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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Church retiring as commissioner at end of fifth term

By Jack Chavez

(March 24, 2022) West Ocean City’s county commissioner is ready to “smell the roses.”

That was the phrase Worcester County Commissioner James “Bud” Church used often in discussing his decision to retire from his position of the last 20 years when his term expires later this year.

After five terms and 20 years as a Worcester County Commissioner, Bud Church is ready to “smell the roses,” he says. He will give up his District 3 seat at the end of the year. Church has been the first and only commissioner in his district, having won the first election for the chair in 2002. The area was considered at-large before.

Church, 80, whose District 3 also includes Assateague Island, everything east of Route 611, all of South Point and parts of Berlin, said he’s talked to the political hopefuls who will run for his vacant seat and said part of his decision was the notion that it’s time to infuse some fresh blood into the commissioners’ chambers in Snow Hill.

“And it’s time for Bud Church to say, ‘Here’s an empty seat’ and here’s an opportunity for one or two or three people to throw in and seek the position. I wish them all well,” Church said.

“You realize there’s time for someone else to come in with new ideas and a lot more energy. Not that I didn’t have all the energy I needed to do the job, but an opportunity for someone else to do it. It’s time for Bud Church to take some time off and smell the roses.”

A former president of the Worcester County Board of Education, Church first became interested in a seat on the board of commissioners when his district was formed and it’s been under his watch ever since.

He ran against Susan Wenzlaff, the daughter of beloved late Ocean City Mayor Roland “Fish” Powell in what he described as a “good, clean race.”

“I was always interested in a county commissioner position but (this area) was always pretty much at-large and then they developed a district that was just perfect for what I thought was an opportunity to run,” Church said. “I talked to my wife and she said, ‘Don’t hesitate. If this is something you want to do, jump in.’”

“When they developed that district, it intrigued me to take a shot at it and 20 years later I’m happy that I did.”

True to his background, ensuring a quality public school system has been a focal point for Church throughout his five terms.

“I think my biggest interest and focus when I first got elected and — it hasn’t changed much — is the school system,” Church said. “I spent 10 years on the school board, I’ve had five grandkids go through the school system, I’ve gone through the school system — I just thought that was a major interest point for me. I wanted to do whatever I could to promote the system and help with funding, and not just for the main education support. I always wanted to support the ancillary things like football, baseball, I wanted kids to have those opportunities too. But my main focus was on the curriculum, hiring the best teachers available, having the best superintendent we can have, having the best principals.”

His fellow commissioners will remember him for his one-of-a-kind personality and his commitment to Worcester.

“Bud’s always been Bud. He’s always been committed to the county and making sure things are right for the county,” Commissioner Diana Purnell said. “If I needed advice from him, Bud always gave me direct answers and he’d tell me when I had to make up my mind. But Bud was always very good. He’s an excellent person to work with, has a crazy sense of humor but he’s a very nice person to work with.”

Purnell brought up the relationship Church had with her late husband, Commissioner Jimmy Purnell, and said that relationship carried over to her as a commissioner.

“He always supported me if it was something for the community,” she said. “Bud would always support. And I have to appreciate that. And I do — as a businessperson, a commissioner and just as a person in general, Bud was always a very nice person to me.”

Commissioner Ted Elder wished the best for his retirement.

“He’s been gold, somebody you can always talk to,” Elder said. “You can reach out to him and even if you don’t agree with him, (work something out). He’s a good guy.”

Church will continue being involved with Bud Church Realty in Ocean City but also pointed to the job that his son and company vice president Ken Church have done over the last decade-plus. His grandson is also in the company.

After he gives up his seat, he said he and his wife, Allyson, plan to do a bit of traveling but “nothing major.”

“It’s time for Bud Church to smell the roses and I think it’s perfect timing,” he said. “I’ve had several calls (about my decision), I’ve told them all the exact same thing, there just comes a time where you need new blood.”