- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Several hundred people next Tuesday are likely to usher in a new era for St. Mary’s County’s only incorporated town.
On May 1, Leonardtown’s residents will elect a new mayor for the first time since 1995, when J. Harry “Chip” Norris III took the job he has now relinquished. That new mayor will move the town in directions that will have major and minor influences on everyone who lives there.
Norris was a driving force behind the revitalization of the town square and the still-incomplete revitalization of the wharf area. He was key to plans for the still unbuilt Tudor Hall Village, a project planned for 400 acres of farmland on McIntosh Run, which resulted in the town’s ownership of 200 acres and was to have included a golf course, conference center and 600 homes. He successfully called for the renovation instead of the relocation of the St. Mary’s County courthouse and pushed the St. Mary’s County commissioners to build a new library downtown instead of on property near the site of the current library. The commissioners have since abandoned the idea of building any new library.
It’s unlikely that the next mayor will equal Norris’ remarkable record of 17 years as mayor, but the next mayor will be tasked with overseeing what happens next at the wharf, at Tudor Hall Village and as the hundreds of new homes already approved for Leonardtown are built.
The choice of the next mayor is likely to be made by a relatively few people. During Norris’ last election in 2008, when he was being challenged by Harry “Lanny” Lancaster Jr. for the job, 326 people voted. Two years ago, when three town council members were elected, 280 out of 1,524 registered voters in town cast ballots.
Perhaps the turnout will be higher next Tuesday. There is no incumbent running and the three men seeking the job have quite different outlooks and ideas.
Dan Burris has been a longtime member of the council, first elected in 1986, and has been active in the town business association. He announced his candidacy the same day Norris said he wouldn’t run, and is seen as the candidate most likely to continue the town on its current path.
Thomas A. Mattingly Sr. served as a St. Mary’s County commissioner for 12 years, ending in December 2010. He was at odds with Norris and the town council over the town’s plans for the wharf property, Tudor Hall Village and the placement of a new Leonardtown library.
Henry Camaioni is a real estate agent who has been critical of these projects and what he sees as the lack of public input into their development
Because Leonardtown is the county seat and central to St. Mary’s County’s past, present and future, the choice of a new mayor is of interest to those who live outside the town. But that choice is the business of the town’s residents. They will decide in which direction the town goes for the next four years.