- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Firefighters, friends and family members of William H. “Billy” Simpson Sr. attended a funeral service last week for the man remembered for his role in transforming St. Mary’s fire services through acquiring public support of the task, and financial security for its longtime volunteers.
Simpson, who died on Sept. 28 at the age of 77, worked as a fuel deliveryman and auto parts shop manager, according to an obituary, but beginning in the middle of his teenage years, he began helping out with the Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department. Known at the firehouse and throughout the community as the “Mayor of Mechanicsville,” Simpson also was a charter member of the Mechanicsville Volunteer Rescue Squad, and beginning in 2003, he worked as a bailiff at the St. Mary’s County Courthouse.
Simpson rose through the fire department’s ranks to quickly hold all its operational posts including the top job of chief, before switching to and excelling in its administrative side, including more than 10 years as its president, according to John Raley, the current chief.
“He was a businessman. He liked the business end of the department,” Raley said this week in Leonardtown.
“He was responsible for the station that we have now, getting that passed, funded and built,” Raley said. “He was president while all that happened.”
And Simpson’s impact went further, throughout the county.
“He was instrumental in getting our length of service awards program, which is countywide,” Raley said, and provides paid retirement assistance funded by the county for longtime emergency services volunteers.
Simpson also was “a big supporter of the fire-tax bill,” Raley said, which adds an assessment to property tax bills to help the volunteer agencies meet the costs of their operating expenses.
In 1980, Simpson was elected to the Southern Maryland Volunteer Fireman’s Association Hall of Fame.
Simpson began working as a court bailiff in 2003 for St. Mary’s Circuit Judge Marvin Kaminetz, and continued his courthouse duties from 2006 until last month as the chief bailiff for Kaminetz’s successor, Michael J. Stamm. Simpson’s duties included making sure witnesses in a trial were sequestered from the courtroom until they were called to the witness stand, and helping jurors move about between the jury room and the courtroom. He would give jurors’ notes to the judge.
“His job was to make sure everything would go smoothly,” Stamm said Monday. “It’s a pretty important role. He was with me a long time, because he was great.”
Simpson would tell stories about the fire department and times long ago, the judge said, and the selfless nature of Simpson’s widespread community involvement might explain the title he acquired, but never sought.
“He never called himself the mayor,” Stamm said. “Everybody else did.”