Taneytown's overdue thank-you dinner for former Mayor W. Robert Flickinger was delayed only by Flickinger's modesty: He at first demurred.
Enough people wanted to give him a proper farewell and thanks for his 26 years of service to the town that they did it anyway Friday night.
"It was wonderful," Flickinger said after the party. "I didn't think I had so many friends."
About 120 people gathered to throw a surprise party for Flickinger at Antrim 1844. To make the event more affordable, the city covered half the cost of the party, with attendees paying $30 each for their tickets, said James McCarron, the city councilman who organized the event.
"Bob is very well respected and he tends not to take credit for a lot of things he does," McCarron said.
In the spring, when Flickinger, 66, made it known he wouldn't run for re-election in May, McCarron and the council wanted to have a party to mark his long service to the city. He had been a council member for 20 years, and served as interim mayor for two years in the 1970s when then-Mayor Neal Powell resigned to become city manager with two years remaining in his mayoral term. Flickinger continued on the council and was elected mayor the first time he ran in 1995.
"I asked Bob if it would be OK if we did something like that. But he doesn't like that kind of thing, so he said no," McCarron said.
"But people have been coming up to me and saying, 'We want to do something for the mayor.' So I talked to his wife, Fairy, and she said she'd talk to him."
Flickinger said Friday night that he hadn't felt a party was necessary.
"I didn't get into the political business to have someone throw a party for me," he said.
In July, McCarron said, Fairy Flickinger told him that she thought her husband would enjoy a thank-you party. It was meant to be a secret, but McCarron said he's not sure that Flickinger didn't find out about it.
The county commissioners listed the event on their public agenda. Flickinger, out of politics and government, might not have seen that agenda, McCarron said. But he usually knows everything going on in his hometown.
Flickinger insisted that he was surprised. McCarron had mailed a bogus invitation to a wedding anniversary party for his friends, Ron and Libby Cain of Taneytown.
"We got to Antrim and I saw them at the door, and I said, 'Happy anniversary,' " Flickinger said. "They said, 'This isn't ours; it's yours.' "
Friends and relatives came from as far as Lancaster, Pa., and Pocomoke City. After most of the guests had left Antrim, some close friends continued the party at the Flickinger home.
McCarron said Flickinger had given too much service to the city to leave without an appropriate tribute.
"He was a hard-working mayor," McCarron said.