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June 15, 2009

Rest Easy, Good and Faithful Servant

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Sadness settled over the Middletown Valley this weekend. As longtime residents of the Town of Middletown hear the news, voices were hushed in conversation and steps along Main Street lost some of their bounce.


Surely the black drape will hang over the door to Town Hall as the best spokesperson that beautiful town ever had is laid to rest on Thursday.


Louise V. Snodgrass, Burgess, Delegate, Republican Party activist, wife, mother, dear friend and mentor lost her long and brave struggle against the ravages of cancer.


She rose to the highest ranks of power in our state and county. She came to be known as a fierce fighter for the things she believed in, but as tough as she could be, she had a heart as big as the entire Middletown Valley.


In Annapolis, Louise had a reputation for defending the interests of the 157 municipalities above just about any other issue. At one point in her second term, Louise was named Ms. MML (Maryland Municipal League), and given a maroon and white sequined sash emblazoned with that name.


Half in jest, the sash was meant to acknowledge her commitment while softly poking fun at her myopic quest to protect her municipal partners from the heavy hand of state intervention.


Louise either ignored or missed the half-joke, because she wore or displayed that sash as a bold badge of honor throughout her time in the House of Delegates.


Louise Snodgrass was more than just one of the most effective, thoughtful, and respected legislators in Maryland during her tenure. She was also one of my best friends and a role model and trusted advisor to me dating back to my years as the city administrator in Brunswick.


She was happy when I took the job as chief operating officer in The City of Frederick, but cautioned me when I left to become a county commissioner that I would never have as good a job as I did when I was in municipal government. She was right!


A small group of dear friends used to meet regularly for dinner. Franklin and Louise were an essential part of that group. As quick with a joke as she was with a tear, Louise reminded us all of the reasons we toiled in service to the public.


She fought hard to be the best representative of her district. The redistricting during the final years of the Glendening Administration turned her legislative district into a pitched battle between three incumbent Republicans for two seats. When she lost the contested primary, she tried to run a write-in campaign. She didn’t want to hurt the party, or offend her Republican colleagues; she just really believed she was the best person for the job.


That eventual loss was as painful a political experience as I’ve ever seen a politician endure. Not due to vanity or ego, just because Louise Snodgrass was so passionate about her work. Her dear husband Frank endured as much pain as Louise did, and their decision to move north to Delaware must have seemed like a way to compartmentalize the pain.


I will always hear that sweet voice reminding me of the burden and mantle of responsibility I had assumed in winning a seat in the House of Delegates in the same election cycle that saw her vanquished. I thought we’d be serving together for the next four years; my shock was second only to hers at her defeat.


Even after that shock, she was as gracious as anyone could be to me. She called to tell me that I was embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. She cautioned me to always enter the House Chamber with dignity and to conduct myself with honor. She told me that my word was the only real commodity I was taking with me, and to protect that above all else.


Politics is a rough business, and we need people of grace and dignity to uphold the traditions of our forefathers. Loud-mouthed ideologues serve no one’s interests, and yet they keep getting elected.


The skills that make a truly great legislator are vision, passion, and the ability to differentiate between a battle over principle and a reasonable compromise. We have lost one of the best representatives we ever had.


We lost a great lady early Friday morning, but her spirit and passion for our state, and especially our towns and cities, will live forever within the marble walls of the chamber of the House of Delegates.


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