Two Leonardtown government officials were elected to leadership positions in state municipal organizations this month.
Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris will serve a one-year term as president of the Maryland Mayor’s Association, an ancillary of the Maryland Municipal League, for which Leonardtown Councilman Jay Mattingly will serve as the district vice president overseeing Southern Maryland municipalities.
“My goal is to engage with every municipality in Southern Maryland,” Mattingly said earlier this month. “What do they need? What can I take back to the board of directors?”
The Southern Maryland Municipal Association is comprised of Leonardtown, North Beach, Chesapeake Beach, La Plata, Indian Head, Port Tobacco, Annapolis and Highland Beach, Mattingly said.
The municipal league, a nonpartisan organization, represents 157 municipalities, and oversees 1.5 million state citizens, Mattingly said. His reelection as vice president is his third consecutive term; Burris’ election is his first term as president.
“Our main goal is to work and strengthen municipal government through advocacy and the development of effective leadership,” Mattingly said.
The nonprofit works in tandem with the mayors’ association to push for various legislative priorities for regional town leaders. Last year, one of the priorities was to restore highway user revenue flow to townships, Burris said.
“By restoring these funds, millions of dollars were restored to the states municipalities, including Leonardtown for road repair,” Mattingly wrote in an email.
Those funds, derived from the state’s gasoline tax, are in part meant to help jurisdictions maintain local roads. Burris said former Democratic governor Martin O’Malley’s administration diverted those funds to other programs; although, others maintain the diversion was a result of an economic downturn in 2009.
“We went from [receiving] $95,000 a year to $5,000 a year,” Burris said. Last year, the municipal league’s legislative committee successfully advocated for Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to restore those revenues to state towns and cities.
“I think we’re up to about $120,000” coming to Leonardtown from the revenue fund, Burris said. “But it’s still not completely set in a lockbox — another governor could come and change it. We’re making efforts … to have it secured.”
This past legislative session, the league’s sole legislative priority was preserving local authority over the siting of small cellular tower infrastructure — although Burris said more rural jurisdictions were not impacted by the right-of-way issues regarding small-cell facilities.
Along with advocacy, outreach and mentorship are tenants of the league and its mayors association. The association sponsors the statewide “If I Were Mayor for a Day” event, when mayors visit fourth grade classrooms and simulate government operations, with students serving as the mayor, council members and constituents.
“With the towns and cities, we are the first line of government to the residents and businesses,” Burris said. “We just want the children to realize … it costs money for water and sewer and trash, it costs money for policing. I like doing the budget session with them so they can experience how we split the monies up. It’s their first real civic engagement.”
Mattingly, a 2015 graduate of the league’s Academy for Excellence in Local Governance program, said he uses his experience to “mentor newly elected officials throughout Maryland, making sure I’m engaging with them, educating them about the MML and encouraging them to … attend chapter meetings and get involved in the academy.”
On top of mentorship, “The networking to me is the biggest thing — that’s where you get a lot of ideas from,” Mattingly said.