Outgoing Laurel city administrator reflects on his tenure

The year was 1976.

Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and former governor of Georgia, was elected president; a man named Steve Jobs launched the Apple Computer Co. out of his childhood home garage with Steve Wozniak; and it was the year, Martin “Marty” Flemion started working for the city of Laurel.

Flemion’s first day as a city employee was Oct. 21, 1976, in the public works department. He spent it on the back of a trash truck collecting refuse and eventually replaced nearly 7,500 street signs after it was mandated by the federal government.

Over the past four decades, Flemion has worn many hats within the city, including head foreman in the Department of Public Works, director of public works, deputy city administrator, director of emergency management and lastly, as city administrator.

After nearly a 42-year career with the city, Sept. 27 marked Flemion’s last day.

“To be painfully honest, I did not intend for it to become a career,” Flemion said. “I recognized the opportunities early.”

On Monday, Flemion, 63, was honored at the city of Laurel’s council meeting, where he was showered with gifts and citations, including one from Gov. Larry Hogan, who recognized Flemion forhis hard work. He also received a plaque from the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department and Maryland Municipal League certificate.

“Marty has given exemplary services not just to the city of Laurel but to all municipalities in Maryland,” said Tom Reynolds, director of education services. “He’s extraordinarily confident about emergency management.”

At Monday’s ceremony, Mayor Craig Moe listed Flemion’s highlights, including becoming the city’s first emergency operations director, building the Memorial Garden outside of city hall, overseeing the construction of a new city hall on Sandy Spring Road and his part in creating a mobile command unit.

As the city’s project manager, he took over the capital improvement program and completed $20 million worth of projects in a matter of a few years.

One of his first architectural projects was building the Robert J. DiPietro Community Centerocated on Cypress Street.

Former Mayor Joe Robinson asked Flemion to take on the appointed position ofdirector of public works.

“I really wasn’t crazy about becoming an appointed official,” Flemion said. “but that department would make Laurel my career.”

After being appointed as the deputy city administrator and director of emergency operations in 2002, Flemion dedicated the next 15 years of his career to emergency management.

“We needed a major overhaul,” he said, as was evident after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, followed within weeks by a tornado touching down in Laurel. The incidents alerted Flemion to take a critical eye at the city’s emergency management response.

Once located in a small conference room, his work led to the creation of the Emergency Operations Center in 2002, which was dedicated to him when it was revamped in 2018.

The center is the central command and control facility where staff collects, gathers and analyzes data, makes decisions and coordinates with city departments and individuals.

Flemion also created a comprehensive emergency plan that included succession if the mayor and several council members were no longer able to serve.

A core emergency management group that included city employees from all departments, such as finance and parks and recreation, was also created, Flemion said “so they knew they had a function during an emergency.”

On top of buckling down on the city’s emergency management during the post 9/11 era, Flemion created a Memorial Garden at the front of city hall that opened in 2016 and features an eye beam from the North Twin Tower supported by a base that tells the story of the attacks.

“We wanted the story of the entire day, not just the Twin Towers, but to include the events of the Pentagon and Shanksville, [Pa.],” Flemion said.

Other memorials in the garden include one to all U.S. Military veterans and Pearl Harbor.

Moe said Flemion always thought about how he could make things better in Laurel.

“His [Flemion’s] career over 42 years says a lot about an individual,” Moe said. “He was dedicated to the city of Laurel, Prince George’s county and the state of Maryland.”

Moe said he hates to see Flemion go, but he knows his retirement is long overdue and wishes him the best.

Council President Michael Leszcz said Flemion was dedicated to the city.

“I could call him at anytime,” Leszcz said. “My wife always said ‘Don’t bother that poor man at home,’ but he always picked up the phone or called me right back.”

Leszcz said the two had a good working relationship.

“Knowing Marty and his talents, he could have gone elsewhere but he was dedicated to the city,” Leszcz said.

Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said that a lot of improvements to the police department were thanks to Flemion.

McLaughlin recalled many late nights and early mornings working side by sideon a situation..

“His support was unfathomable,” McLaughlin said.

Former Laurel Mayor Robert J. DiPietro first met Flemion in the beginning of his career as mayor in the late ‘70s.

“He hasn’t changed from then. He’s the same person today,” DiPietro said. “He was very conscientious, always wanted to learn and always wanted to go the extra mile.”

Flemion was able to improve each and every department he worked in during his career, according to DiPietro.

“We’ve had great city administrators …. he [Flemion] will truly go down as one of the best,” DiPietro said.

In September, the city of Laurel announced appointments of a new city administrator and deputy city administrator.

William Goddard, the current deputy city administrator was appointed to city administrator. Lou Ann Crook, the former chief of staff in the mayor’s office, was appointed to deputy city administrator.

Crook, who has worked side by side with Flemion for 29 years, hopes to uphold the standards Flemion has set.

“He’s a great mentor, a great, great leader and a great friend,” Crook said.

Leszcz said he is sure Goddard will do a great job “but he’s not the same person as Marty, just like Marty wasn’t the same person as Kristie [Mills],” who Flemion replaced when he began.

“When somebody leaves a management job you can’t judge the new person based on the old person,” Leszcz said. “You have to allow the new person to set the tone in how they will manage.”

Flemion said he expects a smooth transition with Goddard because “he gets it.”

For the past few years, Flemion has been preparing for retirement by buying power tools.

With a passion for woodworking, he has plans for “furniture [projects] to cut my teeth into” and hopes to open a woodworking shop in the future.

“I like working with my hands and my mind,” Flemion said, whose grandfather was a cabinet maker.

Married to his wife Jane for 24 years, Flemion has a son, a stepdaughter, a stepson and one grandson.

He is looking forward to more grandchildren, too.

When asked what he would miss most about working for the city, without hesitation Flemion said “the people.

“The people we have assembled here are just incredible,” he said. “The most exciting ones to be around are the new, the millennials.”

He’s very excited, he said, for the young people who come in to work for the city.

“I’m encouraging them [millennial employees] to consider Laurel as a career,” Flemion said. “There are multitudes of opportunities as a city of Laurel employee.”

jnocera@baltsun.com

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