Despite the lack of a fourth new council member, the changing of the guards went off without a hitch in Aberdeen Monday night.
Despite the lack of a fourth new council member, the changing of the guard went off without a hitch in Aberdeen Monday night.
Patrick McGrady was sworn in as the city's new mayor and promised to immediately create a team to "dig into all the operations at city hall and find areas we can work to improve."
Three council members – Sandra Landbeck, Tim Lindecamp and Melvin Taylor – were also sworn in by Harford County Clerk of the Circuit Court James Reilly. The rainy night forced the ceremony inside the council chambers; it was originally set to take place on the steps of city hall.
The fourth council member must be nominated by McGrady and approved by the council, City Attorney Fred Sussman ruled earlier the day, after Sean DeBonis and incumbent Stephen Smith were tied for the seat with 655 votes after last week's election.
McGrady, the 29-year-old real estate developer, took the oath with his wife, Elizabeth, son, Indy, and infant daughter, Remy, by his side.
The new mayor struck a conciliatory note in his first official speech, thanking political foe and outgoing eight-year mayor Mike Bennett for "years of service to the city of Aberdeen." McGrady defeated runner-up Bennett by 46 votes in a four-way race for mayor.
The new mayor also thanked outgoing council members, whose actions he had sharply criticized during his campaign. Leaving the council were longtime members Ruth Elliott, who finished fourth the mayoral voting, and Ruth Ann Young, who didn't run for re-election.
Landbeck was the sole incumbent council member elected. Smith was trying to win a full term after being appointed to a vacant seat in January following the death of Bruce Garner.
Although McGrady didn't say Monday what he may do about filling the fourth seat, in the election he actively supported DeBonis and two other council candidates who finished farther back in the voting.
"Thank you to all the voters of the city of Aberdeen who participated in the process," McGrady read from a prepared speech. "Whether you voted for me or not, I am your mayor and I am here to serve you, and I want you to all help me keep that principle honestly as we proceed through the next four years."
McGrady also promised to work to lower property taxes, as he had promised in his campaign. He said he will make sure each city employee "understands that they are the servants of the people of Aberdeen" and that city meetings are held "when working families like mine and yours are able to attend and participate in our government."
He promised to "increase the community's understanding of the way that the city operates, so that more people can be engaged in the process, leading to better results for everybody."
McGrady added: "Folks don't feel like they are represented on the Aberdeen City Council. I plan to work every day to make sure that everybody is represented, whether you live in North Deen, Swan Meadows, Windemere or Titan Terrace. This council is your voice, so put us to work."
He said his transition team will be asked to present a report by the first week of February, and he urged residents to "tell me how you think we're doing" when they see him around town.
Taylor, one of two newcomers to the council, mentioned his rare status as an African-American elected official in the city.
"I have a special heart for Aberdeen," he said, adding his mother used to feed the homeless. "I always tell the story about standing in the playground in 1962, when they integrated the school system, and being one of the first to be integrated in. And to be sitting on this council and being in these proceedings is very special to me, to be able to serve the city that served me for so long."
He joins Raymond Warfield and Macon Tucker as the only African-Americans to be elected to city office in Aberdeen.
Taylor also hinted at the potentially divided council, with McGrady at its helm.
"I believe in this election, Aberdeen spoke, and whether we can receive it or not, we have to accept it," Taylor said, adding with a smile that, "for those who have trouble trying to deal with it, these things shall pass and Aberdeen will be OK; I can assure you that."
The other new council member, Lindecamp, said he felt proud to take over from Garner, his late father-in-law.
Lindecamp, the athletic director at Aberdeen High School, said that after he was elected, he received a message from a friend saying, "'Wow, kid from Market Street does good.' I kind of feel like that kid right now."
Voters took to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 3, to vote in Aberdeen city council and mayor races. (Bryna Zumer and Dan Griffin, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Landbeck said she and the former mayor always tried to do what was best for the city, and that she would continue trying to do so.
"I will continue to live by that motto that our former mayor said, that every time we would meet and there was a decision to be made, is it good for the city of Aberdeen? Is it good for the people?" she said.
Bennett received a standing ovation from the room after he recapped the accomplishments of his eight-year tenure.
"We as a city have survived some of the worst financial times that many of us can remember and made it through without raising taxes or cutting services," Bennett said. "I'm very proud to turn over the city that is in great financial shape, that has a AA+ bond rating and that is growing at a sustained rate."
Elliott, who in addition to serving on the council is a former mayor, said she has had "some good times and some not so good times, but that's the game."