After two terms that saw Carroll's once-smallest town double in size, Jack A. Gullo Jr., New Windsor's mayor, will not seek re-election.
Gullo, 32, ended Wednesday's Town Council meeting with what he called a bittersweet announcement. He will not seek a third term.
"I have spent eight years, 25 percent of my life, doing this job and saying good-bye to something I have really enjoyed is difficult," Gullo said. "I know that I have made a difference but now is the time to pursue other options. I came to make a difference, not to stay."
He never considered the job, which pays about $3 a day, to be a part-time post.
"Town business never really ends and everybody here has a chance to put fingerprints on the future," he said.
Under his guidance, the town upgraded its utilities, rewrote its master plan, recodified its laws, started on a $15 million Main Street revitalization and welcomed its first housing development since the end of World War II. Its population is about 1,500, with many young families living in several new subdivisions.
During his tenure, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend visited the town on behalf of the Main Street program.
Gullo switched to the Democratic Party in October 1999 after serving as counsel to the Carroll Republican Central Committee because he became disillusioned with the GOP.
In eight years as mayor, taxes never increased. Careful fiscal management has led to a twofold increase of the municipal fund balance, now $600,000, and lower taxes. He instituted a no-tolerance policy for those who did not pay tax and water bills.
He said he thought he could win re-election by running on his record.
"He has been such a great mayor through so many difficult things that had to be done," said three-term Councilwoman Rebecca Harman. "Jay is so knowledgeable. His law background is so important today."
Gullo graduated from Widener College Law School in 1993, the year he was elected mayor, making him one of the youngest mayors in the nation.
His family has called New Windsor home for four generations. Eighty years before him, his great-grandfather William Lovell had been mayor.
Gullo lives in the stately Main Street house where his grandparents once resided, and he renovated his grandfather's barbershop into an office.
"I lived in the town, opened my law practice in town and I wanted to do the best I could to lead the town," Gullo said.
"I helped create an environment of strong leadership and teamwork. I wanted to let the world know that New Windsor is special and to be a zealous advocate for it."
The first year was difficult. He studied for the bar and learned town business on his own after the town clerk, with 40 years of job experience, retired.
He soon passed the bar, developed his first municipal budget and made his name well known in county political circles.
"You could never learn this stuff in school," he said.
Along the way, Gullo served in several high-profile positions statewide, including president of the Maryland Municipal League.
When Carroll residents talked about changing the county commissioner government to one with an executive, Gullo served on the charter board and helped draft the proposed charter. The effort failed at the polls in 1998.
In addition to his law practice, he is working as counsel for a Baltimore law firm and as a municipal government lobbyist in Annapolis.
To remain a resource
He has kept his focus on his hometown, considering himself steward of its government.
"This job has never been about me, but it has been about reshaping the system so that future administrations have the tools to continue," he said. "I am really glad my hands have been on the reins, running an efficient, effective government."
Gullo will not rule out future political office - "politics has shaped my life," he said. But he is not leaving New Windsor and promises to remain a resource for the town after his term ends next month.
Prospective candidates have until 5 p.m. Monday to file for mayor or a Town Council seat. The election is May 8.