Gov. Wes Moore started speaking at 9:41 a.m. Thursday, standing just outside the cover of a picnic pavilion on Wye Island. It’s 45 minutes from Annapolis, a trip in his official Chevy Suburban across the Bay Bridge and down two-lane roads lined with ripening corn.
He was there to announce a shift in state policy on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, from a focus on deepwater restoration to one concentrating on rivers, streams and shallow parts of the bay.
It was a beautiful morning, and Moore started right in with the cheerleading that inspires many of his supporters, talking about the bay and its importance to the identity of all Marylanders.
“It’s the glue,” said Moore, his shirt sleeves rolled up. “This is the liquid glue that sticks us together.”
The day, which included stops in Queen Anne’s, Dorchester and Talbot counties, was as much a part of Moore’s style of governance as his ideals or rhetorical flair. It marked his 147th trip across Maryland and his 14th to the Eastern Shore.
During his Wye Island visit, Moore talked to members of the Maryland Conservation Corps, planted a tree and got his nose grabbed by a baby named Finnegan.
But to what end?
We already elected him, a victory that made him Maryland’s first Black governor and, at 44, the youngest Democratic governor. So who is he trying to win over now? What’s the purpose of all this constant roaming, racking up enough miles — 16,000 on the Suburban — to cross our small state 64 times over?
I didn’t even have to ask for an explanation.
“People are going to be saying, he’s spending a lot of time on the Eastern Shore,” Moore said in his prepared remarks, the Wye River sparkling behind him through a stand of white oak. “Get used to it.
From Day One, that appears to be one of the operating principles of Moore, an author, former businessman and nonprofit CEO who some think could run for president someday. But the pace, oh my, the pace looks exhausting.
Earlier this year, I used Maryland’s public information law to ask for access to the governor’s appointment calendar over his first 100 days in office.
It provided a glimpse into how he accomplishes his busy schedule, with some days choreographed down to the 10-minute walk from his home at Government House to his office across the street and up the ornate staircase in the State House.
He has an appetite for video conferencing, from his office and from the road. His staff blocks out personal time.
Maryland State Police flew him by helicopter to visit Lanaconing, a small town in far-western Maryland. He’s wished soldiers being deployed overseas safe travels as they departed from Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Moore flew from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to Georgia for a tour of Truist Park with Orioles owner John Angelos. They checked out the 6-year-old baseball stadium and Battery Atlanta, the nearby year-round entertainment complex. He even took batting practice at the O’s spring training camp in Sarasota, Florida.
He’s met President Joe Biden in Washington and basketball great (and now Washington Commanders co-owner) Magic Johnson in Annapolis. He meets with his staff on things like appointments, with legislators and leaders of the private sector. He’s talked with the ambassadors of Mexico, Brazil, Israel, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and appeared before committees in the General Assembly.
The governor’s first media sit-down was 30 minutes with The Baltimore Sun in January, but he’s spent more time with national journalists than local ones. He’s making the rounds on everything from MSNBC to Power 101.7, a Top-40 station on the Shore where he appeared on “The Bill Baker and Jessica Show.”
He attended the annual Alfalfa Club dinner in January, a black-tie event that brings together the rich and famous, the rich and powerful, and just plain rich or purely powerful. He went to England but didn’t meet King Charles III.
He had dinner with Gavin Buckley, the mayor of Annapolis. He’s appeared several times with the mayor of Baltimore, Brandon Scott. He’s traveled to the scene of mass shootings. He’s had lunch in his Suburban and in tiny restaurants around the state.
The Afghanistan War vet has been known to start his mornings doing dawn PT with plebes at the Naval Academy, just down the street from his official residence. Sometimes Moore fills his days with meetings in Annapolis or a quick trip outside the city. Then there are the ones like Thursday, six months into office and still making a long slog with multiple stops.
After the announcement on Wye Island, Moore was back in his Chevy heading south for Cambridge.
He was joined on the road by the secretaries of the environment, state, natural resources and agriculture. Each stop was crowded with men and women wearing official polo shirts with logos for various state agencies, along with state lawmakers, local elected officials and nonprofit leaders.
Moore’s SUV pulled up in the crumbling parking lot of JM Clayton, a fifth-generation, family-owned seafood processing business at the mouth of Cambridge Creek. This is where watermen, after starting their day before dawn, bring their catch to its docks by noon. It’s a collection of ancient brick and corrugated steel buildings, where the smell of seafood and brine hangs in the air like fading history.
Moore stepped out from the back seat at 11:28 a.m. and was quickly greeted by Jack Brooks, great-grandson of the founder.
“Good to see you again!” Brooks shouted to the governor.
There was chit-chat with various state lawmakers, including one who showed off a tattoo inked on his calf to celebrate his having competed in the Cambridge Ironman competition. Brooks had invited the governor to tour his plant and took the opportunity to complain about cutthroat competition for his crab meat from low-priced Venezuelan imports.
“Right now, on this path, this place might not be here next year,” Brooks said.
Brooks is a veteran of the industry, based in a county that didn’t back Moore in November. It went for his eccentric Republican opponent Dan Cox, and it wasn’t even close. It’s not just the politicians who know how to politick, though.
“We’ve had good governors here before,” Brooks told me.
Brooks asked the governor to support tariffs on Venezuelan crabs, even as he acknowledged it’s a federal and not a state issue. But he also asked about lifting state restrictions on harvesting female or egg-bearing crabs so he can keep his pickers working longer.
Many of them are here on foreign work visas — it’s hard to find folks from the Shore doing the work, even with the state moving to a new $15 minimum wage next year.
“I’d like to roll it back like it was in the 1960s and have all local pickers,” Brooks said.
So he sent Moore off with two pounds of crab meat. State troopers tucked it into a cooler in the back of the Suburban, and the entourage was off to its next stop: Horn Point.
The motorcade worked its way along the small city’s back streets filled with aging white houses and away from the new townhomes, shops and restaurants along the creek. The destination was the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, a remote campus for state research into the Chesapeake Bay.
Moore walked past cages holding hundreds of bushels of oyster shell — the lab grows larvae and baby oysters to feed restoration efforts. He was welcomed by scientists in shorts, khakis and sandals under pop-up tents brought out for shade.
“I’m excited for his leadership and what he’s going to do,” said Christine Knauss, who is doing post-doctoral research on the effect of microplastics on the bay.
She got to shake his hand and talk a little about her work.
“Just in the right place, at the right time,” she said.
Sweating under the hot sun on the concrete oyster hatchery dock, Moore announced a new committee that will bring together government, science and business to sort through policy on oysters in Maryland.
But the oyster council, like one he announced on bay cleanup back on Wye Island, sounds an awful lot like a new administration’s refresh of existing committees and commissions. The Choptank River as a backdrop, and swelling thunderheads above, sure made it look important though.
There were two more events planned for the day, a grain farm tour near Easton where Moore drove farm equipment, and the Department of Agriculture’s annual cookout at its headquarters just outside Annapolis. I tapped out at 1:10 p.m., missing the governor and his staff tossing oyster larvae into hatchery tanks on the dock at Horn Point.
All of the stops ended up being part of Moore’s weekly update “Moore on Moore” on social media. A trip intended to send a message became the message.
“Maryland, we’ve been in office for just six months,” he said, “and we are not slowing down.”
Moore’s travels do seem new. Every politician has photo ops, but I don’t remember former Govs. Larry Hogan, Martin O’Malley, Bob Ehrlich, Don Schaefer, Parris Glendening or Harry Hughes riding the roads this much.
Maybe Moore can keep up this tempo. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll tire of the roadshow before he does.
Will his journeys make a difference for the bay, for oysters or any of his other priorities and policies they highlight? Maybe he’s right, that being present matters. It’s too soon to tell.
Right now, at least, Moore is present. Seemingly everywhere.
This story has been updated to correct the number of miles Gov. Wes Moore has clocked on his official vehicle and the number of times that would equal in trips across Maryland.