Laurel City Council member Gayle Snyder says goodbye

Snyder's departure leaves seat open in Ward 1

  • Laurel City Council member Gayle Snyder stands next to her seat on the council as a packed room said goodbye at the May 23 council meeting.
Laurel City Council member Gayle Snyder stands next to her seat… (Photo by Phil Grout )
May 26, 2011|By Tony Glaros

Gayle Snyder loves to hold the people of Laurel close, always with both hands. Except for the four years she spent as an Army wife in Germany, plus a few more living in North Laurel, the city limits are where Snyder has trained her wide-angle lens, discovering and celebrating ways she might help make life better for all.

Now, after completing three terms on the Laurel City Council, two of them as president, Snyder attended her final City Council meeting May 23, four months before her term expires in November. After much thought, she and her husband, Fred Snyder, a former Laurel postmaster, are looking eastward, where they have built a retirement home in Seaford, Del., about 30 miles from Rehoboth Beach. As a representative from the city's Ward 1, her departure from Laurel politics caps a long and colorful career, honeycombed with accomplishments that have always put people and their concerns at the forefront.

Mayor Craig Moe, who worked alongside Snyder for years, praised her for her tireless efforts on behalf of her hometown. "I'm going to miss Gayle," he said prior to the meeting. "I think she's done an outstanding job. She's been very instrumental in many different things, such as helping guide beautification efforts on Main Street and in the Historic District. She's very good at making sure the constituents' needs are met. Those things all brought the community together," he said. "We hope to keep some of her programs going."

Snyder's imprints are everywhere: She was the guiding force behind the creation of local events that promoted civic connectedness, such as the annual open house at the municipal center, the spring flower mart and the bike rodeo and ice cream social. She planted flowers in over-sized pots to beautify Main Street and organized two successful dog shows. The one-time chair of the city's Civic Improvements Committee, Snyder is a former head of the Historic District Commission and also served on the city's Tree Board..

At the Monday night City Council meeting, which was packed with Snyder's neighbors, friends and family members, Moe recalled fielding a suggestion from Snyder about starting the dog show. "I said we should keep it real low-key," he said. "So we got a couple hundred dogs out there on McCullough Field," he laughed.

The work of a public servant, Snyder observed, is something that has come naturally for her. "My mother (Juanita Wellford) was very civic-minded," Snyder said, recalling a never-ending parade of mayors, police chiefs and other city servants beating a path to the family's front door. "I always thought that my mother was very important and really mattered to the community. She was my hero," Snyder said.

Snyder's younger brother, Bill Wellford, 59, recalled growing up as the only boy in the family home at 507 Prince George Street. Since 1908, when Snyder's paternal grandfather bought the cozy, three-bedroom Victorian, three generations of Wellfords have lived there. His sister, he said, "was just very, very protective. It was Gayle, our sister Sue, our mom and our grandmother. And they all doted on me."

Snyder, whose two sons, Stephen and David, are special agents with the Department of Homeland Security, has seven grandchildren, with another due in September. She has worked at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab for 34 years, where she is an executive assistant. She will retire from APL in June..

Snyder admitted that in the beginning of her quest for elective office, she didn't care for campaigning. "But I ended up loving it. I liked getting out there and getting into sometimes-heated discussions. But I always tried to get a constituent a resolution. And I think I did, the majority of the time."

Demonstrating grassroots government at its best, Snyder explained she wasn't satisfied showing up for twice-monthly council meetings and work sessions. She went the extra mile — literally — by walking her dog in the evenings. It was her way of staying close to the citizens. The evening walks delivered an added bonus: Snyder said she was able to make "great new friends" with each new step.

Snyder said she's excited about her upcoming adventure near the sea. "I love to garden and cook," she said. "I have bought every new kitchen appliance and gadget and can't wait to use them."

Any plans to recreate what comes easy for her, to plug herself into the community activities of her choice, a half hour from the sea? She claims nothing could possibly ever compare to the treasure trove of adventures she's stored up in Laurel.

While receiving accolades from city employees and fellow council members Monday night, Snyder had the final word on her departure.

"You can't take the girl out of Laurel."

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