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New council members compelled to service

June 06, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

SMITHSBURG - Despite facing tough decisions, Smithsburg's newest council members said they felt compelled to run for public office.

"I've always had a philosophy that service is a part of life," said Jerome Martin, who owns Mar-Cal Construction Co.

He coaches girls basketball for the Chewsville-Smithsburg League, serves on Habitat for Humanity's building committee, and is chairman of the town's Appeals Board.

Martin will forfeit that position when he is sworn in as a councilman, he said.

Elizabeth "Peachy" Mann said she has been involved in community affairs through her post as community office manager at First United Bank and Trust in Smithsburg, but she wanted to serve the town in another way.

"I want to be my own person. I want to make my own decisions and go on those decisions," said Mann, who plans to continue her work with the Smithsburg Lions Club.

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"I wanted to see if I could make a difference."

Jake Johnson, who teaches fifth grade in the Frederick County School District, said he also wanted to make a positive difference and get Smithsburg citizens more involved in and enthusiastic about community affairs.

Johnson said keeping people informed might lead to more participation, but agreed with Martin when he said, "You can't legislate apathy."

Johnson's own involvement in town affairs was sparked by a widely publicized town conflict.

Smithsburg was divided two years ago when then-Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers fired Police Chief Tommy Bowers. Town residents picketed Town Hall in protest, and circulated a petition calling for a referendum that, if approved, would amend the town charter to allow voters to recall elected officials.

Bowers challenged Myers in the May 1998 town election.

A narrow victory put him in charge of the town government that ousted him. Several town employees resigned after the election, and mayor-council relations have been strained.

"I thought we had only ourselves to blame because we hadn't been involved," Johnson said.

He began attending public hearings and helping with the annual Smithsburg Pride Days celebration. Johnson became secretary of the town's Economic Development Committee and chairman of the Citizens Police Advisory Committee.

He will resign those posts to serve on the Town Council, he said.

The strong communication and listening skills that Johnson has honed during his 27-year teaching career will make him a good councilman, he said.

Mann and Martin said their business backgrounds will help them master the business of running a town and dealing with its customers- the citizens.

Martin will also trust his common sense to guide his decision-making, he said.

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