County delegate plans to retire

Michael H. Weir intends to step down after 2002 session

Son to run for vacated seat

November 26, 2001|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Two chocolate Labrador retrievers, Maggie and Maverick, decided to make themselves comfortable and crumpled to the floor in Mike Weir's living room, not far from the banks of Middle River.

"In just a little while, I will be like my dogs - just taking it easy," said Weir, tipping back a baseball cap and throwing his legs across his sofa. "I think I've earned it."

After a quarter-century of serving in the Maryland legislature, Democratic Del. Michael H. Weir will retire after the 2002 session of the General Assembly. At 77, he will leave a legacy of being a strong steward of Maryland's environment, a consensus builder in helping craft law and a plain-spoken child of the Great Depression.

"Mike knows more about the wildlife aspects of Maryland's natural resources than anybody in Annapolis," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. "He is a very practical legislator, he brings common sense to issues and he can be a strong leader."

In November next year, Weir's son, Michael Jr., plans to run for his father's vacated seat in the 6th District, an area populated by about 100,000 people in Baltimore and Harford counties.

A captain in the Baltimore County Fire Department, the 53-year-old son hopes to work with the other members of the legislative team and continue to work for the revitalization of the east side, where new single-family housing and a park will sprout in place of dilapidated World War II-era apartments. Officials also want to build a waterfront destination at the headwaters of Middle River.

"This area has received lots of money, about $800 million, and I would like to see that kind of improvement continue," the younger Weir said. "As far as the election goes, it could get kind of crazy."

The senior Weir realizes he is leaving public office just in time to avoid an anticipated political donnybrook in his district. The possibility of five or more candidates running for county executive and the uncertainty of redistricting only added to his final decision to retire.

"It was bad enough in 1998, but the next election could get downright bloody," he said.

"People with private agendas and who reside in another county drove the fight against Senate Bill 509 and they continue to back a Democratic member of our delegation [Del. Diane DeCarlo] who took credit for [the east-side revitalization bill's] defeat while backing Republicans."

A telephone poll is being conducted, Essex and Middle River residents say, to gauge how DeCarlo would fare against Democratic state Sen. Michael J. Collins. Some believe that DeCarlo is positioning herself to oppose Collins, a senator since 1986. DeCarlo was out of town and unavailable for comment.

DeCarlo strongly supported former Republican Del. Kenneth C. Holt's challenge to Collins in 1998, in a race marred by hate mail, bootleg ballots and smear tactics.

"It could get much uglier this next time around," Weir said. "That I won't miss."

Weir, who said his health is relatively sound, remains remarkably fit for a man of 77. He can still lay brick if he has to - something he did for 55 years with the masonry company he still owns. Climbing into a tree stand during deer season remains one of life's great joys for him.

During his quarter-century of public life, Weir hasn't always sidestepped controversy. He will retire as chairman of the Joint Committee on Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas, as vice chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee and as a persuasive blue-collar voice in Annapolis.

"I never got along with the lobbyists for the unions," Weir said. "And they would get so mad when they would come before one of my committees and all the working men would come up and shake my hand."

Three years ago, Weir was given the nickname "Turtle Terminator" for his sponsorship of a bill that would have legalized the hunting of snapping turtles with a hook and line. Weir said the bill would have saved ducklings, which are preyed upon by snapping turtles, but a national lobbying group persuaded Gov. Parris N. Glendening to side with the turtles and the bill failed.

In 1995, Weir worked behind the scenes to defeat a proposed racetrack in Middle River, something he called a "fool's dream." Promoters promised world-class NASCAR races at the track but did not have racing dates and did not comprehend the county's development process.

Weir has also backed legislation that favored controlled use of firearms, such as hunting - one of his favorite activities. Critics saw that as a conflict with his conservationist reputation.

"People see hunting as a blood sport, but it isn't for me," he said as Maverick shifted his position atop his master's foot. "I really enjoy sitting in a tree stand alone with my thoughts, the wind up in the branches. And there is no greater sound than a good rabbit dog running a rabbit. And me and my family eat everything we take in the field."

Born in Highlandtown, he worked as a boy on a county farm for a dollar a day during the Depression; as a teen-ager, he worked as a commercial crabber. During World War II, he fought across four Pacific islands as an Army medic with an infantry reconnaissance platoon and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor.

He and his wife, Clara, have six children, 16 grandchildren and a 9-year-old great-grandchild whom the couple is raising. He plans to continue operating his business, go hunting and help his son take the right steps toward filling his seat.

"I served under five governors and saw some things I liked, things I didn't like in Annapolis and in my district," Weir said. "Some people stay too long in their jobs, become ineffective, and I wanted to bow out before that was me."

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