Political couple to trade office for togetherness

January 05, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Love brought Annapolis Alderman Ruth Gray and Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. together, but politics has kept them apart.

After nearly three years of a long-distance commuter marriage, seeing each other mostly on weekends, the bi-county pair are giving up their political seats for a more conventional family life.

"We want to play Ozzie and Harriet," said Ms. Gray, who announced her decision to resign yesterday. "We want to live under one roof and become a real couple."

The romance began at the annual Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City. They married in February 1990, and now the path of romance is leading to a new home on a quiet, tree-lined street in Westminster.

They found they shared plenty in common, even though Mr. Helt is a well-known liberal Democrat and she's a moderate Republican. But their political careers separated them because they had to maintain homes in their respective cities to fulfill residency requirements.

The 44-year-old Sykesville mayor usually drives Wednesday nights to Annapolis to spend the rest of the week with Ms. Gray and her 9-year-old daughter, Martha. But the more than hour-long commute has become tiring for the entire family, Ms. Gray said.

Her daughter will begin fourth grade in Carroll County in September.

"The mayor of Westminster already knows we're coming to town," said Ms. Gray, 47, who hopes to get elected to office in Carroll. "We're both going to continue in politics -- politics is in our blood."

The couple closed on a house on West Green Street, near Western Maryland College, on Dec. 31. They plan to rent out the house and won't move in until after Mr. Helt's mayoral term ends in May.

Ms. Gray, who has represented Annapolis' 4th Ward for two four-year terms, will resign her seat on the City Council in August. The city's Republican Central Committee plans to screen candidates for the post and appoint a new representative before the November election.

Annapolis requires special elections only when seats are open 15 months or longer before the general election.

Colleagues of Ms. Gray praised her seven years of service on the council.

"We're sorry to lose a colleague -- especially a Republican," said Alderman John Hammond, a Republican who represents the city's 1st Ward.

Alderman Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7, recalled campaigning with Ms. Gray when they both decided to run for office in 1985. Ms. Gray used to tease her about overdoing it, Ms. DeGraff said, and she fired back by dubbing Ms. Gray "Landslide Ruth" after she won by a 21-vote margin.

The fourth Republican on the council, Alderman Wayne Turner, who represents the 6th Ward, said he and Ms. Gray have "become very close while in office."

"As a matter of fact, I even owe her a dinner and her husband a bottle of scotch because President Bush lost the election," Mr. Turner said.

Mr. Helt has been practicing law in Carroll County since 1976 and has an office in downtown Sykesville.

The decision to move was based on his job, Ms. Gray said. "I told him, 'All Annapolis needs is another lawyer.' "

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