Nigh finds little room for politics

Ricahrd Nigh, who was re-elected to his third term as a Funstwon Councilman in May, attributes his success to his friendly perso

Ricahrd Nigh, who was re-elected to his third term as a Funstwon Councilman in May, attributes his success to his friendly perso

October 15, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

FUNKSTOWN - Veteran Funkstown Councilman Richard Nigh finds little room for politics in his public service.

"In a town like this you're not a Republican or a Democrat. You just do what's best for the people - or try to," said Nigh, 74. "You try to do everything that's right. We try to please everybody, but we can't."

He was the top vote-getter in the town council election in May, earning re-election to his third term in office. With a laugh, Nigh attributed his success to his friendly personality and willingness to canvass the town on foot with his election signs.

"I'm one of the nicest guys in Funkstown," he said. "That's what they tell me at the Legion."

Nigh's campaign promise to continue pushing for the proposed Funkstown Bypass, which is also being called Southern Boulevard, also likely had something to do with his re-election, he said.


The road would connect Edgewood Drive to Oak Ridge Drive, shifting traffic around Funkstown and eventually onto Dual Highway. It would help ease the increasing amount of commuter traffic through town that Nigh said threatens public safety. He credits the increased traffic flow to new development in the eastern part of the county.

"I sure wish we could get that bypass," he said. "I wish we had it now. But money is a big issue."

Nigh never would have imagined the need for a bypass when he moved from Hagerstown to Funkstown soon after getting married in 1957, he said. He and his wife, June, still live in the East Cemetery Street home they built about four decades ago.

The couple will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary on Oct. 25.

For much of that time, Nigh's involvement with the town was limited to his membership at St. Paul's Lutheran Church on Baltimore Street and American Legion Post 211. He was stationed in Germany while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he said.

Nigh decided to run for Town Council in 1990 after retiring from his more than 28-year job as a correctional officer at the prison complex south of Hagerstown because he "wanted something to do," he said.

And Nigh, who spends much of his free time in his woodworking shop, hasn't been bored with the work.

In addition to pushing for a new bypass, Nigh also supported the fight against a new Wal-Mart Supercenter along Edgewood Drive near Funkstown. Members of the Funkstown Citizens' Coalition for two years fought the project they said would create major traffic problems, hurt area citizens' quality of living, mar the town's historic image and pose safety issues for children at nearby Funkstown Elementary School.

Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone in July 2001 upheld the Hagerstown City Planning Commission's denial of South Carolina-based Wyatt Development's plans to build a 207,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter plus a 30,000-square-foot retail building on 31.5 acres.

Wyatt Development did not appeal Boone's ruling.

"We were all behind that fight," Nigh said. "We put up a good fight. Of course, the citizens were the big thing. The council just backed them up."

Nigh is now looking forward to a project that will better his hometown. Town officials will use state Program Open Space funds to improve Funkstown's community park by adding a new entrance road and a third pavilion, Nigh said.

The 1,200-foot street from Beaver Creek Road on the park's north side to the far rim of the baseball diamond will make park access easier for patrons from the eastern part of the county and the Civil War re-enactors who use that part of the park during the annual Battle of Funkstown re-enactment, Nigh said.

Construction is expected to start before the end of the year, he said.

Nigh plans to seek re-election in 2006 "if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise," he said.

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