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Municipal officials sound off on Sunday morning radio show Focus is rotated weekly among county's 8 towns


Alone in a Westminster radio studio with a tape rolling and a stopwatch ticking, town officials are recording municipal minutes for Sunday morning listeners.

For 10 minutes starting at 8:20 a.m. Sundays, their musings on issues and events air on the "Carroll Municipal Show." WTTR-AM rotates the program among the eight municipalities.

"Town residents can't always get to their local meetings," said Mark Woodworth, reporter and anchor at the county's only radio station.

"Now, they can turn on the radio Sunday and hear their mayor talking about what is of interest to their community."

Each town has been on the air twice since the show debuted two months ago. Today, Cpl. Mike Bible of the Westminster police takes the microphone to tout safety programs offered in city schools.

"I am not nervous about talking on the air, but I have written my speech," he said.

Next Sunday, Chip Boyles, Taneytown town manager, will speak for his municipality.

"An informed populace is an elected official's best friend," said New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. "This program can be a forum to dispel negative rumors and inform listeners. Even the president has a radio address."

The broadcast evolved from a casual conversation between Mr. Gullo and Mr. Woodworth. The mayor joked that he would like to spout off G. Gordon Liddy-style, and Mr. Woodworth offered him a forum to share with his mayoral colleagues.

"I wish I had a new idea like this every day," said Mr. Woodworth. "We seem to devote a great deal of time to county issues and interests, but we also have eight municipalities. This is something to stir different opinions."

Elmer Lippy, the mayor of Manchester and a former county commissioner, said the program offers the towns more access to surrounding communities.

"All three commissioners need constant reminders that a third of the population lives in the towns," he said. "This program also makes those living outside the town boundaries aware of the problems and prides."

Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin gives listeners "the Reader's Digest version of the issues affecting Hampstead."

He calls the program "10 minutes of PR for the towns. I envision it as a platform for current issues and what we are doing to address those."

Mr. Gullo, president of the Carroll County chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, set the schedule, took the first turn and fills in for any absentees.

"I wouldn't ask anybody to do anything I wouldn't do myself," he said.

Mr. Gullo has been in the spotlight three times. "No complaints, but no network job offers," he said.

Each mayor tapes a monologue a few days before air time.

"You are there by yourself," said Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones. "Nobody stands over you and makes you nervous."

"If you stop, there is dead air," Mr. Gullo said. "The recorder picks up all your uhs and ahs. WTTR bends over backward to help. They are giving us a great tool to get messages out."

The towns share many concerns, but each brings a distinctive perspective to the format, Mr. Woodworth said.

"Programs have run the spectrum from crime, growth, business, development and upcoming events," he said. "Every program is different and impossible to pigeonhole."

He measures the show's popularity from "the many letters, calls and great response out in the community," he said.

Mr. Gullo said he was surprised how many people listen to Sunday morning radio.

"After each show, people in town tell me they heard me," he said.

Not one speaker has asked Mr. Woodworth for advice on what to do with air time. And the station has not had to scramble for a speaker.

"We never have any problem getting people in to record, even though these are all busy people, most of whom have full-time jobs in addition to town duties," Mr. Woodworth said.

Few speakers have used scripts, but most follow outlines of the points they want to cover. Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said he would like to tinker with the format and perhaps add a little background music.

A question-and-answer session may work better, he said.

With little time to rehearse his stint, he said, he opted for "a light fare" of local history and location -- "some people don't know where we are."

Reticent mayors have sent council members, police officers, town managers or department chairs as emissaries.

Mr. Jones has asked each council member to take a turn. "We'll get everybody's perspective," he said.

"Personally, I get enough publicity," said Westminster Mayor Kenneth Yowan. "This will let others talk. I have heard several programs, and it has gone well."

Timing is the only point of dispute.

"I can hardly say 'good morning' in 10 minutes," said Mr. Lippy, the unchallenged champion of chat. "They meant it when they set a time limit. They cut me off about midsentence."

He still managed to "toss out real pearls of wisdom over the airwaves" while squeezing a history lesson and plans for improving downtown Manchester into the same session, he said.

Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson wrapped up his spiel in 7 1/2 minutes.

"I you like to gab, 10 minutes is no problem," he said. "If you stick to the facts like me, you will finish early."

WTTR fills in for the few short-winded speakers, Mr. Nevin said.

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