calvert Commissioners to fund a pay raise for deputies, add a motorcycle unit, increase training funds, and expand traffic control for the speedway that runs the length of Calvert County – otherwise known as Maryland Route 4.
Mike Evans also retired on medical disability from the Maryland State Police. Still, the disability didn’t keep Sheriff Ward from hiring him as a “special” deputy, where he spent most of his time guarding the front door to the courthouse, bum knee and all.
In the 2002 Republican primary, former sheriff Ward tried to make a comeback to win back the Post he quit and lost on a 3-1 vote to Evans, who went on to beat Bartlett in the General Election. Evans was the son of a retired Maryland State Police commander, and his mother was the longtime popular clerk of the circuit court.
Sheriff Mike Evans has won reelection since and in 2018 said he would make that election his last and began the promise game to several candidates. Evans finally selected McDowell as his successor and, this time putting his money where his mouth is – donating money from his campaign fund to McDowell’s campaign.
CAMPAIGN CASH FLOWS FROM EVANS TO MCDOWELL
The Re-elect Mike Evans for Sheriff Committee donated $3,000 to the McDowell campaign on February 19, 2021, $1000 to McDowell on May 31, 2021. On McDowell’s campaign website, under a photo of Mike Evans is the following endorsement: “Dave’s experience and tested and proven leadership throughout his career make him the most qualified candidate to lead the Sheriff’s Office into the future.”