By Guy Leonard, The County Times
Mayor J. Harry Norris. Photo Courtesy of Town of Leonardtown.
HOLLYWOOD, Md.—Leonardtown Mayor J. Harry Norris on January 18 announced that he will not seek reelection to the towns top executive post after nearly two decades on the job.
Elections are set for this spring.
For personal and professional reasons I am not presently able to devote the amount of time I feel necessary to fulfill the mayoral obligations of a successful and growing town, Norris said in a prepared statement. I am very proud of our accomplishments since 1995.
Those accomplishments center around a long-term revitalization of the towns downtown business core, which suffered in the early and mid-1990s when local government anchors moved out about a mile away on Route 245.
Also, a bypass through downtown starting at the top of the hill on Fenwick Street hurt business traffic there, according to county economic development head Bob Schaller.
When that happened Leonardtown went dark, Schaller told The County Times, calling Norris a central figure in revitalizing the town.
Hes had a good run and the towns better for it, Schaller said.
For his part, Norris credited town staff and elected officials who have served on the town council with working just as hard to improve the towns business climate.
Other successes include the reopening of the Leonardtown Wharf, managing commercial and residential growth as well as, in years past, lobbying to keep the courthouse and post office as valuable anchors in the downtown.
Norris and the council have also acted recently to strengthen property maintenance standards and have overseen the demolition of dilapidated structures in town.
If you dont have good staff and good boards and council members you cant get anything done, Norris told The County Times.
He said since he took office in 1995 the population of the town has doubled, but the number of people who come out to vote has not, a fact he laments.
It would be nice to see more people involved in the process, Norris said, adding that demands on the mayors office had become such that it is an on-call job.
I cant see anyone doing this job properly unless theyre retired or self-employed, he said. [The next mayor] has to be available, you have to be there when something happens.
The non-partisan election will be held May 1 and two council seats will come open. Current councilmember Walter Wise will be up for reelection, and councilmember Dan Burris plans to run for Norris seat, he told The County Times on Wednesday.
I filed today, Burris said.
No other candidates have filed for the mayors position as of Wednesday.
Norris said he plans to serve out the remainder of his term.