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Funkstown's mayor is not afraid of a fight

May 14, 2002|BY ANDREA ROWLAND

andreabh@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - Longtime Funkstown Mayor Robert L. Kline isn't shy about sharing his opinions.

When he wanted to stop plans for a new Wal-Mart Supercenter near his hometown last year, Kline called Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas to share a piece of his mind with the "big dogs," he said.

"When I get something going, I go to the top," said Kline, 72. "I'd do that again real quick."

When he wanted new streets and sidewalks for Funkstown, he called officials at the State Highway Administration.

"I need new streets," Kline said he told a department head, banging his fist on the table for emphasis.

He exercises his voice at regular meetings between municipal officials and the Maryland State Police, Kline said, advocating more police presence in Funkstown and surrounding areas.

"I tell it like it is," he said.

Kline spearheaded the effort to bring new water and sewer lines to Funkstown more than a decade ago, strives to keep taxes low and plans to go to bat for his residents again by pushing for a bypass to curtail the ever-increasing flow of traffic through Funkstown, he said.

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He's already making plans to call lawmakers.

Kline isn't afraid to fight for what he believes in, he said.

The lifelong Funkstown resident credits his candor, accessibility and devotion to maintaining the well-being of his town and its inhabitants with keeping him in office for 20 years. Kline was re-elected to his fifth term as mayor on May 6.

He has never been opposed.

"Either somebody likes me or I'm doing a good job. The people have been real good to me," he said. "I love the people of Funkstown. Whatever I do, I've always got them at heart."

Kline was hospitalized with a leg injury in 1982 when friend John Harrison Moore asked him for a favor, he said.

Moore wanted Kline to run for mayor, but he had only a few hours to beat the registration deadline and couldn't leave the hospital. So Moore passed out "Kline for Mayor" pamphlets door to door, urging town residents to chauffeur Kline into office as a write-in candidate.

It worked.

The former carpentry teacher and president of the Washington County Board of Education took his new post as mayor, adapting his classroom philosophy to the meeting room.

"You just try to get people to listen to you and do the best they can," Kline said.

Sometimes that takes a little muscle. As a teacher, Kline didn't hesitate to discipline unruly students, he said. As mayor, he keeps his council members on track with knowing looks or a few quick snaps of the gavel.

While not prone to glossing over others' shortfalls, Kline readily praises the strengths of those around him.

Funkstown council members are "strong," he said. And the town's maintenance staff, clerk and secretary keep the town running smoothly, Kline said.

"I couldn't do it without them," he said.

The citizens of Funkstown have continued to support the mayor - and he has remained loyal to them. John Harrison Moore still has an open invitation as Kline's guest at Maryland Municipal League dinners, he said.

Kline has no plans to retire.

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