Fired police chief elected mayor by six votes


SMITHSBURG -- By six votes, former Police Chief Tommy Bowers yesterday ousted the mayor who fired him, apparently ending a feud that has consumed this Western Maryland town for months.

"There's no vindication," Bowers, 47, said moments after hearing the results. "I feel relieved that the election is over. Now there's a lot of hard work ahead."

Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers, elected in 1994, fired Bowers as police chief Aug. 13 for what she says was volatile, insubordinate behavior.

But he was well-liked in town, and a controversy has raged since.

Yesterday's vote was 291-285, with one write-in and seven no votes. Fifty-two percent of the voters in this town of 1,500 cast ballots -- a remarkable turnout for a local election.

"It shows a definite split in the town," said Myers, who added that she plans to take time to enjoy her family. "Either way, it's a win-win situation for me."

Bowers will take office next month.

The vote ends more than a year of feuding that led to Bowers' firing last summer and yesterday's election showdown.

The mayor's job pays $2,000 -- far less than the $30,000-a-year salary for police chief.

Bowers also is pursuing a challenge in federal court that could win his chief's job back. That puts him in the position of suing a town he will soon lead.

If the courts order Smithsburg to give Bowers his job back, he says he intends to resign as mayor.

Myers, 63, was elected in 1994 and was widely credited with bringing improvements to roads and sewers and sprucing up the area around the town's one stoplight.

But Bowers won many friends during his three years as police chief of this town east of Hagerstown. His firing enraged many residents, prompting pickets and the support for Bowers' campaign.

Both candidates discussed other issues in their campaign fliers, and a debate Monday night prohibited questions about the firing.

But the matter was at the heart of the campaign.

Bowers, a former Marine and former Washington County sheriff's deputy, won over townspeople with his congenial manner and constant patrolling.

He assisted state police in several downtown drug arrests and scattered crowds of loud teen-agers that disturbed neighborhoods.

But Myers and her supporters argue that Bowers also displayed a bad temper and disturbing behavior. He would stick a loaded gun to his head in jest. Other times, he'd scream at Myers and town employees.

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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