Official logs miles to secure nomination

Family trip coincides with required session

April 12, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For Sykesville Councilman Michael H. Burgoyne, the choice is this: Mickey Mouse or re-election.

He and his wife and three children left for a long-planned Florida vacation yesterday. But a little-noticed provision in the Town Charter says he must be present at tonight's council meeting to be nominated for a second term.

He's flying back at his own expense ($176) to attend the meeting and will rejoin his family tomorrow. Because he has a commitment to address a legal conference of 300 people today on Amelia Island in Florida, he cannot catch a plane from Jacksonville, Fla., until late in the afternoon.

"I'll be the candidate who came the farthest to run for election," Burgoyne said.

Mayor Jonathan S. Herman has vowed to keep the meeting going until at least 9 p.m., hoping Burgoyne -- holder of the council's "most valuable player" award -- makes the meeting.

"The charter says that you have to be present to be nominated," said Dennis Hoover, the town attorney. "The bottom line is that he has to come back here from his vacation. That is a real public servant for you."

Burgoyne will be present, if he makes it to the Jacksonville, Fla., airport on time, if his flight home and drive to Sykesville are not delayed and if the council can keep the meeting going until he arrives about 9 p.m.

"I'll probably rush in at the last minute and just raise my hand," he said.

The meeting agenda, which includes nominations for four of six council seats, is lengthy. If the session starts to wind down before Burgoyne appears, "we will continue the meeting maybe even to a second day," Herman said.

"He is capable and effective. We need him on the council," he said.

Burgoyne acknowledges the trip tests the limits of dedication to a part-time municipal job that pays $600 annually. But unfinished projects -- downtown revitalization, creating an employment campus and building projects -- beckon.

"There has to be consistency and dedication to finish what you have started," he said. "It would be relatively easy to say, `Sorry, I'm not running again,' but it all boils down to how dedicated you are."

Besides, he does not want to tarnish that "Most Valuable Player" award he won a month ago.

"I think they gave it to me to make sure I'd run again," he said.

Leslie Burgoyne understands why her husband wants another term and supports his decision.

"There is a lot going on in town, and he has been a big part of it," she said. "I support him, but it is weird what he has to do to get there."

Last fall, the couple planned a trip to Walt Disney World with their three children -- without a second thought to municipal elections in 1999.

A self-employed attorney, Burgoyne managed to fold a national conference into the trip. He is speaking on lead paint claims today, and the most convenient return flight was at 5 p.m. from Jacksonville.

The family left at dawn yesterday for a week with Mickey and Minnie. Dad will fly back tonight for his nomination and return to Florida at 6: 30 a.m. tomorrow.

"I told him to rest up on the flights, because we have a big day planned Tuesday," said his wife.

Burgoyne tried several compromises, offering to tape a video acceptance or to file a statement before leaving. Apparently years ago, unwilling candidates were nominated and refused to run. A charter requirement was adopted requiring nominees to be present and accept.

"You have to be here," said Hoover. "It is a charter provision. There is no other form of acceptance. We looked for alternatives, but there are none."

And the town didn't have enough time to amend the charter. That takes 45 days.

"We couldn't believe when we found out a few months ago that Michael had to be there for five minutes," said Leslie Burgoyne. "It was too late then to change our vacation. We had everything reserved and planned out."

Sykesville's might be the only such requirement among the state's 157 towns, said Kevin Best, research and information services manager for the Maryland Municipal League. He applauded Burgoyne's resolve.

"In most towns, you fill out a form by the deadline and, voila, you are on the ballot," said Best. "To be there physically so electors can see you tells something about you."

Sykesville is fortunate to have such a dedicated servant, said Donald R. Jansiewicz, professor of political science at Carroll Community College. Many municipalities "are begging people to run," he said.

Another Carroll County town, Manchester, has only one mayoral candidate this year. Several others are scrambling to fill council seats.

"Holding public office is often a thankless job," said Jansiewicz. "There is not much positive feedback for candidates. Public service has dropped way down, and you often hear voters saying they have made the least worst choice."

He called Burgoyne a ray of hope.

"This guy is willing to overcame legal technicalities and go to personal expense," said Jansiewicz. "It takes tremendous commitment to do that. A lot of people would say, `I don't need this.' "

Dedication goes only so far, said Burgoyne. If re-elected, he promises one of his first actions will be to propose a charter amendment to simplify the nomination procedure.

Pub Date: 4/12/99

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