Havre de Grace city officials honored a local Vietnam War veteran, who earned the second-highest honor a member of the Army can earn during wartime, and also announced the appointment of an interim city director of administration.
"God bless you, sir, and thank you so much," Mayor Wayne Dougherty told former Army Staff Sgt. Sherman Fuller after reading a proclamation in Fuller's honor during Monday's city council meeting.
Fuller, 71, earned the Distinguished Service Cross, which is second only to the Medal of Honor, for his actions while serving in Vietnam during 1966.
Fuller, a native of Bel Air, was a sergeant and a squad leader with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) leading his men against North Vietnamese troops "to eliminate a prime machine gun position," according to the presidential citation.
His unit came under enemy fire, and two of his troops were killed, two others were wounded. Fuller was able to get help for the wounded soldiers, and then turned to assist "a wounded medical aidman."
"Undaunted by the increasing firefight activity and devastating air strikes in close proximity, he began administering first aid to the man," the citation continues.
Fuller covered the wounded soldier with his body after a North Vietnamese gunner "began raking the area with voluminous fire."
Fuller was hit, but he "continued to engage the enemy until he was forced to be evacuated."
Fuller, surrounded by his wife, children and friends, spoke during the council meeting about his experience recovering from his wounds in Japan, his Army career during the 1960s, which included being stationed in Germany when the Berlin Wall was built, dividing the city between east and west, and his 31-year career as a civilian defense employee.
He worked at the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Port Deposit and later at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Fuller thanked city leaders for the honor.
"As long as I could keep that war out of this country, I don't have a second thought," he said of the Vietnam conflict.
Dougherty acknowledged those who fought in what has been termed an "unpopular war."
"You don't have to thank us," he told Fuller. "We owe you everything that we have today."
Warner Taylor, historian for American Legion Post 47 in Havre de Grace, said he is working to establish an "Our Heroes Room" at the post to honor members who served in combat.
"It's going to take time to do what we're going to do, and money, but I'm working on that too," he said.
Taylor encouraged local residents to contribute to the project.
Mary Wilson, commander of VFW Post 8126 in Havre de Grace, was also at the meeting. She also served in Vietnam with the Army.
"Welcome home," she told Fuller as he and his family left City Hall.
Council members voted 5-0 to name Patrick Sypolt as interim director of administration. Councilman Fred Cullum was absent Monday.
Following the vote, Dougherty swore in Sypolt, who will fill the position as city officials search for a permanent director of administration.
Sypolt has worked for the city for 12 years, the last three as risk manager. He previously served as a code enforcement officer and manager of inspection services.
Dougherty said Sypolt will assume "all duties as outlined in the city charter," except for tourism "which will continue to report to the office of the mayor."
"I thank you very much for stepping forward when you were asked to and I look forward to working with you, sir," the mayor told Sypolt.
Prior to the appointment of Sypolt, Joan Scarlato, deputy director with human resources, and Jim Newby, the city's procurement and public information officer, had been serving as acting directors of administration since the beginning of the year.
Dougherty thanked the pair for taking on the job as well as their regular duties during Monday's council meeting.
"I am forever grateful," the mayor said.
Scarlato said "it was our pleasure."
"Every day was fun, and some days were even better," she continued.
Sypolt thanked council members for their trust after he was sworn in.
"I expect to work and earn that every day for you and the citizens of Havre de Grace," he said.
The previous director of administration, Carol Mathis, did not renew her contract with the city, Dougherty said Wednesday.
Mathis, who served as director for five and a half years, said in a later interview that her contract was not renewed after it ended Dec. 31, 2012. Mathis, who is looking for work, said she submitted a letter of resignation.
Dougherty said Sypolt would be paid a stipend in addition to his current salary for the extra duty he is taking on.
Council members also voted 5-0 in favor of applying for $6,375 in state grant funds to support the proposed renovation of the Havre de Grace Opera House.
The money would be used for market assessment and impact analysis for the $2.6 million renovation project and for a "mixed use redevelopment analysis" for two parcels that border Hutchins Park.
"It's been a long, slow, steady process for the opera house," Council President Randy Craig said. "I think we'd all like to see it done sooner rather than later, but I think it's important that we continue to maintain this very thoughtful, deliberate process on improving the opera house for the long-term benefit for all of our citizens."
The council members also voted 5-0 in favor of a license agreement with the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, which would allow museum staff to place a steel buoy in the right-of-way for Lafayette Street.