Hall steps down from council

3-term veteran notes work, family needs

July 12, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Two jobs and the demands of family have forced Sykesville Councilman William R. Hall Jr. to resign the seat he has held for nearly a decade.

Hall, a 29-year veteran of the Baltimore City Fire Department, an aspiring novelist and the father of five daughters, noted personal reasons for his decision. He was elected to a third four-year term last year.

"I just can't devote the time to council work," he said. "To do it right, you have to give it the time it needs."

The resignation, announced at the monthly council session Monday, stunned his colleagues.

"We can all absolutely understand his dilemma," said Councilwoman Jeannie Nichols, a mother of four young children. "Burnout is an occupational hazard. Being on the council is like living in your office. You have to be on constantly. Neighbors approach you constantly."

Sykesville's six council members are paid $600 annually but are "basically volunteers," who serve their constituents in many capacities, attend myriad meetings and deal with neighbors' complaints, said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman.

"Bill Hall really has been an asset to the town," Herman said. "It must have been something really close to his heart that prompted this decision."

Hall's letter of resignation was among the correspondence that Herman opened routinely during the meeting. It was the first inkling any of his colleagues had of the councilman's intention.

In the letter, which Herman read into the official record, Hall called his council service "an uplifting experience" and added his hopes that he "had made a difference for the good in my community."

Hall, 51, has served as chairman of the town recreation department and started an economic development committee.

"He was the initiator of many good programs, and he really gave his all to everything," said Herman.

The decision was wrenching, Hall said yesterday, and was made after much soul-searching. He apologized to the council for any inconvenience his departure would cause and to residents for his failure to complete his term. He is not "bowing out of doing things. I still have a firm commitment to my town," he said.

The summer concert series and several children's recreation programs are largely attributable to Hall, who also worked for a youth recreation center.

"I started a lot of things in town, and they are still going," Hall said yesterday. "I think I helped a little to make the lifestyle better here."

Nichols, who replaced Hall on the parks committee, called him "an integral fixture, a real part of Sykesville. His contributions to parks and recreation meant we didn't have to start our programs from scratch."

Most recently, Hall was council liaison to the town police force. His efforts led to a disaster response plan, which could become a model throughout the county.

Hall helped identify potential crises, such as flooding along the Patapsco River, a train derailment or a hazardous spill on Route 32.

"The plan sets up a command center, notification, evacuation procedures, if necessary, and various response categories," Hall said after completing the plan. "This will really help get the town ready for any crisis. We can operate smoothly and avoid the chaos."

The resignation of a longtime council member can be disruptive, but change can be good, said Nichols.

"Sykesville has a lot of enthusiastic people now who would love to be on the council and keep it going in the direction it is going now," Nichols said.

The town will accept applications from residents interested in serving on the council. The mayor will appoint a replacement, subject to the council's approval, possibly at the Aug. 10 meeting. The appointee must run in the 2001 municipal election and win the right to serve the final two years of Hall's term.

Herman said he fully expects to find a qualified replacement. When he called for volunteers to serve on a Main Street task force, he had applications from a dozen residents. He nominated all of them to the committee Monday, and they won the council's approval.

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