May 6 will mark the last council meeting for two legacy Mount Airy councilmen.
Council President Peter Helt and Councilman Bob King will not seek re-election.
There are many reasons Helt decided not to run again for a Town Council seat he has held for 16 years, he said. One is that people in the town can be negative toward the council after decisions and that interaction gets tiring, Helt said.
“It just wears on you after a while,” he said.
Helt still remembers an email from 10 years ago from someone he never met lambasting him and his service.
“At some point, you realize ‘I don’t need this, I’ve got other things to do,’” Helt said.
Running an election campaign is also tiring, he said.
But despite the negativity, Helt is leaving his office looking back fondly on his service to the town.
He is most proud of being able to increase the town’s assets and services without having to raise taxes. Instead, the council worked to reduce taxes during his tenure, he said.
“So if you’ve lived in the town for the 16 years I was in office, you are paying less in town taxes now than you did then,” Helt said. “But we’ve done that while continuing to offer good services and, to some extent, even expanding services. That’s not easy to do,” he said.
He is also proud of the addition of the police department under his tenure.
One decision that Helt is glad he will not have to make is what to do with the Flat Iron Building. The downtown vision plan calls for its removal, and while the plan is just a guide, the building needs to be addressed for safety concerns.
But Helt studied history, and he said it would be difficult to have to decide if the building needed to be torn down.
He is the only one of the current council members with a business on Main Street, and while his business is not a retail one, he said the location allowed him to go to Town Hall and interact with town staff. He will miss working closely with them, he said.
He’ll also miss being in the parades, going to Ocean City for Maryland Municipal League meetings and the Christmas potluck he hosted for the mayor and council.
King could not be reached for comment before publication, but Helt and others in Mount Airy spoke highly of the legacy he will leave.
“They’ll be big shoes,” Helt said. “He’s been involved for a long time.”
Mayor Pat Rockinberg said that the town will lose a lot of institutional knowledge with the loss of Helt and King.
As council president, Helt got to set the agenda and was changing the practice of how meetings ran.
“Peter was doing a fantastic job of chairing the meetings, his institutional knowledge from his many terms was certainly a valuable asset to the town,” Rockinberg said.
King will be missed, the mayor said. He served for many years. Rockinberg said he hopes that King will still be an active member of the town, even though he will no longer be part of the council.
“I’ve never met anyone that loved the town more ... than Bob King,” Rockinberg said.
Roxanne Hemphill, the current president of the Planning Commission, said that King represented the commission well as the council liaison, even when he did not always agree.
He was very active and well-respected, she said, and always looked out for people.
“He always had a smile on his face,” Hemphill said. “And he listened. He listened to everything you always said, whether he agreed or not, he listened to you. And that’s very important.”