Ruth O'Connor sat patiently in the audience at the final meeting of the current Baltimore County Council, clutching the strings of several Mylar balloons she brought to tie to the chair of defeated Councilman William R. Evans.
The balloons bore messages saying "You're the greatest." O'Connor, Evans' private law office secretary, had hoped to cheer her favorite councilman as he and four other incumbent members presided at their last official legislative session Monday before leaving office Dec. 3.
But council secretary Tom Toporovich forbade any such breach of council decorum, so O'Connor had to be content to watch quietly, balloons in hand, as the council unanimously approved a bill declaring Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs to be pets. That exempted them from county zoning laws that otherwise would require one acre of land per swine.
The council also approved a $50,000 state grant to pay for setting up a new methadone treatment center for drug addicts in the county. One such center already exists, in Timonium, but an attempt to open a second center in Dundalk backfired last year. Community opposition forced the center to close shortly after it opened. No location or operator has been chosen for the new center, the council was told, and the community will be carefully consulted before any site is decided on.
Dale Volz, D-7th, the Dundalk councilman who lost his seat in the September primary, also seemed jovial, especially when two television news cameramen left the chamber after the council approved the pet pig bill.
"We thought the cameras were out here for the farewells," he said after realizing that pet pigs held the limelight, not his colleagues' swan songs.
Each of the council members said a fond farewell, even Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, and Mel Mintz, D-2nd, the two incumbents who were re-elected. Mintz joked that he'll miss 16-year council veteran Norman W. Lauenstein, D-5th, 63, and said he always called Norman "dad," whereupon Ruppersberger joked that he always called Lauenstein "pop-pop."
The new council, with new members Berchie Lee Manley, Douglas Riley, Vince Gardina, William Howard and Donald Mason, is to attend an instructional session Monday and a work session Tuesday before being sworn into office Dec. 3.
The defeated incumbents -- Volz, Evans, Lauenstein, Barbara F. Bachur, D-4th and Ronald B. Hickernell, D-1st -- all said they'll miss their colleagues, the council staff and treasure the changes they helped enact and the friendships formed over their years in office.
By the time Volz, the last speaker got his turn, he complained there really wasn't much left unsaid.
"I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor's eighth husband," he said. "I know what to do, but not how to make it interesting."