The era of Westminster’s “Greatest Generation Mayor and Council” lasted from 1961 through 1989.
Westminster in those years was far different than it is today. The population in 1970 was 7,207. In the 1960s the population had increased by 17.7 percent and growth challenges and infrastructure improvements were pressing concerns. Not to be overlooked was the impact of the turbulent 1960s and the day-to-day grind of watching the Vietnam War every evening on the television in Technicolor while wondering which one of your friends was going to be next to come home dead.
The previous “shock of the new” for Westminster had arguably occurred on July 4, 1954 when Route 140 opened. Before then a previous “shock” occurred in 1946 when the end of World War II brought enormous change to the community.
Around 2007 I wrote a series of articles on the “Greatest Generation,” B’s Coffee Shoppe, Baugher’s, and Vetville; in part because former Westminster City Councilman Phil Wampler had died on Jan. 16, 2007. His passing marked the last of the “Greatest Generation” to have served Westminster as an elected official. Portions of this column were published in that time frame.
Many of these topics have been the subject of discussions with readers since my column on Art Riley and his dad, Westminster Councilmember Ray Riley, appeared in this space several weeks ago.
I had the great fortune to have had the opportunity to interview Wampler on a wide variety of topics about Westminster history before he died. Previously, my father-in-law, Dave Babylon, Jr., had been the source of an enormous amount of Westminster history. He had served on the Westminster Common Council from 1964 to 1989.
From 1961 through 1989, our community was fortunate to have a series of leaders who first served our nation in World War II, came home, started their families and businesses, and continued a lifetime of service to our community in various capacities.
Wampler served as a Westminster elected official from 1971 to 1985. For many years, he chaired the public works committee and was a member of the finance committee. He also served on the Carroll County Ethics Committee for six years.
It was on that note in 2007 that then-County Commissioner Dean Minnich quickly added, “…that [Greatest] generation understood the meaning of ethics. They understood the difference between what you could do and what you should do.”
Interestingly, in a practice that would be greatly frowned-upon today as a perceived violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Law; in those days, almost every morning, many of the councilmembers would get together at “B’s Coffee Shoppe,” where O’Lordans Irish Pub is now located in the “old stone building” on Liberty Street. There, they would go over the day’s events, meet with citizens and deliberate upon pressing issues. Having an opportunity to talk with elected officials was very easy back then.
Baugher’s was the location for many county officials to gather in the morning — where many difficult challenges were ironed-out over pancakes and as many cups of coffee that were necessary to arrive at an amicable and thoughtful solution.
Westminster’s director of public works, Jeff Glass, began working with the city in 1980. In 2007, when asked about the “Greatest Generation Mayor and Council,” he said there’s no doubt “they were the visionaries. … The movers and shakers who laid the foundation of what Westminster is still today…”
In addition to Wampler, other members of the “Greatest Generation” in our community that come quickly to mind are “Peck” Taylor, Bobby DuVall, Russ Sellman, David Babylon, Dave Schaeffer, Charles Fisher Sr., Richard Yates, Dr. Arthur Peck, Monroe Hyde, Atlee Wampler, Harry Emigh, Joe Farinholt, and Bobby Warner. At this point many of these individuals have passed away.
In a telephone interview in 2007, Tom Long, past commander of the American Legion Post 31, remarked, “Every one of them who served in WWII was a hero for what they did for our nation. They gave up their youth for us and continued to make sacrifices of their personal and family time to make our community the great community we have today. … That salute extends to their families also.”
It was in 1971 that Mayor Joseph H. Hahn appointed Wampler to the office of Westminster city councilman to fill an unexpired term.
In the following 14 years, Councilman Wampler served with a who’s who of great community leaders. In that prestigious club were names like Dave Babylon, LeRoy Conaway, Tom Eckard, Jimmy Mann, Elder Hare, and Ray Riley. To carry that tradition forward were the newcomers in the 1983 election, Ken Yowan and Ken Hornberger; and Sam Greenholtz in 1985.
But it is the core group of Mayor Conaway and Councilmembers Mann, Hare, Babylon and Riley whom Mr. Wampler held in high regard.
As with many successful people, Wampler’s family — and wife for 62 years, Margaret ”Peg” Wampler, played an important role in a life full of accomplishment and service to his country and community.
At the funeral home after Phil Wampler’s death in 2007, Mrs. Wampler recalled those days with great fondness. She found it heartwarming that so many members of the community remembered Councilman Wampler and the group of community leaders with whom he served.
She particularly recalled their long hours and how well they “bonded and worked together to do whatever it took to get the job done.” And not that they agreed on everything either, but she credited their success to the fact that “in those days there was no backstabbing for the sake of politics. They were friends, not just people on a committee … who genuinely cared for each other, their families, and their community.”
In December 2006, Wampler wrote on his Christmas card to our family, “We were the best council ever.”