Seven residents apply for seat on Mount Airy Town Council


Seven Mount Airy residents have applied for the vacant seat on the Town Council.

The council interviewed the candidates this week and plans to vote on a replacement at its Oct. 3 meeting.

Council President Delaine Hobbs said the council questioned the applicants about how they could best serve the town and asked what issues they would like to address if selected as a council member.

The council seat became available when Councilman Marc Nance resigned in July to take a job in England.

Mr. Hobbs said the vacancy has generated more interest than the town elections in May when three candidates ran for two council seats.

"It's easier to get in this way, I guess," Mr. Hobbs said.

The new council member will join Mr. Hobbs, Billy Wagner, David Pyatt and Bob Mead on the council.

Here is a list of six of the council applicants and their reasons for seeking a role in Mount Airy's town government. Applicant James Stargel was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

* John K. Bales, 40, a two-year resident, said he wants to see Mount Airy maintain its small-town charm as development continues.

"I'd like to preserve the good and help the town make its way into the 20th century," Mr. Bales said. "It's hard to balance the smallness that people like with development in the area."

Mr. Bales works out of his home, building and repairing custom pistols.

* Richard R. Gardner, 38, said the controversy this summer over several issues in the Twin Ridge development prompted him to seek a council seat.

Twin Ridge residents were concerned about an industrial park next to their community and the installation of lights at a nearby ball field.

Mr. Gardner said he understood that the council wasn't in a position to make any changes in the community. But he says the homeowners expected the council to remedy a situation over which it had no control.

"Sometimes the council gets bad marks from people who have moved here in the past few years," Mr. Gardner said.

He said the town council should take an active role in providing affordable housing for senior citizens in Mount Airy.

A front desk manager at the Days Inn in Frederick, Mr. Gardner has lived in Mount Airy for 35 years.

* Normand Hammond, 70, a fixture at all Mount Airy town 'D meetings, said he is ready to move from the audience to the stage.

"I've gotten to know all the people; I know what's going on in town, and I have an interest in making it better," said Mr. Hammond, a four-year resident of Mount Airy.

"We've gone from a small town to trying to provide the services of a small city without actually changing anything in the government at all," Mr. Hammond said.

A manager with IBM for 33 years, Mr. Hammond is retired. He previously served on the school board in Kingston, N.Y.

* Gail B. Hill, 65, said he is seeking the vacant town council seat to become involved in the town where he has chosen to retire.

Mr. Hill, a former district manager for Safeway grocery stores, moved to Mount Airy three years ago from Silver Spring.

He said the dominant issue facing the town is development and making sure that public services can keep pace with growth.

Mr. Hill said his career was good training for a position as a council member.

"I think I'm pretty good at dealing with people," Mr. Hill said. "I worked with the public for 35 years."

* Heather Price Smith, 30, is the only woman among the applicants for Mount Airy's open town council seat.

Mrs. Smith has lived in the town for 2 1/2 years and is an alternate member of the town's zoning appeals board. She said that when she heard about the council vacancy, she thought it was a good opportunity to become involved in the town.

"I've always wanted to be part of governing," she said.

Though Mrs. Smith says she's not a "burning issue" person, she's aware that growth in the area seems to be on the minds of most Mount Airy residents.

The town's location makes future growth inevitable, Mrs. Smith says, but she's concerned with maintaining the quality of life that attracted people to Mount Airy.

"A lot of the lifetime residents don't feel so good about the changes," she said. "I'd like to be able to accommodate the old and new [residents] of Mount Airy. Sometimes there appears to be a division."

Mrs. Smith and her husband have a law practice in Mount Airy. In addition to her law degree, Mrs. Smith has a master's degree in public administration.

* Drew Tracy, a lieutenant with the Montgomery County Police Department, hopes to bring his law enforcement background to the Mount Airy town council.

Mr. Tracy, 40, said he would like to head a public safety committee to coordinate the work of the resident state troopers and the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Department.

A town resident for two years, Mr. Tracy said he'd like to see some newcomers to Mount Airy on the council.

"I think it would be good to get someone who is new to the area, who can reflect the views of the newer residents in Mount Airy," he said.

Mr. Tracy, who has a master's of business administration degree from Hood College, said he could put his business skills to use working on town budgets.

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