Local leaders will not be mixing surf, sand and saltwater taffy with symposia on stormwater management this summer.
The Maryland Association of Counties Summer Conference has been canceled.
The organization announced the decision on Friday, citing the uncertainty around COVID-19.
“(W)e are all working together to keep ourselves, our families, and our vulnerable community members safe,” said the non-profit’s president, Baltimore City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton (D), in a statement.
“To that end, my colleagues and I on the MACo Board of Directors feel that the most responsible and respectful decision available to us is to cancel this year’s MACo Summer Conference.”
The event was scheduled to be held Aug. 19-22 in Ocean City.
MACo’s annual summer gathering features workshops, vendor booths and VIP speeches — and it’s considered a must-attend event for elected officials and their staffs. The schmoozing and networking are every bit as valuable as the formal programming, particularly for officials who have designs on a move up the political ladder.
“It’s an opportunity to learn,” said Prince George’s County Council Chairman Todd Turner (D), a former member of the Bowie City Council.
“It’s also a more relaxed opportunity to speak with colleagues from around the state who you wouldn’t normally see. You get to meet, greet and hang out.”
The Maryland Municipal League canceled its summer conference in Ocean City, scheduled for late June, in April — though some workshops and sessions will take place virtually. The Crisfield Chamber of Commerce has postponed another staple of summer, the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake, originally set for July 15. Organizers hope to hold the annual feast in late September or early October.
MACo’s decision came two days after Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) signed an order partially easing restrictions on commerce and social interaction, a move that prompted officials in Ocean City to allow short-term rentals, the lifeblood of the town’s economy, to resume.
MML opted for a two-day virtual conference instead of a three-day gathering at the beach. Middleton, the MACo president, said her organization is contemplating a similar shift.
“MACo will evaluate the possibility of a virtual educational offering and will be in touch with all registered attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors to discuss options,” she wrote. “Full refunds will be available, but MACo requests that participants wait to hear from staff directly before requesting a refund.
“Likewise, MACo will be in contact with all prospective speakers who submitted topic proposals to discuss next steps.”
MACo is recommending that conference participants cancel their hotel reservations.