Bel Air commissioners sworn in as Carey departs; new 'mayor' selected

The Bel Air Town of Commissioners played a game musical chairs as the new town mayor and vice chair of the board were elected during the town hall meeting Monday evening, when a new commissioner also took his seat.

Robert J. Reier, former vice chair of the board, was elected to the position of mayor of Bel Air by the town commissioners to replace Edward Hopkins, whose term limit as mayor expired this year.

Reier was first appointed to the board in 2006 to fill a vacancy and then was elected in 2007. He has owned a chiropractic practice in town since 1999.

"Thank you to the commission for this position," Reier said. "I want to take a minute and recognize Eddie [Hopkins]. It's the only time we will have a mayor and fire chief as dual roles and if that isn't small town America."

Susan U. Burdette was nominated and elected to replace Reier as vice chair of the board of commissioners. Burdette got her start in Bel Air 35 years ago as a library artist for the Harford County Public Library and went on to become program and community relations specialist in administration.

Hopkins remains on the board as a commissioner.

Incumbent commissioner Robert M. Preston, 64, and newcomer Patrick Richards, 45, were also sworn in as commissioners during the town hall meeting by Harford County Clerk of the Circuit Court Jim Riley.

Less than 2 percent of registered voters in Bel Air cast ballots on Nov. 4 in the uncontested election, where two candidates ran for two seats on the board. Preston received 93 votes and Richards received 89.

After the swearing in, Preston thanked the residents of Bel Air for electing him once again.

"I'd like to thank those who came out and voted even if it was a light effort; I am thankful," Preston said.

Richards replaced commissioner David Carey, a 16-year veteran of the commission who decided not to run again. Carey was appointed to the District Court of Harford County last month and will be sworn in as a judge on Friday.

Tons of local politicians and commissioners spoke during the town hall meeting to send Carey well wishes as he embarks on a new role serving the residents of Harford County as a judge.

Preston presented Carey with a proclamation from the Town of Bel Air. Carey also received proclamations from the Maryland General Assembly, Harford County Executive's Office and Harford County Council.

Hopkins said Carey acted as a teacher to the commissioners on the council as he pushed for proper political protocol during meetings.

"Dave reminded me what government means to people and the importance of open government and transparency," Hopkins said. "He taught me about the ethics and the importance of public meetings."

Harford County Councilman Jim McMahan said Carey's tenure on the town board shows that term limits do not always work in favor of residents.

"Many people in the public talk about term limits, but its one of the smartest things Bel Air residents never did," McMahan said. "David served with integrity and was always willing to talk with any other commissioner. He brought the history of Bel Air to the commission."

Carey said when was elected onto the board in 1997, he was only 33 years old and had no idea what he was getting himself into. During his tenure, he said, "I learned a lot about government and service and community."

He added: "I met a lot of people and learned a lot of lessons and it made me a better person."

The revitalization of Main Street and its financial management during the recession of 2008 were two of the biggest accomplishments Carey said occurred during his tenure on the board.

He said the board took Main Street from "a place that shut down at 5 p.m. and was deserted on weekends" to a vibrant, up-and-coming business district.

"I know this is a special town and I am lucky to have found it and even luckier to have served on it," Carey said.

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