It wasn't exactly "Trading Spaces," but Phil Jones, a Howard County dairy farmer who usually spends his days getting 900 gallons of milk from his cows, switched jobs Tuesday morning with Howard County Executive James N. Robey (D).
It was all part of the county's first "Farm-City Celebration" to showcase farms and farm products in Howard, which is heavily suburbanized. The county's economic development office estimates there are nearly 200 working farms in Howard. Many have diversified to stay afloat, offering activities and even renting out their buildings for parties.
For Jones, a 10th-generation farmer at his family's Bowling Green Farm in the Sykesville area, being exec for a day meant wearing a suit to work in the county executive's office and spending the morning getting briefed by agency heads about the county's budget and land-use planning.
"There was a lot of information, some of which I retained," Jones said with a laugh as he recounted his adventures before heading for a lunch reception at Triadelphia Lake View Farm in Glenelg.
Guy Guzzone, County Council president, who stopped by to chat, told Robey that Jones was a paragon of efficiency.
"We are done. The budget's done," he told Robey. "I got more done in five minutes with Phil than I have in six years."
Meanwhile, Robey, clad in a navy blazer and jeans, said he had milked a cow at Jones's farm, fed calves with baby bottles and picked barley. By the time Robey arrived, however, Jones had done most of the milking. "I planned it that way, " Jones said with a smile.
Robey, a former Howard police chief, said he wasn't sure farm life was to his liking. It has an unrelenting quality he wasn't sure he could abide.
"You get up for 4:30 or 5 a.m. milking even if you aren't feeling well," he said. "You can't skip it."
Would they seek a permanent trade?
"It's like comparing apples and oranges," Jones said.
St. John's Rector Retiring
After 17 years leading St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, the Rev. William Shiflet Jr. is retiring.
He will celebrate his last service at 10 a.m. Sunday, and since so many of his admirers are expected, the congregation of 2,000 is setting up a huge tent for the occasion.
Over his long tenure at the church, Shiflet is credited with building the congregation to its current size, as well as leading the flock through many challenges; expanding the parish day school; building a ministry and education center; establishing pastoral care and outreach programs for those in need; and sending medical teams to help a sister parish in Jamaica.
"He's just a rare kind of guy. He's been able to tend to the big projects and the small projects," said parishioner Mike Salmons, who is helping to organize Sunday's retirement service. "He's a wonderful, wonderful spiritual leader. We're going to miss him."
A noon reception will follow the service, at the church's Center for Ministry and Education, which Shiflet helped to build, at 9120 Frederick Rd.
Shiflet said this week he plans to teach a course next spring at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. In the meantime, he said, he'll take time "to recharge my batteries, contemplate the future and see what God's got in mind."