`A healing process' in Manchester?The recent election in...


May 30, 1999

`A healing process' in Manchester?

The recent election in Manchester has given the citizens a new mayor, Chris D'Amario, who after running unopposed states that although he was a different person than the previous mayor, Elmer Lippy, "we think a lot of the same ways, so I don't think a lot of things will be different."

This recalls the statement that Mr. Lippy made when he was re-elected four years ago following some fierce squabbling among council persons in previous administrations. He pledged to bring a "healing process to Manchester."

As I reflect on the statements and the recent actions by the mayor and council, I can't help but think about a 25-year-old girl who in 1981 was hired as the town crossing guard.

Miriam DePalmer was the second youngest of eight siblings. Her parents were residents of Manchester all their lives, active in the fire company and church. The family had such roots in Manchester that her grandfather, known to me as a boy as "Two-Gun Bill Lambert" was the local magistrate. The ledger of individuals brought before him to pay fines for speeding, drinking and other misdemeanors in the 1940s and '50s is a treasure trove of prominent local names.

As time went on, more responsibilities were assigned to her. She filled the posts of town assistant clerk and meter maid. She would start her day at the square, shepherding elementary children across the intersection to Manchester School.

Following this, she would spend time answering phones, collecting and posting taxes and water bills and greeting citizens who came in with questions. Several times a week, she would make a survey of parked cars on Main Street, chalking tires and issuing tickets to those that were unmoved two hours later. She was so dedicated to her responsibilities that she even gave her own father a parking ticket.

As Manchester grew, another job, zoning officer, was given to her. For a period of time, she was responsible for four jobs. Over the years, the population of Manchester grew, from less than 900 to more than 3,000. During this time, Miriam became proficient in the state, county and town code and zoning requirements.

She was an integral member of the steering committee that wrote the Manchester and Environs Comprehensive Plan Update. This plan effectively limited the growth of Manchester to 5,000 people. She was so respected by builders, developers and other professionals that they would specifically ask for her when they called with questions. They knew she would have an immediate answer, or would always find one for them.

In fact, recently, a council member who protested his state property assessment came to Miriam for advice. She researched the property and wrote a memo detailing the errors in the assessment. The state accepted her evaluation of his property and lowered his taxes substantially.

Several days after that, on April 14, Miriam reported for work and was met by then-councilman D'Amario and Town Manager Phil Arbaugh. They had a memo for her that stated "to ensure the greatest efficiency and the lowest possible costs to citizens, it was in the best interest of the town to downsize the office staff by eliminating the position of zoning officer." In order for the mayor and council to "finalize their FY00 operating budget decisions" (which included raises for many town employees), she was to leave by 4 p.m. April 14. She reported that Friday and packed her personal belongings.

Not one of the fellow employees, the town manager or any council member then or since has said "goodbye," or "thanks," or "sorry." Miriam signed out that day and left, 18 years and 2 days from when she started as crossing guard for the town of Manchester.

Vince DePalmer, Manchester

The writer is husband of Miriam DePalmer.

Democratic vote was trampled in New Windsor

It is a sad time in the small rural town in Carroll County that democracy is taking steps backward instead of forward.

In America where the government was founded to be by the people and for the people, we see the desperate attempts of a dictatorial municipality to control who is elected to its council. The one thing we citizens have in our democratic system is our vote. Through legal manipulation that has been taken away.

The recent tie for a council seat in New Windsor could not be simply addressed by a runoff vote and best wishes to the winner. The council seat was determined by "a legal opinion" carefully crafted to enable the existing council to fill a vacancy so that the town government's power control base would not be upset.

For what the town spent on "expert" lawyer fees, a runoff election could have been held. Did we really need the advice from lawyers from Westminster, Baltimore and Annapolis? In order to step over the runoff vote process, town officials brought in people who they thought could help cover up their intent.

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