Liquor board administrator retires commissioners may not replace him

March 09, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

After six years, Carroll County's liquor board administrator is going to retire for good.

"You've retired twice now, haven't you?" liquor board member Romeo Valianti quipped to administrator J. Ronald Lau yesterday after the group's monthly hearings.

Mr. Lau, a Maryland State Police officer for 22 years and Taneytown's police chief for three years before overseeing the liquor board, is putting in his last day today, and board members said he will be greatly missed.

But county commissioners said yesterday they may not replace him.

"[Mr. Lau] has served the state of Maryland and Carroll County faithfully for many years," said board Chairman Russell Mayer, who tearfully announced Mr. Lau's retirement at yesterday's board meeting. "It is unfortunate that he has to retire. He has been a faithful servant, and I only wish him Godspeed in his recovery."

Mr. Lau, 52, is retiring for health reasons and hopes to receive a kidney transplant to help cure complications from diabetes. While with the state police, he served on road patrol and spent the nine years before retiring in 1988 as Union Bridge's resident trooper.

"I've enjoyed working for the county," Mr. Lau said. "All of the board members, up to the present board, it's been a pleasure working with them. The current board is new, so I'm not used to them yet."

Former liquor board member William A. Sapp said he enjoyed working with Mr. Lau. While attending conventions and meetings with other county liquor boards during his 4 1/2 -year tenure, he noticed how much more professional Mr. Lau was, Mr. Sapp said.

"He outshined them all," Mr. Sapp said. "In his presentations, he always had everything up to date. He was familiar at all times with every case, and he didn't have to go to the file and look. He was knowledgeable about the annotated code and made the work for the [liquor board] commissioners easy."

Mr. Lau would often investigate complaints himself, particularly the more egregious ones, Mr. Sapp said.

"Ron was very strict in carrying out the laws of the liquor board and kept a constant eye on all of them [establishments]," he said. "He went out at all times, during the day or during the night. He stands out in a crowd as one fine human being."

Former Taneytown Town Manager Neal Powell said Mr. Lau was always straightforward while serving as police chief.

"He accepted the rules and regulations of the city with a great deal of grace, which doesn't always happen," Mr. Powell said.

County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy said the board will discuss the liquor board's future this week.

But Mr. Lippy said he was unsure whether Mr. Lau would be replaced.

"There might be a slightly different setup," he said. "A different use of inspectors, maybe, and an increase in the numbers on contract."

Mr. Lippy said the commissioners are also going to study increasing the number of random inspections to businesses with liquor licenses, as requested by the liquor board earlier this year.

"There may be a change in the format on how we handle those inspections," Mr. Lippy said.

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