UNION BRIDGE — For 35 years, he was only a few steps down Broadway or a phone call away from his constituents.
Until his last working day at Town Hall, Mayor Edward L. Williar kept the door to his office and the lines of communication open.
Whether he handled a complaint about a water leak, helped plan a parade or worked on the town's recycling project, he took "everythingin stride" and did the best problem-solving he could.
"We never have major emergencies," he said on one of his last days in office. "Still, the small problems are big to people here."
The late Gov. J.Millard Tawes once told him he would rather be governor than mayor.
"The governor said his staff takes all the bumps for him," he said. "When you're mayor, you get hit with everything yourself."
The mayor said he thought up a plan to cut down on those bumps. "If every resident served one term on the Town Council, I'm sure we would have a lot less complaints," he said.
Occasionally the mayor's communication wires got crossed, he said, and he had to pull some late hours.
A street lamp glaring into a resident's bedroom once prompted a sleepless person to dial the mayor's home at 2 a.m., demanding that Williar fix it.
"The next morning, I had the power company install ashield," he said. "Then, I waited about a week before calling the man back -- at 2 a.m. -- to see if he was sleeping better."
Another late-night caller phoned from a town bar to say he wasn't able to drive up a snow-covered hill to his home.
"How long have you been at the bar?" the mayor replied to the tippler's query about a snow plow.
"Since the storm began about five hours ago," replied the caller.
The mayor advised the man to "sit tight" or walk home.
Nearly 250 friends and family will retell similar stories today as they celebrate Williar's retirement with a dinner at the fire hall.
"I likebeing with the people here and have always gotten along with them," he said. "I guess they wanted me to stay in the job."
They "wantedhim to stay" so much that the name Williar has followed the word mayor almost continuously since 1952.
He lost only one election -- in1974 to Richard Stultz -- during the past 39 years.
By the time Stultz asked Williar to take the job back in 1978, the filing deadlinehad passed.
"Stultz did a good job, but he told me he didn't haveenough time for the job," said Williar. "He asked me to run again."
Although it was too late to get his name on the ballot, Williar managed to win his seat back "by a pretty large majority" with a write-in vote.
He has run and won every year since.
"I didn't count the years I've worked for the town, I just tried to do the job as bestI could," said Williar, 77, when he announced in February his intention to retire. "Now, it's time for someone else."
The someone elseis Perry L. Jones Jr., the Town Council president who was elected tothe job May 14, by 11 votes more than his opponent, Councilman ScottW. Davis.
Williar witnessed Jones' swearing in May 28 at the Courthouse Annex in Westminster.
In his last official council meeting May 13, Williar praised members for working well together, saying he always had cooperative councils.
He offered some advice, too.
"Don't create problems within yourselves," he said. "There will be upsand downs in the job. You will disagree, but don't be disagreeable."
He also promised to be available whenever the town needed him.
"I may be leaving Town Hall, but I'll still be in Union Bridge," he said.
While Williar is leaving the town's employ, his wife, Irene,will continue as town bookkeeper "at least for a while," she said.
Like the mayor's office, the town with a population of 966 has seenlittle change. The biggest growth spurt came in 1963, when the town bought its present water system from a private company, installed a modern sewer system and dedicated its Community Center.
"Union Bridge hasn't changed a lot in 40 years," he said. "It will now, though. There is a lot going on, and a lot of people are interested in the town's progress."
Williar was referring to several decisions facing the new mayor and council, including the proposed annexation of the 171-acre Phillips property.
When fully developed, that site could add another well to the town system -- and triple its population.
"It would mean more revenue for the town and an increase in business,"he said. "It will turn out well because the Planning Commission has done its job."
Williar said he plans to spend his retirement visiting his two children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He and his wife also plan to travel.
"I'll probably drop in at Town Hall once in a while, too," he said with a smile.