Jonathan Hodgson, Annapolis' city attorney who weathere seven years of changes under two administrations and wrote several landmark laws, announced yesterday that he is leaving to set up a private practice.
Mr. Hodgson, 41, said he will continue to work full time for the city on a contractual basis until the end of Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' term in December.
The City Council voted in a closed executive session Monday night to allow Mr. Hodgson to establish a limited private practice in the meantime, provided it doesn't conflict with his job as city attorney.
"I could not have sat down and crafted a more interesting and rewarding legal job," he said of his years with the city in an interview last night. "I know I will miss it. It's with mixed emotions that I make this decision."
Appointed by former Mayor Dennis Callahan in 1985, Mr. Hodgson developed a reputation for successfully arguing municipal cases in Circuit Court and drafting precedent-setting city ordinances.
He wrote an affordable housing bill in 1986 that was among the first in Maryland and a law barring private clubs from discriminating that is still being tested in court. In April, Annapolis lawmakers passed a bill he drafted that made the city the first in the state to outlaw sexual harassment.
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who worked with Mr. Hodgson on numerous bills, including a recent measure to impose stiffer penalties against men convicted of stalking women, praised the attorney's work.
"After eight years as city attorney, I think he will be able to make a smooth transition into the private sector," Mr. Snowden said.
Other council members also said they were sorry to see him go.
"He's always been there for me, and always advised me with a sense of humor," said Alderman Ruth Gray, who is resigning her seat on the council in August to move with her husband, Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr., to Westminster. "I know he loves his job, and he just loves Annapolis. He just beams when he talks about being Annapolis' attorney."
Mr. Hodgson, who lives in Annapolis and received an annual salary of $69,000, served under two markedly different administrations. Mr. Callahan was a more brash, outspoken leader, while Mayor Hopkins has favored quietly working behind the scenes to build a consensus.
But Mr. Hodgson, who has a dry wit and precise style, appeared to keep both mayors happy.
He had his share of bad times, especially in the winter of 1991, when the city was rocked by a sexual misconduct scandal involving firefighters having sex with women at a city fire station.
Mr. Hodgson became a point man in the investigation, fielding countless questions from the media and some criticism from those who branded the probe "bungled." The investigation eventually led to the resignation or dismissal of several firefighters, along with two lawsuits from firefighters claiming they were unfairly disciplined.
Even though he also had to sit through some very long council meetings, Mr. Hodgson said he enjoyed his years as city attorney.
"This is something I've given a great deal of thought to," he said. "My primary goal is to continue to serve this administration through this term. At the end of the term, I will be ready to take my career to another level."
Alderman John Hammond, a Ward 1 Republican, said Mr. Hodgson, who plans to practice municipal law, "has grown a great deal in the office.
"He came in with no experience whatsoever, and he has become effective city attorney and pretty widely recognized as such," said.