Twenty years ago, on January 13, 2002, Neal William Powell of Taneytown, one of Carroll County’s most distinguished, oldest and most famous community leaders, died at the age of 80.
Powell served the town of Taneytown in various capacities for approximately 35 years – from June 1957 to February 1992. He served 21 years as an elected official and 14 years as an appointed official. He has also served as a city councillor, council president, mayor and city manager.
He served on the Taneytown Town Council from 1957 to 1966; he served as president of the council in 1959. He was mayor of Taneytown from 1966 to 1978 and city manager from 1978 to 1992. He was inducted into the Maryland Municipal League Hall of Fame in 2000. I named him to the MML Hall of Famous.
The Hall of Fame was created to honor elected municipal officials who are still in office and who have held elected municipal office for 20 years or more.
As a member of the MML Board of Directors, I helped sponsor the initiative to expand the Hall of Fame criteria for two years, ending April 30, 2001, to allow for the appointment of a person who has been elected municipal for 20 years or more. years, but no longer held municipal office. This allowed me to name a number of distinguished Carroll County elected officials who had never before been honored in the MML Hall of Fame.
In my nomination narrative, I noted that Powell’s accomplishments included serving as president of the Maryland Municipal League from 1972 to 1973. During his tenure as president, Powell was responsible for keeping Baltimore City in the league.
Powell served as the league’s district vice president for several terms. During his tenure as MML leader, legislation was proposed in the Maryland General Assembly to amend the state’s annexation law to provide counties with absolute control over annexations. It looked like this law would pass, so Powell suggested meeting with the Maryland Counties Association to work out a bill that would allow municipalities to be part of the annexation process. This began the harmonious relationship between MACo and MML that exists to this day. This compromise annexation bill is basically used today.
During his tenure at Taneytown, Powell brought industry and jobs to Taneytown, including as EVAPCO Inc., Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., and Lion Brothers Co. He also brought medical professionals into the community, such as Drs. William Linthicum and Wenifredo Iglesia.
Powell was responsible for the tax differential formula negotiations with Carroll County. While mayor, he established a policy prohibiting municipal utilities from reaching outside the city limits prior to annexation. This policy is still in effect today. He also created the office of city manager, changing the form of city government. He drafted Taneytown’s first budget in the early 1960s.
Powell was born on February 1, 1921 in Topeka, Kansas. He was married to Mr. Janet Burke Powell, his wife of 58 years. He served as a staff sergeant in the army during World War II and the Korean conflict. When he died in 2002, he was president of Carroll Community College. He worked for Cambridge Rubber Co., Taneytown, for 32 years as personnel manager, safety manager and chief dispatcher.
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Powell was a member of Hesson-Snider Post 120 American Legion at Taneytown, serving as post commander in 1948, and Monocacy Valley Post 6918, VFW, Harney. He was also a member of Grace United Church of Christ, Taneytown, where he had served as a deacon and elder.
He was an antique collector, member of the Sugarloaf Mountain Antique Car Club, the Gettysburg Region Antique Car Club, and the Antique Automobile Club of America. He was also a member of the Taneytown Rod & Gun Club, the Taneytown Chamber of Commerce, and a life member of the Gettysburg Lodge No. 1526 Loyal Order of Moose. Although one wonders when he found the time, he was an avid golfer and gardener.
Powell carried on a history and tradition of leadership that dates back to 1754 when, according to a website story found in mainstreettaneytown.com“John Diggs, a land speculator from St. Mary’s County, Maryland, gave 60 acres of land in Carroll County to his son Edward and son-in-law, Raphael Taney.
“Joining this property with an additional 7,900 acres, they landscaped lots and named the tract Taneytown. The city developed in a linear pattern along Monocacy Road (Frederick and York Streets) and Baltimore Street, the intersection naturally lending itself to a public plaza. In the middle of the 18th century, taverns and inns opened at each of the four corners of the square. In addition to housing and feeding weary travellers, inns also served as public buildings where government meetings and elections were held.
One of the weary travelers who visited Taneytown was President George Washington, who on July 1, 1791 spent the night at the Adam Good Tavern.
Today, Taneytown leaders include Mayor Bradley Wantz, Pro Tem Mayor Joe Vigliotti, and council members Judith Fuller, Diane Foster, Daniel Haines, and LeRoy Hand. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their leadership.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His column Time Flies appears every Sunday. Email him at [email protected].