New Windsor Town Council accepted last night departing Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr.'s offer to serve the last two years of a vacant council term.
After about 75 minutes of debate, the council voted 3-1 to appoint Gullo to fill the vacant seat.
Councilman Neal Roop dissented, saying the council would lose respect by appointing Gullo and the move would be unfair to his likely successor, Sam M. Pierce.
"I did not anticipate that volunteering to help out I would generate so much controversy," Gullo said before the vote.
Before the meeting, about 20 people stood outside, some with signs that read "Time to go Gullo." About 80 people crowded New Windsor Town Hall. The town clerk read for and against Gullo's appointment.
"If anyone ever expresses a dissenting opinion, they become [Gullo's] enemy for life. He wants to be there so he can be a thorn in Sam's side," resident Dave LaFeur said before the meeting.
The decision sets up a potentially fractious relationship between Gullo and Pierce, the only candidate for mayor in Tuesday's town election.
Pierce lost to Gullo by 12 votes in the 1997 mayoral election and has publicly criticized Gullo's interest in the vacant council seat.
"This very cleverly crafted political maneuver is not in the best interest of the Town Council or the community, but is an arrogant statement that no one can do the job like he can," Pierce wrote in a letter published Tuesday in the Carroll County Times.
Gullo, who has served two terms, said he hopes to use his knowledge and experience to ease the transition between his regime and the next.
With a $15 million revitalization of Main Street under way, this is no time for missteps, he said. Council members agreed that Gullo's experience will prove invaluable.
Paul G. Garver resigned in February, leaving the seat vacant. Three other New Windsor residents expressed written interest in the seat.
Two of those, Bill Geelhaar and Ed Palsgrove, are running for council seats in Tuesday's election.