The man integral to running the daily business of Westminster for nearly 20 years announced last night that he has been called to active duty in the Middle East.
Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works since 1987, told the City Council he will depart in mid-June for a deployment based in Kuwait with the Maryland Army National Guard. Beyard, 51, who joined the Guard in 1997 after years with the Army Reserve, expects to return to his job in late 2007.
Prompted by Beyard's pending departure, Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson requested last night that Westminster not only find an interim replacement for Beyard but hire a full-time city administrator - a position briefly created in 1991 that fell victim to political controversy. The council expressed unanimous support for the proposal to better manage the daily affairs of Carroll County's largest municipality.
"[Beyard] has one of the most complex jobs in the city, and his departure will leave a pretty big hole in our leadership," Ferguson said.
Just three months after Westminster hired its first city manager, Philip F. Hertz, in 1991, the City Council abolished his job and returned all administrative duties to Mayor W. Benjamin Brown.
But council members said last night that Westminster - a city of 17,000 people and a $25 million combined operating and capital budget this year - now requires more than an elected, part-time mayor.
Ferguson expressed hope that the council would move swiftly to find Beyard's interim replacement and adopt legislation to hire a city manager.
Beyard said he hopes to prepare the interim director to deal with issues surrounding water supply and wastewater treatment.
"When in the Guard, it's not a question of if you will be deployed, but when," said Beyard, a command sergeant major who will command an aviation logistics unit. "Because situations like mine can happen, I've worked very hard to keep continuity and not lose key people for the city."
Downtown redevelopment projects, such as converting the former Farmers Supply building into O'Lordans Pub and upscale condominiums on Liberty Street, remain a focus for Beyard.
Through his National Guard service, Beyard helped cement the Partner City Program between Westminster and Paide, Estonia, that began in 2002.
Councilwoman Suzanne Albert said a new city administrator could wear two hats and take on some of Beyard's responsibilities in planning and public works. "That would be ideal," she said.
A city manager would provide day-to-day stability that would not be disrupted by the election cycle, said Council President Roy L. Chiavacci.