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James Rada, Jr.

Mayor Don Briggs easily won election to a fourth term as mayor of Emmitsburg on September 29, 2020. Of the 398 votes cast for the mayor, Briggs won 230 of them.

“I am humbled by the results,” Briggs said. “It just means that I have to work hard to serve the community.”

The mayor’s race was a contested election, with former Mayor James Hoover and Board of Commissioners President Cliff Sweeney. Hoover received 110 votes, and Sweeney received 58.

“I ran against two true gentlemen opponents, where only the issues were discussed,” Briggs said during the October 5 town meeting.

Briggs noted that the town has a lot going on in terms of development right now, and the town needs to proceed carefully.

“What makes Emmitsburg so special is its small-town feel, and I don’t want to lose that,” Briggs said.

Commissioner Joseph Ritz, III, was also elected on September 29. He ran unopposed and received 331 votes.

Ritz said, “In the next three years, I’d like to address the following: the lack of public parking in town; traffic issues in and around the square; business growth without so many deterring restrictions; offering more for our youth and their families; and our aging and failing utility infrastructures.”

Sandra Dalton, clerk of the Circuit Court for Frederick County, swore in Briggs during the October 5th town meeting. Briggs then swore in Ritz. The ceremony was done without family in attendance because of COVID-19 restrictions.       

During the meeting, Briggs recommended new positions for the commissioners for the upcoming year. This happens after every election.

Commissioner Tim O’Donnell was asked to serve as the new president of the board of Commissioners.

Sweeney, who has served as board president for two years, was asked to serve as vice president and the liaison to the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Commissioner T. J. Burns was asked to serve as treasurer.

Commissioner Frank Burns will continue serving as the liaison to the Parks and Recreation Committee, in part, to continue his efforts to bring local youth baseball back to Emmitsburg.

Ritz was asked to serve as the liaison to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The board approved the mayor’s recommendations, and the commissioners are now serving in their new positions.

Emmitsburg Editor Tries His Hand in Politics

by James Rada, Jr.

Sterling Galt purchased the Emmitsburg Chronicle in 1906. He was the fourth owner of the 27-year-old newspaper. Back in those days, small newspapers had few employees. The owner was the publisher and the primary reporter.

The debut editorial stated the goal of the newspaper as this: “Our first aim shall be to present the CHRONICLE as a medium through which the outer world may learn our aims, our hopes and high resolves. We shall not try to amuse our readers with rhetorical flourishes, nor with sonorous sentences, neither shall we indulge in meaningless jests, nor silly observations, but endeavor, in an unpretending way to give our readers the current news of the times, with such items of local interest that may present themselves: we shall try to practice the recent suggestion of an esteemed clerical friend, who we estimate as a model editor, substantially, that ‘the value of a newspaper consists not so much in what we put into it, as in what is kept out of it.’”

Galt worked hard living up to the dream of what the newspaper could be. He reported on community events and big stories, such as the murder of Edward Smith by Fred Debold. Although it didn’t happen in town, it was a big enough story that Galt put out a special issue on August 9, 1906.

Galt had his own plans for his future, though. As editor of the newspaper, he had become a leading member of the Emmitsburg community. He saw its strengths and problems, and he started to think he had solutions rather than simply reporting on what other people came up with. By reporting on other communities, he had a good feel for what issues were on the minds of their residents.

When readers picked up the October 27, 1911, issue of The Weekly Chronicle, they read a letter from Galt to his readers: “Having accepted the nomination by the Democratic party of the State Senatorship of Frederick county, I feel that the due observance of a practice, entirely ethical in its character, constrains me to withdraw from the active management and editorship of The Weekly Chronicle during the active campaign.”

He stepped back from his job to try and avoid the impression of bias. If that was the intent, it didn’t work.

During Galt’s absence, E. L. Higbee, a man Galt said had “long been associated with me,” was given management and editorial control. However, Galt still owned the newspaper. As someone Galt trusted, it wasn’t surprising that Higbee backed Galt, and the newspaper showed it.

The next issues of the paper focused heavily on Galt and his candidacy. Even that first issue, where Galt announced he was stepping down from running the newspaper, featured support for Galt’s candidacy.

  1. M. Gluck, Galt’s reverend, wrote: “I know his positions on practically all political questions will be assumed to the larger interests of his constituents and can say without reservation that if he is elected he will consider all such questions from the standpoint of their effect on the welfare of the people regardless of the influence they might bring to bear on his private affairs. In other words, he would be an unselfish public servant.”

Of his own candidacy Galt wrote, “If I am sent to Annapolis I shall go there untrammeled, uncoerced—not the tool of a boss or an organization or the vassal or representative of any league, clique, society, union, association, corporation or combination of interests, and I shall endeavor at all times and under all conditions to serve the PEOPLE as justice, honor and duty point the way.”

The election drew a lot of voters to the polls. Emmitsburg had more than 700 registered voters and 632 voted in that election. It took poll workers in the district until 4:00 a.m. the following morning to finish counting the votes.

The heavy positive coverage given Galt in The Weekly Chronicle wasn’t enough. He received 4,813 votes, but his opponent, John P. T. Mathias of Thurmont, was the incumbent, garnering 5,290 votes.

Following his loss, Galt resumed his duties as editor and went back to trying to help the community.

Galt died on December 28, 1922. Under his editorship, The Weekly Chronicle was considered one of the best weekly newspapers in the state, according to editorials in other newspapers.

Following Galt’s death, John Elder and Michael Thompson purchased the The Weekly Chronicle in 1922.


Image source: Maryland State Archives SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Charles McCurdy Mathias Collection) Cabinet Card of John P.T. Mathias, c. 1885, MSA SC 5620-1-3.