Hampstead's Town Council returned one of Carroll County's best known environmentalists to public life last night.
Neil M. Ridgely, former county landscape and forest conservation program manager, starts work Monday as Hampstead's newest town manager.
An unsuccessful candidate for county commissioner last fall, Mr. Ridgely resigned from his county position in January and has been general manager of Clear Ridge Nursery in Union Bridge since February.
The town manager position has technically been vacant since John A. Riley retired last spring. Assistant Town Manager Len Bohager had been acting as town manager.
"It's really neat to be back serving the public again, and it's extra nice to be affiliated with Hampstead," said Mr. Ridgely, 45, after his first meeting.
"Government work gets a bad name, but it can be some of the most rewarding work you can do. While my county job had its frustrations, it was wonderful working with people."
While working for the county, Mr. Ridgely took a strong stand on environmental issues and helped shepherd the county's forest conservation ordinance from first draft to adoption. He was also known for speaking his mind and pointing out areas where he thought county government could improve.
In unanimously appointing him to the position, Hampstead's mayor and council members agreed that Mr. Ridgely's government experience and his contacts with county and state officials helped put him ahead of about 130 people who applied for the $32,000- to $40,000-a-year job.
Mr. Ridgely's connections with Hampstead helped him land the position, they said. He currently serves on the town's tree commission.
"I know him to be a fine gentleman who will get things done," said Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt, who heads the town's tree commission. "His father lives in Hampstead, so he has a connection here."
Mayor Christopher M. Nevin said, "During the interview, he showed he had a lot of knowledge about the issues facing Carroll County and Hampstead. He also has a lot of contacts around the county and state which will make that a lot less of a learning curve."
In other business, council members approved an ordinance to pay Board of Zoning Appeals members $200 per year, which will be paid quarterly.
The ordinance, which was passed 3-1 and is the initial one providing pay for board members, caused an outcry from those who said the new laws were designed to force zoning appeals Chairman Gary Bauer to resign.
State law requires that elected officials not hold more than one paid government position. Mr. Bauer was elected to a seat on the county school board last fall. Councilwoman Hyatt cast the dissenting vote.