Paul G. Garver, a New Windsor town councilman whose residency was questioned, has resigned. He announced his decision after a closed session of the Town Council to discuss the issue Wednesday night.
"I resigned," he said afterward as he walked out alone, his expression serious but relieved.
Garver, 50, was first elected to the council in 1995, after serving on New Windsor's planning commission. Although he recently had been living in Westminster, he rents a room, receives his mail and is registered to vote in the area he has served - elements previously set out in court rulings that have helped establish the residency of politicians.
"Legally, I could be on the council," he said, but "I felt the best thing to do is move on - the best thing for the citizens of New Windsor and the mayor and council."
"It's been a privilege," he said of his tenure. Asked about his personal situation, he said, "Circumstances in my life changed, and I had to make changes, too."
New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said, "It is very sad to see one of the people leave who had helped to shape New Windsor and prepare it for the future. But I can understand the reason behind Mr. Garver's resignation. As he stated in the meeting, he believed he could successfully maintain residency in the town, but the [residency] conflict and the distraction it would cause would take away from the potential to get more things done for the citizens."
The council will announce the vacancy at its meeting next month and in the town's newsletter, encouraging interested residents to apply to serve the remaining two years of Garver's term, he said. The council will appoint someone to fill the vacancy, no sooner than its April meeting.
The issue of Garver's residency was raised in December in a letter by Sam Pierce that was published by the Carroll County Times. Pierce and Garver tied in the 1999 New Windsor Town Council races, but with no mechanism for a runoff election, a council majority declared the seat vacant and chose Garver to fill it.
Wednesday, the council approved a remedy for tie votes before going into closed session. It amended the town charter to allow runoff elections. Under the new provision, all eligible voters could participate, not just those who voted, and in case of another tie, the race would be decided by lot.
Gullo also outlined the timetable for town elections May 8, in which his office and two council seats are open.
Candidates must file between March 19 and April 9, he said, and a nonpartisan primary will be held if more than two people file for mayor or more than 10 people file for the council seats. Voter registration ends April 2, and voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 8.
Pierce, who lost the 1997 mayor's race to Gullo by 12 votes, has been contemplating a run for mayor but said Wednesday night that he hadn't decided about seeking office again. Gullo and council members Rebecca Harman and Neal Roop said they had not decided whether to run again.