Wanting Desperately to Be in Charge Isn’t the Same as Leading

It’s a lesson Delmar might learn that the hard way

Tony Russo
4 min readNov 14, 2021


This opinion piece is part of a series ahead of the Delmar, Maryland local election.

I want to talk to you about leadership, and I want to tell you why I wrote this series. They kind of boil down to the same thing: it is hard to just watch people lie to get what they want without consequence.

Leadership isn’t the quality of wanting to be in charge, leadership is the capacity to build consensus and court trust. It’s the ability to recognize and take seriously that you don’t speak with your own voice, but with a voice entrusted you.

When I asked Benjamin Jorden why he wanted to be mayor, why he wanted that to be his absolute first civic contribution he said, “I think the question for me is, ‘Why not mayor?’”

The answer is the question: because you aren’t serious about it.

A leader should have the courage to stand alone, to let their ideas rise or fall on their merits. Jorden and his buddies don’t want to have to convince anyone. They don’t want to debate or defend their ideas. They don’t want to cultivate compromise. They just want to be in charge and above dissent. And they won’t say why.

Cynical opportunism meets monied interest

The closest thing to a sensible answer to why they should have complete run of the town they could provide is, “I think we could do better.” For contrast, commission candidate Faith Higbee said because she thought she could help. That isn’t a fine distinction.

I get the impression they want something for themselves and their masters they weren’t getting under the former mayor. They won’t say “how” they will “do better” only that we should give them control of the town, sit back and relax.

For a while, their primary claim was that they would cultivate a better relationship with the police department. The attack ad that too many of us got in the mail gave lie to that.

It showed that, rather than having been miraculously struck by civic pride and the need to affect change, they saw an opportunity and they took it.

When I asked Jorden, he denied having sent the flier, though he claimed to have suspicions about who did. Once it became clear he endorsed the content if not the timing, I wanted to share this series.

They didn’t lie about their political opponent. They lied about an active duty police officer just so they could be in charge. I’m shocked that we as a town aren’t more disgusted.

Dividing to bring unity

The election is in just a few days and they’ve been tearing around town celebrating their assumed victory, thanking the voters in advance.

It’s gross but expected. As I said, they’re not serious people.

Jorden and his sidekicks say they just decided one day that all three of them should run together and take over the Maryland commission.

That claim seems ill-contrived at best and insulting at worst in light of their monied backers. Why are people throwing so much money behind these guys in a municipal election?

Jorden’s desperation to be in charge rather than to lead should make us nervous.

The open disdain for their fellow residents, though, made me feel like I had to at least write it down. The way they exploited an honest rally around a real problem as a chance to take over is just so disappointing.

I had hoped a small town election could be free from the kind of cynicism we may have come to expect from politicians.

This slate may not have experience in politics, but slinging filth seems to come pretty naturally to them.

I live by the ballfields and back in May wrote that I was genuinely proud that my neighbors held and supported the rally for Cpl. Heacook. It was a good if sad event that made me hopeful the town could recover.

To think that someone saw all that love, unity, and support and said, “I’ll bet I can use this to my advantage,” just sickens me. I had to write that last thing down. I had the information and knew it would be irresponsible not to share it. As far as I’ve been able to see, win or lose, these guys are in it for themselves and their masters. What a missed opportunity.



Tony Russo

Pencil-sharpening enthusiast, journalist, author of “Dragged Into the Light” https://amzn.to/3bLQ0Wi