James Roark will be leaving his seat on the Hampstead Town Council at the beginning of March, but he won’t be going far.
Roark accepted a full-time job with the town as assistant zoning administrator, and he would not have been able to continue in his role as a council member at the same time. He said he will start March 9.
“I’ve always had an interest in small-town politics,” Roark said in an interview. He later added that he thought he could be of better service to the town "basically in the back room of Town Hall” full time.
Roark’s place on the council will be filled when the mayor names an appointment, which the council would then vote on for approval. Mayor Chris Nevin plans to present a candidate to the council on March 10, according to Tammi Ledley, town manager.
To remain on the council, the appointee will then have to successfully run for re-election in 2023.
Ledley said someone has also been asked to fill Roark’s position as council liaison to the town Planning and Zoning Commission, a five-member body separate from town planning staff.
In his final meeting as a councilman, Roark said, “I would just like to thank everyone up here and out there for all the help you’ve given me in the seven years I’ve been involved in this — two with Planning and Zoning, five on Town Council. I really appreciate it."
Roark served on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission for two years before he was elected to the Hampstead Town Council in 2015. He was elected to a second term beginning in 2019.
Roark said that when the mayor first asked him to start on the Planning and Zoning Commission, he promised not to embarrass the town or himself. “And now with this opportunity, I see it as another way for me to help the town. And same deal. I won’t do anything to embarrass the town. So, I look forward to the opportunity, I really do. I’ve been told it’s something that I’m good at, and I look forward to using my abilities to help the town.”
"I will miss sitting up here, ” he said, of his seat at the council table.
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Nevin said at the meeting, “We’re happy to have him on board as part of the town staff, and everything that he’s done out here will translate back there.”
When asked if there are any projects he’s looking forward to getting to work on, Roark mentioned the ongoing Main Street revitalization project, which he said is starting to generate interest among businesses.
“I think people realize that once the road is done, people are gonna want to visit it, so I think that’s a very good thing and it should boost the town economically,” he said.
The project, which started in 2017, is adding sidewalks, pedestrian lighting and other improvements, to Hampstead’s Main Street, or Md. 30, from North Woods Trail north to the CSX railroad intersection.
In his new role, Roark fills a position vacated by Lorena Vaccare at the end of December when she took a job as director of parks and recreation for Taneytown.
The town issued a request for resumes after Vaccare left, and Roark submitted alongside other candidates.
He joked about how nervous he was for his first formal interview since he applied for a job in the kitchen at Ocean City’s Phillips Seafood in 1980. He has been the manager of Roark Printing Services in Reisterstown since 1981.