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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 town’s well being has not abated.

In fact, it seems to have grown.

He sees opportunities as well as challenges to the town’s future and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s the give and take of progress.

“It’s an exciting time to be mayor,” Burris said. “I don’t care where you are if you’re not growing, you’re 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 Leonard’s Grant community continues to grow as does Clark’s Rest on Route 5 and the town is currently deep into a twoyear project to upgrade the town’s waste water treatment plant’s ability to extrude nitrogen and phosphorous before its released back into local waters.

It’s an expensive process that won’t actually add any capacity to the town’s plant, but Burris said the town has enough capacity to ensure that developments like Clark’s Rest can continue to expand at the rate of 37 houses per year.

“That’s certainly put strain on the staff,” Burris said. “We’ve got a lot going on in town but we’ve been able to do all of this without raising taxes.”

Avoiding taxes was a considerable achievement given that for several years under former Governor Martin O’Malley highway improvement funds were almost completely cut to counties and municipalities to balance badly overspent state budgets.

Like many others, Leonardtown’s highway improvement budget was cut by 95 percent.

“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 infrastructure.”

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 in stride.

“The good news is we’re getting a new library in Leonardtown,” Burris said.

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.

“We’re adding new businesses but some of them are still struggling,” Burris said.

Still with the town’s 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 it’s 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.

“It’s 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 town’s 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 mayor’s seat.

“Danny was elected on a Tuesday and on that Thursday I took the call for him saying that the trash hadn’t 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 I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.”

Donna said she doesn’t relish the challenges her husband’s office presents and that she doesn’t 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 he’s the first one up to make sure the roads are OK.

“He’s enraptured with this town.”

The Burris family isn’t much for cinema but the mayor says his favorite movie is “It’s A Wonderful Life” and watches it every Christmas Eve.

He said the movie reminds him of living in Leonardtown.

“It’s sappy but it’s true,” Donna said.

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