LeRoy Conaway, 73, Westminster mayor and council member

March 31, 2004|By Hanah Cho and Jacques Kelly | Hanah Cho and Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

LeRoy Lindy Conaway, who ran a country store and - for 16 years as mayor - the city of Westminster, died Monday of lung disease at Carroll Hospital Center. He was 73.

Mr. Conaway served on the City Council from 1964 to 1973, and he was elected in 1973 to the first of four consecutive terms as mayor. He lost the job by a 12-vote margin in 1989.

"I had hoped to leave before I was kicked out," Mr. Conaway said as he left office. "I have enjoyed working with the council, and I feel we have really advanced the city."

During his tenure, the Carroll County seat more than doubled in population and grew through annexation.

"One of the first things that should be noted with Mayor Conaway is that he cared very much for his community, and he was very good on a very straightforward, if not blunt, analysis of the issues," said Westminster Mayor Kevin Dayhoff, who was elected in 2001.

Mr. Conaway oversaw a period of enormous change and growth and helped the city adapt, Mr. Dayhoff said.

"He was very much a hands-on mayor," Mr. Dayhoff said. "He very much cared for the people who worked for the city. Once a policy was agreed upon, he really looked after the folks who were going to actually implement the policy. He had a great sense of humor, and he looked upon the job like he was part of the team."

Mr. Conaway knew the municipal employees, their families and the issues that were important to his constituents, Mr. Dayhoff said, adding that the former mayor's sense of humor and camaraderie are "a model that I still work with to this day. He was a great, positive influence ... [on] how an elected official should be."

Key accomplishments under Mr. Conaway included the city's purchase and operation of the Westminster water system, expansion of the Police Department and reconstruction of Main Street, Mr. Dayhoff said.

"He was a very friendly people person," said Mary Ann Kelly, who was secretary to Mayor Conaway. "He enjoyed the interaction with people. He was very down to earth. The people part of it was something that he thoroughly enjoyed. He was always willing to talk to people. He always really had the interests of the city at heart.

Born in Winfield, Mr. Conaway spent much of his youth helping his father run a neighborhood general store. In the late 1940s, he supervised the construction of a new store, also in Winfield.

"It was an old country store and he did everything for his father," said his wife of 50 years, the former Janet Lee Wolbert.

The 1948 graduate of Sykesville High School served in the Army from 1952 to 1954. Mr. Conaway moved to Westminster in the 1950s and opened the East End Market. He sold the business, a small-town grocery, in 1965 and subsequently worked as a stockbroker and managed a candy distributorship.

In 1977, he returned to retail and bought The Whistle Stop, a small country store along the railroad tracks in the Carroll community of Patapsco.

"He sold a little bit of everything," said Thomas Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works. "Everybody knew LeRoy. He treated everybody fairly and he liked a good joke. He was not a polarizing person. You could disagree with him on an issue, but you would never hold a grudge with him."

Mr. Dayhoff owned a farm near The Whistle Stop. The two would frequently run into each other.

"I would see him almost every other day, and we would talk city business," Mr. Dayhoff said. "He would explain all the intricacies and policies."

Mr. Conaway served on the board of directors of Carroll County General Hospital and chaired a county cancer fund-raising campaign in 1973.

He had been a member of the Maryland Regional Planning Council, a chairman of the Carroll County Municipal League, and served on the Governor's Commission on Crime and Law Enforcement.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Fletcher Funeral Home, 254 E. Main St., Westminster.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Teresa Conaway of Lincoln, Neb.; a brother, Jay Conaway of Westminster; and three nephews and a niece.

Staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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