During his 16 years on the Harford County Council, Richard Slutzky says he left each meeting with a smile on his face, despite often having to make difficult decisions and experiencing at times intense outrage from people affected by those decisions.
“There have been outraged demonstrations, inflammatory emails, derogatory phone calls and a few threats,” Slutzky said Tuesday evening as he delivered a 10-minute farewell address to those gathered in the council chambers in Bel Air. Council meetings are also broadcast live online and later on television via the Harford Cable Network.
“Every night I drove home from the council meetings, I had a smile on my face,” he said. “I understood that I was a volunteer for the job.”
Slutzky, a Republican, decided not to seek re-election this year after leading the council since his election as president in 2014. He had served the previous 12 years representing his hometown of Aberdeen and surrounding areas on the council and originally filed to run for the seat again, before being persuaded, some say by his predecessor, Billy Boniface, to seek the council presidency.
Before he entered local politics, Slutzky, 75, was a teacher and highly successful wrestling coach at Aberdeen High School. His council colleagues and many others, including Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, usually address him or refer to him as “Coach” or “Coach Slutzky.”
Slutzky said Harford County residents have the right to address their elected council members.
“This is the American way of free speech and peaceful assembly and their valued constitutional rights,” he said.
“Throughout my 16 years of council service the most often asked question has been, ‘Why would you want to run for elected office?’” he said.
“My answer has always been the same — I told them that I ran for elected office because I believe in the American system,” Slutzky said.
He said he believes “the American government system is one of the best representative government systems in the world, if not the best.”
“It has been an honor and privilege for me to have had the opportunity to work with so many very bright and caring council members and council staff,” Slutzky said. “The hardest part for me will be leaving friendships that I have made with these wonderful colleagues.”
The council will have one more meeting Tuesday. There are no meetings planned in November because of the upcoming Nov. 6 election. The new council will be inaugurated in early December.
District A Councilman Mike Perrone and District C Councilman Jim McMahan, who unsuccessfully ran for other offices in the June primary election, also are leaving, so the seven-council will have at least three new faces in December.
“I wish you the very best in the next phases of your life,” Slutzky told McMahan and Perrone.
He said he hopes all incumbent council members “are returned to office to continue to serve the citizens of Harford County.”
Sutzky said he believes every American should participate in the political process, whether through voting, volunteering for candidates for office or ensuring they are educated about the workings of government and people seeking office.
He recalled preparing to retire from teaching and coaching after 39 years and speaking with former AHS student-athletes, who had become business and community leaders in Aberdeen, about a possible run for the Aberdeen City Council, but the group told him a committee was already being formed for him to run for the District E seat on the council.
“The rest of that is really history,” said Slutzky, who was elected to his first term in 2002.
Slutzky thanked his campaign manager, Jerry Lacey, for his ongoing support over 16 years, as well as his wife, Linda, of nearly 50 years, and children for their support.
He also expressed thanks to the county government officials who “have helped me and my colleagues in ways that would allow the Harford County Council to provide the best possible legislation to sustain the quality of life that the citizens of Harford County have come to expect.”