Farragut's Departure

May 16, 1994

At 6 feet-7 inches tall, Paul Farragut never had any trouble making his presence known. His looming stature, hang-dog expression and balding pate were all unmistakable trademarks that telegraphed his comings and goings.

For five years, he has served as the Howard County councilman from District 4, never the best-known or the most prolific of legislators, but solid. He generally voted with his Democratic colleagues, but rarely cast the lead vote. His dependability was overshadowed only by his good-naturedness. By his own admission, his greatest satisfaction came from constituent service.

When Mr. Farragut, 52, said last week he would not seek another term on the council, it came as a surprise to most. In characteristic fashion, he kept close counsel. When he made his decision known, it was not in a formal announcement but a press release handed out quietly at a Democratic fund-raiser. His self-effacing style and sincerity were never in doubt, nor his reasons for stepping aside.

Two years after his marriage resulted in separation, Mr. Farragut said he needed to spend more time with his teen-age sons, his job with the Maryland Port Administration and his elderly mother. It is nothing new that public service often puts unbearable strains on those who undertake it; too often, it robs the community of the best servants in its midst.

Mr. Farragut pushed consumer-friendly legislation to guarantee all home buyers would receive at settlement a copy of the county's general plan for future land use. He also developed a program to give property owners prior notice of possible zoning changes in their area. And, he was behind measures that targeted the county's farm preservation purchases only to properties that were likely to be developed.

Perhaps the best indication of his success on the council was the fact that, right up to the time he announced his withdrawal, no challenger had stepped forward. Being a Democrat in a largely Democratic district was no doubt a factor. But had Mr. Farragut been ineffective, contenders would have sprung up from both parties' ranks.

Now, the path is clear for those who may have previously shied away. Figuratively at least, they will be measured against the considerable stature of Paul Farragut.

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