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Westminster mayors often had short terms in office

Westminster mayors often had short terms in office
In this photo, believed to have been taken in 1964, newly-elected Westminster Mayor Jack Hahn is seated at the head of the council table with Westminster city administrator John Eckard, standing right, and members of the Westminster common council. (collection of Kevin E. Dayhoff /)

Though it had happened more than a week earlier, in early August of 1981, the greater Westminster and Carroll County community was still mourning the death of Joseph (Jack) Hamilton Hahn, Jr.

Hahn wore many hats in the community and his death at the age of 64 on July 26, 1981, took many by surprise.

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An old yellowed newspaper article clipped from an unidentified paper reported at the time that the "former mayor and president of a meat packing company here, died Sunday at the Carroll County General Hospital following a brief illness…"

Hahn was the mayor of Westminster from May 18, 1964 to May 21, 1973. The 1981 newspaper article noted that Hahn was "A life-long resident of West Green Street here… known as 'Jack' to the community, said that as mayor he was interested in what the people of the city thought. He once announced that he would stay in his office during the afternoons so that schoolchildren, in particular high school students, could come and talk to him."

Hahn was quoted in the article saying, "I feel our relationship (with students) has been very healthy, but I feel I would like to talk to them and hear some of their suggestions…"

At the time, the Westminster High School was located only a block away from City Hall. This writer was one of the "schoolchildren" who would often stop by after school to talk with Hahn, just as I had done years earlier with Mayor Joseph L. Mathias, the mayor of Westminster from May 18, 1942 until his death in office on Dec. 3, 1963.

Hahn had been elected mayor after Scott S. Bair decided not to run for office in May 1964. Bair was the common council president and next in line of succession when Mathias died. Bair served as mayor for less than five months.

The only mayor to have served for a shorter period was Mayor Walter H. Davis, who served 61 days, from March 15, 1938 to May 16, 1938. He had been the council president when George E. Matthews, the mayor from May 17, 1926, to March 15, 1938, died in office.

Of the 47 mayors and burgesses of Westminster who served in that office from 1838 to May 2013, 22 served only one year or less. Six others only served two years and five served three years.

After the re-election of Mayor Kevin Utz in May 2013, 14 mayors have served for at least one four-year term.

It is believed that two mayors have served two non-consecutive terms. Milton Schaeffer served from May 20, 1895 to May 18, 1896 and then from May 17, 1886 to May 20, 1889. Jacob Grove served from May 13, 1852 to May 10, 1853 and then from May 12, 1864 to June 1, 1865.

Like many of the elected officials in those days, Hahn had many responsibilities and wore many hats in the community. According to the 1981 article, "Mr. Hahn was a director of the Carroll County Bank and Trust Company and served on the board of directors of the Carroll County General Hospital. He belonged to the Forest and Stream Club and the Elks Club. He was … a member of St. Paul's United Church of Christ."

He was also the president of Hahn's of Westminster, a meatpacking plant that his father had founded in October 1919.

"The hours spent on political matters were not new to (Hahn): A Republican, he had served in the state legislature for 29 years, and on the Westminster City Council for 2 years," according to the 1981 article.

The voters, however, may not have appreciated that effort. " In his … bid for mayor of the city in 1974, Mr. Hahn was defeated by LeRoy L. Conaway, then City council president," according to the article.

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