Small town keeps the mayor busy Manchester: Elmer C. Lippy governs this town of 3,000 with a disarming sense of humor and a genuine affection for the Carroll County municipality.


The skateboarders are back, and the affable Mayor of Manchester is losing his patience.

Elmer C. Lippy thought he had solved this problem last summer. He set aside designated skating areas and warned the teens to stay away from Main Street and the sidewalks.

Now the senior citizens over on Grafton Street say the teens aren't behaving.

The complaints may vary -- skateboards in Manchester, potholes in Baltimore -- but the essential truth remains: A mayor's work is never done.

Nobody knows better than the mayor of a small northern Carroll County town. Lippy's salary is $1,200 a year. He's listed in the phone book and has no aides to insulate him from cranky constituents.

"I spend a half-day in the office but my job is pretty much full time," says Lippy, who always listens patiently when someone stops him on the street or calls at home to gripe about unsightly trash, a neighbor's uncut grass or Main Street parking problems.

"Some people, bless their hearts, think since they voted for me they own me body and soul," he says.

But Lippy can't seem to stay out of the fray. A Manchester native, he threw himself into town politics after his retirement in 1985 as a senior chemist with Lever Bros. in Baltimore. He served on the Town Council for two years before being elected mayor in 1987. After a stint as a Carroll County commissioner, Lippy won a second term as mayor in 1995, beating out his second cousin for the job.

Lippy governs with a disarming sense of humor and a genuine affection for this small town on the verge of big growth. Situated on Route 30, Manchester, which has a population of about 3,000, is the next in line for major suburban development.

"He looks at the mayorship not as a personal opportunity, but as a way of serving his town and his neighbors," says Manchester Town Manager David Warner.

Hard decisions

Lippy may have a grandfatherly demeanor and be quick with a quip, but he's all business when it comes to pressing town issues. In his first term, he oversaw an $11 million upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant, and now he's working with the town staff to develop alternative sources of drinking water for the growing area.

He approaches the serious and the seemingly silly with a willingness to listen and learn.

"When there's a hard decision to make, then he's making a hard decision," observes town attorney Michelle Ostrander. "But he knows when things aren't as serious as other folks make them out to be."

It's 8: 30 a.m. Lippy settles into his tiny office in the Memorial Building on York Street and scans the newspapers. This is shaping up to be a long day for the part-time mayor. In addition to the sticky skateboard situation, he's dealing with complaints about speeding in town and is mediating a dispute between a "rabid environmentalist," who wants to turn his back yard into a nature preserve and a dismayed neighbor.

And there's a Town Council meeting tonight. The skating teens and the irate seniors have promised to make appearances.

Lippy spends most of the morning discussing the skateboard issue with town staff and going over the agenda for the council meeting.

"The little urchins were up to my place last night and they looked like saints," Lippy informs Warner, referring to the skateboarders who visited his home to plead their case.

Lippy decides to introduce an emergency ordinance to prohibit skateboarding on all town sidewalks.

He chats with former councilwoman Charlotte Collett about last weekend's Manchester Day celebration, meets with one of the two town police officers and makes some quick phone calls -- "Hello, this is Mayor Elmer " -- before heading across the street to pick up his mail.

"Why, hello there, May;" "Shirley, how are you? "Why, hello Sue, how are you?" He marvels at the new walkway outside of the post office, built by town public works employees.

About noon, when Lippy arrives at his rambling white house on York Street, Mabel, 72, his wife of 54 years, has bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches waiting. The mayor picked the iceberg lettuce from his backyard garden.

After tasting his home-grown bounty, Lippy forgets about municipal matters. His vegetable garden beckons.

Before long, Lippy has traded in his mayor clothes and briefcase for work boots and a lawn mower to prepare the ground for planting corn.

A nap

Anticipating a long night ahead, Lippy finishes his garden chores, retreats to the house for a quick nap in his easy chair, his cocker spaniel, Mindy, by his feet.

By 4: 30 p.m. it's time for Mindy's walk. Lippy chooses a route through the town-owned Christmas Tree Park.

Along the way he's pleased to see the new doors on the park bathrooms and not so pleased to see a broken picnic bench and litter on the ground.

Back home, Lippy has a quick dinner while watching the television news, changes into a dress shirt and tie and reminds Mabel to watch the council meeting on cable.

At 7 p.m. Lippy is at Memorial Hall, across the street from a church parking lot, the site of his boyhood home.

"I always feel a twinge of nostalgia here," Lippy says. "One day I'm in the kitchen, the next I'm in my brother's bedroom."

By the time the council meeting starts at 7: 30 p.m. there are six citizens in attendance and no skateboarders in sight.

As part of his "Mayor's Report," Lippy gives public praise to Earl Litzau, who called him at home to suggest installing speed bumps at problem spots in town -- an idea worth considering, the mayor says.

The council approves a new agreement with the local recreation council, votes to accept a county measure aimed at protecting environmentally sensitive areas and appoints a new town police chief.

The skateboarders are a no-show, but three senior citizens from Grafton Street are eager to tell the council about the teens who skate on their sidewalks.

"We are paying taxes and I think that is more important than those kids," says Sadie Redding. "I'm going to be 83 years old soon, and I'm tired of it."

Lippy doesn't miss a beat.

"Golly, Sadie, you don't look that old."

The mayor assures the women that he will ask the town attorney to draft emergency legislation, then adjourns the meeting at 9: 20 p.m.

"Thank you all for a very fruitful meeting. Good night, citizens."

Pub Date: 6/12/97

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad