One after the other, they rose to speak. U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Brentwood Mayor George D. Denny Jr., North Brentwood Mayor Lillian K. Beverly, Landover Hills Mayor Lee P. Walker and countless constituents, friends and admirers.
They all gathered in Edmonston on Saturday afternoon to bid 16-year Town Council veteran Joseph L. Horan a happy retirement and to honor Margaret A. Sullivan, a former council member who also served Edmonston for nearly two decades.
With balloons, presents, proclamations and cake, about 60 people gathered in the Edmonston Municipal Building. There were lots of smiles and even some tears.
Horan's wife, Paulette, 55, is in her 10th term as mayor, so some called it the end of an era: Horan's retirement marks the conclusion of the only husband-wife political partnership in local Prince George's County government.
The Horans have been synonymous with the Edmonston town administration for decades, ever since they were married in 1976. Mayor Horan and husband Joseph, 66, a retired AT&T cable yard supervisor, both grew up in Edmonston--and like family portraits, their pictures are displayed on the town hall's walls to prove it.
"There I am during the big flood of 1946," Joseph Horan said, pointing to a black-and-white photo that shows him as a little boy in a canoe at 51st and Decatur streets. "And here are my two brothers, my father and Paulette in grade school."
It was like being in someone's cozy living room.
The praises flowed like water: "Joe, you've been an inspiration to me." "Best of luck in retirement." "We're proud of what you've done for our community." "Please don't stop playing Santa Claus at Christmastime."
Amid all the adulation, Joseph Horan took a moment to dedicate the day to Sullivan, who was too sick to attend. Earlier this year, officials said, she was diagnosed with cancer.
Emily Thomas, whose late husband was former council member Robert Thomas, had recently spoken to Sullivan, who served from 1969 to 1985. She said a few words on Sullivan's behalf: "She asked me to bring thanks to Steny Hoyer and all her friends. She's been my friend and neighbor for 45 years. It's sad to see her in this position."
Thomas began to cry. "But she did say that if there's cake, bring me a piece."
Spirits lifted, and the congratulations to both Horan and Sullivan continued, to the extent that Horan decided, "I just might have to get back into office!"
Until his next prospective candidacy, Horan plans to keep busy trying to organize and fund a memorial for all the Edmonston veterans of foreign wars.
Deferred Victory Is Sweet
After having lost one of the Ward 2 council seats by nine votes in Glenarden's municipal election last month when her name was left off the ballot, Sheila Woodson won the seat last week in a special election that drew 195 voters.
"All I wanted was a fair election, and I got that," said Woodson, 36. "I'm really excited. I'm ready to go to work."
A week after its May 3 election, Glenarden's City Council invalidated the results of the Ward 2 race after Woodson, an instructional aide in the Prince George's school system, appealed on the grounds that her name was missing from the voting machine for about an hour.
Woodson said she learned of the omission when neighbors told her, "Hey, Sheila, your name's not on the ballot, and I wasn't able to vote for you."
She counted 11 people who told her that same story.
"I knew in my heart that I would have won the first time if the election had not been tainted," Woodson said. "I lost by nine, but I found 11 people who wanted to vote for me. I'm really happy that it was re-done, and I won. Somebody told me I've made a change already around here because I stood up and fought for what was fair."
Incumbent Elaine Carter, 55, won the other Ward 2 seat with 79 votes. She was a winner the first time. Woodson received 48 votes. Gregory Windley, who had won the first election, lost this time with 42 votes. Coming in fourth was Joseph P. Goosby, who received 26 votes.
Reawakening a Building
The posters showed an ugly, dilapidated shell of a building, overgrown with weeds and littered with trash.
It was hard to believe that the building pictured was the same one being feted recently. The building has been transformed into a handsome and neatly manicured 47,000-square-foot office complex, home to the newest business in Cheverly--Affiliated Graphics, a division of Fontana Lithograph Inc., a 50-year-old, $22 million printing company.
Town officials, members of the community and representatives of Fontana Lithograph celebrated the grand opening with fanfare and food. But to the Cheverly officials, this was more than a regular ribbon-cutting. The grand opening represented the town's first triumph over an absentee landlord, the completion of its first order of "urban revitalization" business and the first use of its condemnation authority.
"We are absolutely thrilled and delighted," Cheverly Mayor Larry S. Beyna said.
"Today is just wonderful for all of us," council member Julia Ann Mosley added.
For almost a decade, the town had badgered Leonard Marx of Marx Realty in New York, the principal owner of the old Citizens Bank headquarters in the 2600 block of Pepsi Place, to do something about the condition of the building. It had been vacant for 14 years and severely vandalized.
Because the building was structurally sound and abandoned, neither the county or the city could do anything about it except to issue trash citations and ensure that it was boarded up. So Beyna and the council lobbied for state legislation to give the town urban renewal authority, including the power to condemn property.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) signed the bill into law in 1996.
The town then convinced Marx that he could avoid court costs, legal expenses, capital gains taxes and an inevitable condemnation by agreeing to a sale at a low appraised value pending condemnation. He agreed to sell.
Now the town needed a new owner, or someone to lease the building and make capital improvements. Enter Fontana Lithograph, a company that recently had outgrown its home in Bladensburg.
"We were looking for a new property and found this one. . . . We met with the town and found that [David] Warrington [the town administrator] really wanted to turn this building around," said Brendan Connors, vice president of Fontana Lithograph/Affiliated Graphics. He also is the son of company President Joe Connors.
Brendan Connors said it was "working with the town" and the "nice tax deal" that really cinched the agreement.
The company requested that the town obtain a $3.6 million state bond, purchase the property for $1 million and lease it to them for 20 years, funding improvements with the remainder of the bond ($2.6 million).
"This small town with a mere $2 million annual budget made a bold move by taking the problem of urban blight and finding a solution," Warrington wrote in a March memo to Beyna and the council. "Fontana Lithograph signed a 20-year lease, the town issued a municipal bond . . . and the town purchased the property. The company, which was considering moving out-of-state, stayed in Maryland and stayed in an inner-Beltway community"
The ribbon-cutting celebration, which started midmorning, lasted well into the afternoon as people marveled at posters that showed what the property used to be and toured the immaculate facility that came of it.
Said Marx Realty Vice President Tom Henderson, a spokesman for the former owner: "I'm sure he wishes the new owner or business all the best. I'm glad to hear someone's going to get some use out of that building."
If you have an item for Prince George's Towns, please let us know. Susan Saulny coordinates municipal news and can be reached at 301-952-2036; email to email@example.com or write to Prince George's Towns, Prince George's Extra, The Washington Post, 14402 Old Mill Rd., Suite 201, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772.
CAPTION: Joseph L. Horan, former longtime council member in Edmonston, gets a hug from wife Paulette, the town's mayor, at his retirement.
CAPTION: At left, Fontana Lithograph/Affiliated Graphics President Joe Connors, center, reviews recent work with Vice Presidents Joe Fontana, left, and Brendan Connors at the new plant in Cheverly. Above, the printing company took over and renovated a building that had been vacant for 14 years. At right, pressman John Dowling checks the ink on a press.