Sammie A. Abbtt, a feisty 77-year-old civic activist and perhaps the most controversial mayor in Takoma Park's history, stepped down from public office this week to make way for a newly elected mayor.
The three-term mayor -- who has made a name for himself and for his city by tackling such issues as the nation's immigration policy, nuclear arms production and apartheid -- received a standing ovation from many of the nearly 200 residents at Monday night's City Council meeting.
Before the swearing-in of the new mayor, Stephen J. DelGiudice, outgoing council member Rino Aldrighetti cited Abbott's successes, among them heading the fight that kept Takoma Park Junior High School open and establishing a landlord-tenant commission to settle disputes.
"I hope you will recognize that tonight is more than the changing of the guard," Aldrighetti said. "It is a very special past. A man with very special integrity and caring and heart is leaving the position of mayor of Takoma Park. And that is a sad thing, no matter how and why you voted."
Abbott, on the other hand, said little, and jocularly tossed to City Administrator James S. Wilson Jr. his keys to the Municipal Building and the executive washroom before giving up the post he has held since 1980. DelGiudice, 34, a political newcomer, charged during the campaign that Abbott was too confrontational and more interested in global issues than the nuts and bolts of city government. He defeated Abbott by seven votes in the Nov. 5 election.
After DelGiudice, incumbents and three new council members -- Sharon H. Levy, Paul D'Eustachio and Edward F. Sharp -- were sworn in Monday, the new council adopted a resolution urging residents to light candles and porchlights from dusk to dawn this week as a symbol of hope that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will reach an understanding on a nuclear arms control agreement during the two-day summit.