TANEYTOWN — If one word could describe Neal W. Powell, this city's former councilman and mayor and current manager, it just might be "indispensable."
Certainly, "difficult to replace" keeps cropping up in discussions with co-workers.
"One thing we've learned is to appreciate the wide variety of things he does for the town," said Mayor Henry I. Reindollar. "There's no question about it -- he'll be missed. And all the things he was into and things he knew about is making it difficult to replace him."
Since Powell, 70, announced his retirement last spring, city officials have received 70 applications for his job, which they have narrowed down to three.
Friday night, the town bade a fond farewell to Powell at a dinner at the American Legion Post 120. Powell, however, will remain on the job until his successor is named, which officials hope will come within the next two weeks.
Even then, Powell will notdisappear from City Hall offices immediately.
"I'll stay and helpsmooth the way for whoever gets the job," Powell said.
Born and raised on a farm in Topeka, Kan., Powell found himself in Maryland during World War II, being trained by the Army at Fort Ritchie as an aerial photography interpreter. While at Fort Ritchie he met M. Janet Burke, who he married two months later in October 1943.
When the warended, the couple settled in Maryland.
"She had pretty deep rootshere, so we decided to live here near her home," Powell said.
He took a job with the now-defunct Cambridge Rubber Co., eventually becoming personnel manager in 1966, the same year he became mayor of the city.
Before becoming mayor, Powell served on the City Council fornine years.
"My brother-in-law, Jim Burke, one of my dearest friends, decided I was political material, and he nominated me to the council in 1957," Powell said. "That May, I was elected and have served the city since."
Powell became mayor when Raymond Perry resigned from that office for health reasons. As council president, Powell was automatically named mayor, a position he kept until 1978.
The cityhad hired its first manager in 1976, but when the job became vacant only 18 months later, Powell decided to go for it. When he was given the manager's job, he retired from Cambridge Rubber.
"You wear so many hats as city manager," Powell said. "You're principally carryingout the edicts of the council, but also keeping the mayor and council aware of programs that are available, such as recycling."
The city manager is the chief administrative officer for the town. He's purchasing agent, financial manager, personnel head in charge of most hirings and firings and almost anything else that may come along.
Inhis 34 years as councilman, mayor and manager, Powell has been involved in major projects ranging from the digging of wells for the city's water supply to applying for Program Open Space money to enlarge Taneytown's park system.
"I don't think any one individual should take credit for a project, because it's a cooperative venture between the mayor and council," Powell said.
"We've had forward-looking andprogressive councils, and I like to think I've been a stimulus to things, but it's been all working together."
Among his proudest accomplishments are the city's industrial area, parks, sewer system upgrade and water treatment plant expansion, well water system and the city's historic designation.
As city manager, Powell was active in the Maryland Municipal League, serving as state president one term and also district vice president.
His other activities include being former president of the County Chamber of Commerce and a member of theCarroll Board of Education for a six-year term. He also is an activemember of American Legion Post 120, where he was the first person toserve as commander for two terms.
Powell was a mentor for at least one MML member who also served as president: Lloyd R. Helt Jr., mayor of Sykesville.
"He was the one man who inspired me the most," Helt said. "He was such a fountain of knowledge for me, and he's done so much for the MML. They'll never be able to replace him, they just won't."
About 170 people attended Friday's retirement dinner, including two county commissioners, other Carroll mayors, councilmen and city managers, a state delegate and senator and MML officials from several other counties.
Close friend and former Mount Airy Mayor Lewis C. Dixon likened Powell to Mr. Belvedere on the television show ofthe same name.
"He's a person who rationalizes things, generates tranquillity among people, heads people in the right direction and doesn't push or pull too hard," Dixon said.
Accolades given to Powell at the dinner included a framed letter of congratulations from President George Bush, a proclamation from the MML, a watch from the city's employees, and a set of custom-made golf clubs, which he plans to use during his retirement.
Councilman W. Robert Flickinger also announced that a tree would be planted in Powell's honor in the city.
Powell is hoping his successor is named soon so his retirement, supposed to have begun July 1, can become official.
"I thought, 'I'm 70, and while I'm still in good health, I'd like some more time to dothings I want to do,' " Powell said.