During a quiet morning at his hardware store, owner Jared Littmann strolled down an aisle to chat up a regular customer who was looking at smoke alarms.
"Good to see you. Let me know what you need," Littmann told Ben Derrick, a handyman for Annapolis Property Services, who was shopping at Littmann's K&B True Value hardware store in Annapolis.
Though he's in the store almost daily, Derrick said he didn't know Littmann will soon be sworn in as the Ward 5 alderman on the Annapolis city council.
Littmann hadn't mentioned it.
"So if I have any problems, I can take it to him directly," Derrick said when informed by a reporter. "That's good. I see him all the time."
Littmann, 40, is scheduled to take the oath of office just before the council's Jan. 14 meeting. In December, the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee selected him over three other hopefuls to finish the four-year term of Alderman Matthew Silverman, who resigned because of work commitments with a year remaining on his term.
Kitty Higgins, chair of the central committee, said Littmann's experiences as a small-business owner and an attorney in local government — along with his positions on environmental issues — made him the group's choice.
People who know Littmann have said that background, combined with a quiet and approachable demeanor, will help him in his first foray into political office.
In recent weeks, Littmann's been studying city government, council issues and the city budget, and meeting with officials.
He said he wanted to be more involved in improving the city where he lives and works, and demonstrate to his two young children, whose soccer and BlastBall teams he coaches, the value of public service.
"It is of concern to me that Annapolis does well," he said.
Environmental activists, who have met him through community initiatives and Earth Day activities at his store, said they are delighted with his selection.
"He sets a wonderful example," said Suzanne Pogell, who operates Womanship, a sailing school in Annapolis for women. Pogell said she knows Littmann through environmental work that included the MainStreets Annapolis Partnership, an organization that taps the support of a broad range of businesses.
"I think, as a business person, he understands that sustainability is good for business," she said.
Solar panels on top of his hardware store supply 15 percent of its electricity and will turn a profit in about five years, Littmann said, and the store also offers "green" products. Last spring, the store ran the sale of rain barrels and compost bins that is partly a city-sponsored program. During that campaign, volunteers demonstrated to customers how to use the products — and other accessories were available at the store. Littmann said he'll do it again this spring.
In terms of city issues, he said vacant storefronts trouble him, and he wants to look at city laws and policies to determine if they can send a message to attract and keep business. He said "it's a shame" the historic Market House at City Dock has yet to reopen, though city officials hope to see vendors move into the renovated market in the spring.
Littmann is a 1994 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied engineering and public policy. He then concentrated in environmental law at the University of Maryland School of Law, receiving his degree in 1997. In 2000, his legal career led him to the Montgomery County government's law office. He said he enjoyed the public-policy aspects of being the lead attorney for the county's solid waste division, along with code enforcement.
But after four years, his wife's family's business beckoned, and though he had expected a career in law, he found he loved the challenge of running a local store, he said. Now he owns the business and his in-laws are the landlords.
Mayor Joshua Cohen said those experiences give Littmann good perspectives.
"It is the last locally owned hardware store in the city," Cohen said, noting that Stevens Hardware by City Dock closed in December. "He interacts with literally hundreds of people a day, and that will serve him well as an alderman."
"One thing ... the Republican Party is very happy abou, is that he is a business owner. He certainly understands what it takes to run a business," said Bill Day, chairman of the Annapolis Republican Central Committee.
But that won't guarantee him a cakewalk in this year's election — if he decides to seek a full term. Littmann said that's a decision he'll make by June, after seeing how much time the job requires.
Day said he's heard a few Republicans have expressed interest in seeking the post, and he expects "at least one, if not two candidates" to come forward.
Before Silverman's election, Republican David Cordle represented Ward 5.
Now, of the mayor and eight aldermen, only one is Republican. But Littmann's new seat is one the GOP could target this year.
"Of all the wards in the city, it's probably the most conservative," said Mike Dye, former chairman of the city Republican Central Committee. "You are more likely to get a competitive race."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun