Dayhoff: Westminster Mayor Howard Koontz served during a time of great change

Dayhoff: Westminster Mayor Howard Koontz served during a time of great change
The H. E. Koontz Creamery, shown here from around 1930, originally moved to the corner of Liberty and Green Street in Westminster in 1904. (Courtesy Babylon family)

Howard E. Koontz III, the grandson of Westminster Mayor Howard E. Koontz, was posthumously honored with the 13th annual Community Foundation of Carroll County “Legacy Philanthropist of the Year” at the Oct.17 awards breakfast held at Martin’s Westminster.

The third-generation member of the Westminster Rotary Club died on Aug. 17. He was nominated for the award by his widow, Nancy Koontz, and Jim Lightner, secretary of the Westminster Rotary and McDaniel College historian.


According to a recent article in the Carroll County Times by Alex Mann, the Philanthropist of the Year event also recognized winners from four other categories: nonprofit, Lynn Wheeler of the Carroll County Public Library; individual. Harold Robertson; youth, Jordan Costley; and business, Integral Components.

According to Mann’s article, the Westminster Rotary was in Koontz’s blood. His grandfather was a charter member and the second club president. His father, Howard E. Koontz II was also a member, serving as president in 1947-48, according to Lightner.

The grandfather of Koontz III served as mayor from May 15, 1916 through May 17, 1926. Mayor Koontz was proceeded in office by another distinguished mayor, Mayor David E. Walsh, May 20, 1912 through May 15, 1916. Walsh was the grandfather of former Westminster Common Council President Suzanne Albert, who also served in office with great distinction for many years.

When I was growing up in Westminster in the 1950s and 1960s, mayors Walsh and Koontz were still mentioned in terms of great respect and appreciation. Much of the public works organizational structure in the community was set into motion by Walsh and Koontz and is still used as a foundation of our community — especially the city’s road and water system.

In a case that is still studied to this day, according to the “Report of the Public Service Commission of Maryland, Volume 10;” on Sept. 1, 1917, Mayor Koontz and the Westminster Common Council filed case nos. 1525 and 1590, “a complaint with this Commission against the Consolidated Public Utilities Company of Westminster.” (In full disclosure, Consolidated was co-owned at the time by past members of my extended family.)

The case focused upon a water rate schedule that was to be put into effect on Oct. 1, 1917. “The effect of this schedule was to increase substantially the rates … for the supply of water in the town and environs.” The series of disagreements also concerned the water company supplying water outside the city limits. What followed were years and years of one complaint after another being filed.

It was a bitter disagreement that involved a who’s who among prominent individuals in the business and legal community — who were otherwise close friends. The “Corporate History” section of the case record provides a definitive history of the origins of the water system that dates back to May 18, 1893 and the gas and electric utility that dates back to 1867. At one point it is noted in the case record that one portion of the “stenographic record … embraces 1,300 pages.” The results of the series of decisions from these cases remain in effect to this very day.

Then in the Oct. 19, 1921 edition of “Good Roads: The Officials and Contractors Magazine, Vol. 61,” an article reports upon an initiative that the “State May Build Roads in Maryland Cities.” Again it was a complicated public policy initiative in which Mayor Koontz was directly involved.

In part the initiative involved “the fight to have the state to build its roads through cities in the future and to refund the cities for streets built in the past to connect the state highways on either end of the different towns. … One thing asked for by the municipalities … was the right to cut into such streets for laying public utility services…”

Another focus of Koontz was attracting manufacturing to Westminster. A May 29, 1925 Westminster newspaper described in great detail a huge parade and a daylong celebration to mark the occasion of the opening of the Newark Shoe Factory plant on East Green Street, “an enterprise that is running in full blast and employees over 200 men, women and boys…”

Attracting jobs and economic development in 1925 was considered critical to the future of Westminster and Carroll County. Commuting out of the county for meaningful employment was not a viable option.

“The celebration closed with a meeting in the Firemen's hall at 8 p.m., [which at the time was also city hall,] when addresses were made by Congressman Millard E. Tydings, Mayor Howard E. Koontz, [and] Senator Daniel J. Hesson...”

This is where we need to leave the story on Koontz for now. In a future follow-up, we will explore more of the life and times of Koontz and his business, the H. E. Koontz Creamery, Inc. And yes, it also involves ice cream.