Mount Airy dairy farmer C. William Knill has been elected president of the Maryland Farm Bureau, the state's largest agricultural group.
Knill, who served as a vice president for the state group for the past year, said he was persuaded to run for the top office as the Farm Bureau's annual convention wound down last week in Ocean City.
He defeated the incumbent president and first vice president.
Knill had planned to run for the first vice president's spot in Wednesday's election, the final day of the convention, but was asked to run for the presidency. Harford County farmer Donald Hoopes nominated Knill.
"We decided we needed a complete change in leadership," Hoopes said. Members declined to say why they weren't happy with the outgoing leadership.
Knill had an interest in running for the presidency in a couple of years, Hoopes said, "And several of us convinced him the time was now. We needed change now."
As president, Knill, 51, will represent Maryland farmers at national conventions and at meetings of federal and state agriculture agencies.
The Farm Bureau, which represents about 14,000 families, is a private, non-profit organization financed by voluntary membership dues.
"I hope to convey the Farm Bureau theme to the counties and hope the counties can continue to be strong," Knill said. "The county part of Farm Bureau is the strength of Farm Bureau."
Knill, who farms with his son, Jim, served three terms as president of the Carroll County Farm Bureau, stepping down in October. His wife, Jean, is the information coordinator for the group.
The Carroll Farm Bureau has about 1,330 members, the largest county group in the state.
Knill defeated Eddie Allen of Calvert County, who served one two-year term as president, and Wade Dudrow of Talbot County, who served one term as first vice president and two as vice president.
None of the three candidates captured a majority of first-ballot votes, which is required to win. So the delegates voted to drop Allen -- the lowest vote getter -- from the secondballot, on which Knill received a majority, Farm Bureau Administrator Jay Hoffman said. The organization does not release vote totals; 260 delegates voted in the election, he said.
"The delegation has voiced its opinion," Hoffman said. "This is not the first time they've had somebody nominated from the floor win the election."
Hoopes said, "Eddie Allen and Wade Dudrow are both real good people. It wasn'tanything personal against them."
Allen, a grain farmer who lives near Prince Frederick, said he didn't know Knill was running until hewas nominated.
Allen said he was disappointed he lost, but said he believes Knill will do a good job.
Last month, Knill was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners to serve on a nine-member board that is working to draft a plan to replace the commissioner form of government with a charter.