HOLLYWOOD, Md.—Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris has led the town along with the
town council for the past three-and-a-half years and despite the added
weight of responsibility his passion for the towns well being has not
In fact, it seems to have grown.
He sees opportunities as well as challenges to the towns future and he
wouldnt have it any other way.
Its the give and take of progress.
Its an exciting time to be mayor, Burris said. I dont care where you
are if youre not growing, youre withering on the vine.
And Leonardtown has been growing despite several tough budget years.
New businesses have either started there or are soon to open and the town
has expanded its borders with the annexations of the Wathen and Wilkinson
properties closer to Hollywood.
The Leonards Grant community continues to grow as does Clarks Rest on
Route 5 and the town is currently deep into a twoyear project to upgrade the
towns waste water treatment plants ability to extrude nitrogen and
phosphorous before its released back into local waters.
Its an expensive process that wont actually add any capacity to the
towns plant, but Burris said the town has enough capacity to ensure that
developments like Clarks Rest can continue to expand at the rate of 37
houses per year.
Thats certainly put strain on the staff, Burris said. Weve got a lot
going on in town but weve been able to do all of this without raising
Avoiding taxes was a considerable achievement given that for several years
under former Governor Martin OMalley highway improvement funds were almost
completely cut to counties and municipalities to balance badly overspent
Like many others, Leonardtowns highway improvement budget was cut by 95
It went down to 5 percent of normal, so we had to use reserves to
maintain the roads, Burris said. A small town needs to take care of its
But things have not always gone so smoothly. The mayor was caught between
a majority of the county commissioners who wanted a new library located on
the Hayden property and a divided town council who wanted at base to ensure
the library deal did not evaporate.
Burris was adamant that it be located downtown but the commissioners chose
the Hayden property.
Burris, who was on the receiving end of some rancor in the debate, took it
The good news is were getting a new library in Leonardtown, Burris
Moreover, there are still some holes in the downtown as far as businesses
are concerned that Burris would like to see filled, including the vacant PNC
Bank building and a space at the Leonardtown Wharf that both Burris and the
council would like to see filled with a high-end seafood restaurant.
Were adding new businesses but some of them are still struggling,
Still with the towns newly won arts and entertainment designation from
the state tourism has picked up and Burris said there was a lot of hope.
The A and E district is helping tourism and its seemed like since summer
broke the evenings have been very busy around town, he said.
Burris predecessor J. Harry Chip Norris said Burris has been effective
in getting things done that had long been in the planning stages.
Dan Burris has done an excellent job, Norris said. Very few people see
the day to day operations of the town.
Its a lot of every day work to keep the town moving.
Burris career in town politics is long. Before being elected mayor he
served on the town council twice, once going back as far as 1986, and also
on the towns planning commission.
And with him all the way has been his wife Donna; she said there was
virtually no political rest for her husband when he took the mayors seat.
Danny was elected on a Tuesday and on that Thursday I took the call for
him saying that the trash hadnt been picked up, Donna said. You just jump
right into it.
Even though no one elected her to any office, she often finds herself
involved in relaying messages to her husband about town residents concerns.
People talk to me because I tend to have his ear, Donna said. But Ive
learned to keep my mouth shut.
Donna said she doesnt relish the challenges her husbands office presents
and that she doesnt have his even-handed temperment the job demands.
He will drive through town just to see the town and businesses are doing
alright, Donna said. When it snows hes the first one up to make sure the
roads are OK.
Hes enraptured with this town.
The Burris family isnt much for cinema but the mayor says his favorite
movie is Its A Wonderful Life and watches it every Christmas Eve.
He said the movie reminds him of living in Leonardtown.