UNION BRIDGE — While campaigning for mayor here, Perry L. Jones Jr. found a staunchpolitical ally right in his own backyard.
When the self-employed auto mechanic planned his election strategy, he didn't realize what enthusiastic help he would receive from the next generation of the family.
His 9-year-old son and namesake couldn't wait to hit the campaigntrail with his father.
In the weeks before the May 14 election, young Perry rushed home from school every day, finished his homework and eagerly asked, "When are we going, Dad?"
The youngster followedhis father door to door, listening to discussions on issues.
A fourth-grade student at Elmer Wolfe Elementary, Perry learned all abouttaxes, recycling and possible new developments in the town where he is growing up.
His only child really enjoyed the experience, said Jones, the town's first new mayor in 35 years.
Jones, 39, set his sights on the job shortly after Edward L. Williar announced his retirement in February. He faced stiff competition from fellow Councilman Scott W. Davis.
The family campaign and Jones' 10 years of experience on the council may have been what put him over the top, he said.
Jones won by 11 votes, in an election that brought out 266, or 56.7 percent, of the town's 455 registered voters.
Jones, the county's first black mayor, said he didn't think race was an issue in the campaign. He said he was fortunate in never having experienced racial problems in the town.
"My family and I have always felt close to people here," he said. "My election is important from the standpoint ofblack history, though."
Jones and Jones did fall a little short of the goal to visit every resident. Time just ran out, the new mayor said.
"I think I visited about two-thirds of the homes in town," said Jones. "I told people my ideas for the town and how we could put them to work."
Most of the questions he heard involved the proposed annexation of the Phillips property, he said. The council has been grappling with that question for more than two years.
The 171 acres south of town would primarily be used to construct about 500 new homes -- tripling the town's population -- if and when it is fully developed. Jones said he hopes to have the issue resolved by the end of this summer.
"Residents just didn't understand who would be paying for all this development," he said. "When I told them we wouldn't give the OK until the developer agreed to pay, they were relieved."
He also hopes the new development will provide affordable housing. He said the town, with a population of 966, could use more people and more business.
"More people would live here if they didn't have to travel so far outside town to work," he said. "We have several assets to attract potential businesses here, including access to a railroad and water."
Residents also expressed concerns about the town's recycling project that began about 18 months ago. Union Bridge is the only Carroll town to institute curbside recycling, using plastic bags.
"We have had some snags in the program, and our percentage has gone down slightly," said Jones. "When we switch from the bags to plastic bins next month, things should improve."
Like his predecessor, Jones said he expects to maintain a good relationship with the Town Council.
"Perry will do a good job for the town," said outgoing mayor Williar. "He's had 10 years of experience on the council and workedwith me on several county committees."
Unlike Williar, who was retired during much of his tenure, Jones runs his own business, Tuck's Chevron Service Station, on Main Street.
"I just plan to work my schedule around my duties as mayor," he said. "I can work early and late hours at the station. My wife and son have been and will be supportive."
Sons in the Jones family are used to following in their father's footsteps, he pointed out. At 13, he began working with cars atthe shop owned by his late father, Perry Sr.
"I learned a lot about the business from my dad," he said. "Maybe my son's campaign experience will lead him to a political career."