Daughter of Wagner to follow him on council

Mount Airy official draws tears, cheers on farewell

May 05, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The results of Mount Airy's town election were no surprise, but they prompted an emotional response nonetheless - a standing ovation for a retiring councilman and tears from his daughter, who was elected to take his seat.

With three candidates for three council seats, Wendi Peters was chosen by 146 voters to take the seat of her father, William E. Wagner Jr., who decided to step down after serving four terms.

Incumbent councilmen David W. Pyatt and Peter Ramsey Helt received 104 votes and 120 votes, respectively, in the balloting Monday, which drew 177 residents of the town's 4,357 registered voters. The paper ballots also included 11 write-in names.

"I hope I can be half the councilperson he was," said Peters, 40, who started crying when her father gave his farewell speech. Peters, who has served on various town boards, represents the third generation of her family to serve on the council. The first was her grandfather, the late William E. Wagner Sr.

William Wagner Jr., 65, a native of the town that numbers more than 8,000, accepted thanks for his service throughout his last meeting Monday night. He choked up, saying, "I love Mount Airy, and I wanted to give something back to the community. ... It has been a pleasure to serve 16 years with all of you." He also thanked his colleagues and town staff past and present.

"It's all about people," Wagner said, advising council members to be loyal to their constituents and never to "change things simply to change."

After his speech, council members and residents gave Wagner a standing ovation.

A Marine Corps veteran, he said after the meeting that his immediate plans include a trip to the new National World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington.

"This is a bittersweet day," said Council President John P. Medve, saying Wagner "epitomizes the citizen legislator." The new council will be sworn in and committees reorganized during a meeting at 7 p.m. May 17, Medve said.

Monday's vote was a contrast to the 2002 election - when James S. Holt became mayor only after two of his supporters filed a lawsuit in Carroll County Circuit Court. A judge ruled that town election officials, who had awarded the victory to incumbent Mayor Gerald Johnson by a count of 492 to 311, should not have discarded 259 ballots containing only Holt's last name. Johnson died in a car accident this year.

In other business:

The council approved a $5.3 million budget for the next fiscal year. The budget calls for no increase in the property tax, which is 19.3 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The council voted to introduce a snow-shoveling ordinance. It would require owners and occupants of properties with paved sidewalks to clear a 30-inch-wide path within 24 hours of a snowfall, with a $25 fine for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. Each day could draw a separate fine.

Councilman Christopher P. DeColli said he received official notification last week of Mount Airy's designation by the state as a Main Street Community. He attributed the designation to more than 100 local letters of support in the competitive program. The town will hire a Main Street manager and establish a nonprofit corporation to help make the downtown self-sustaining, he said.

Medve said the State Highway Administration has agreed that heavy truck traffic should be kept off Main Street (Route 808), and that weight-limit traffic signs might be posted next month. Local traffic would not be affected.

Helt said dog-leash signs have been posted around Watkins Park, meaning that county animal control officers can be called for violations and can impound loose animals. Last week, a loose dog injured another dog that was on a leash, he said.

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