By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(July 12, 2018) Dean Burrell, the second-longest serving member of the Berlin Town Council, is running for reelection in District 4.
Originally from Somerset County, the 67-year-old moved to the area because his wife was from Berlin. He’s been living in the town for more than three decades.
“I married a girl from Berlin with Berlin roots who has been here all her life, so I moved down here ‘round about in 1985,” he said.
He graduated in 1973 from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with a degree in sociology and is a trained social worker. For 39 years he worked for SHORE UP! in Salisbury.
“I was the Head Start director for 15 years,” Burrell said. “The program had about 250 staff and we served 1,200 preschool-aged children in six Maryland counties, with a budget of about $12 million.”
Burrell said he first ran for office because of a conversation with his children, “back in the day.”
“I was discussing with them about doing your civic duty and doing all you can do, and taking a part in local government by sharing your opinions in local government and that kind of stuff, and I had to take a good look at myself and had to get involved. So that took me to the council,” he said. “I also served on the board of zoning appeals with Joe Moore – a long time ago.”
District 3 Councilman Elroy Brittingham is the longest-serving member of the council. Burrell, with a bit of a laugh, declined to say exactly how long he has served.
“I want to talk about going forward and taking the Town of Berlin forward,” he said.
First, he would like to see more work done on Berlin Falls park, including establishing a clear plan and direction.
Also, “I want to see the stormwater management system further implemented, with the thought of protecting personal property,” he said. “A long time ago a guy named Charlie who lived on West Street used to come to the council and talk about flooding in his area and how bad it was. And we started to take a look at it and that has brought us where we are today, but I think there’s more work to be done.”
Burrell also wants to see a resolution to the Berlin Fire Company funding issue.
“And I would like to be a part of that resolution,” he said. “I think those things will keep us busy for a while and I think we can get them done.”
During a public meeting last month with Robert Finn, a senior manager with Matrix Consulting Group hired to oversee a funding study for the fire company, Burrell walked out after being shouted down by J. Bergey, the fire company CPA. The exchange happened just minutes after Burrell called for both sides to work together.
“I don’t need to agree with what you believe, because we’re all different and we all come from different backgrounds and we all come from different experiences,” Burrell said. “But, at the same time, I have to respect what you believe and go from there.
“I don’t want to hash over old stuff, because what happened in that meeting is beyond us now. But, we have to respect each other,” he continued. “Folks say, ‘don’t take things personally,’ but it’s all personal. And when I feel that I’ve been disrespected, I have learned to excuse myself from those situations.”
Many other times during Town Council meetings, Burrell has been known to use his social work training to calm a room when citizens – and sometimes fellow elected officials – have gotten into verbal battles. He’s generally well known as a calming presence.
“I think that has helped me a lot in my profession,” he said. “If you think that bringing a council together [is impressive], you try bringing a staff of 250 together and putting before them a common purpose and direction – that can be pretty challenging.
“I’ve learned to let people believe what they believe,” Burrell continued. “This is what we are about in this country – you have a right to believe what you believe.”
As a town councilman, Burrell said he occasionally proposes motions that do not go his way.
“It’s is a council decision and I believe, whether the motion goes my way or not, I’m bound to support the decision of the council and that’s where I am. No, everything doesn’t necessarily go my way, but that’s life. And you move on,” he said.
“If the people of the Town of Berlin would be so gracious to elect me to another term, I would be totally humbled and would do my best,” Burrell added.