by Lisa Tome
Last week, Travis Marion, 27, took office as Rising Sun's mayor. Two decades ago, the Town of North East had a mayor of the same age.
Larry Truslow, 49, talked about his time as mayor and then as county commissioner.
"When I took over (as mayor) there was a lot of apprehension. I'm not sure that I agreed with the previous board," said Truslow, who was elected a town commissioner in North East in 1991.
He became mayor of the town a year later.
He was a town official while working his full time job, teaching math courses at North East High. He has worked at the school since 1991. "I jumped into two frying pans at once," said Truslow.
He knew immediate changes were needed in the town.
"It was ridiculous. If a town employee (department head) needed to buy something that cost more than $10, they had to get a signature. We adjusted the spending limit," said Truslow.
He also converted the department heads from being at will employees to merit employees.
"I had never run for anything in my life," said Truslow. But he had an interest. He was a lifelong town resident.
"In my early 20s I was back from college. In downtown there were a lot of empty storefronts. And what was here was barely hanging on. The sidewalks were broken up and the police cars were all old and bought at auction," he said.
He decided to get involved. His goals were to make improvements and update sidewalks and equipment without raising taxes. He had a year of experience in town government while the others who were elected were brand new.
In his first six months he created the town's Economic Development Commission with the downtown business community. A revolving loan program was started to help business owners improve the downtown. He also eliminated a business inventory tax. He started a program where police cars would be replaced annually with new ones that the town would later sell. He upped salaries for police officers so they would stay with the town rather than train there and move on. He also instituted a mayoral veto. Sidewalks and roads were also upgraded during his tenure.
"One of the things that pleases me to no end is that I drive through the town and it is packed. Things we started 20 years ago are still playing out," he said. "Bob's (Mayor Robert McKnight) has been here ever since I left. He runs things the way I would."
He said that Marion won't be able to do the things he did in Rising Sun. Because the government structure is different (strong versus weak mayor). "The new mayor (Marion) will realize he wants to do things and can't," Truslow said.
Truslow said he misses the position of mayor. He lives outside of town limits and has no plans to run for anything.
"I miss mayor. It's non partisan. After doing that, you think you're prepared for the next level. But you're not prepared for that," he said.
"As mayor you can get things done quickly. You had contact with the people and you had a feel for the pulse of the town," he said.
He went on to serve as a county commissioner from 1994-98. "I got it out of my system. When my term as county commissioner ended, I was 34 years of age and I was burned out," he said. "I had young kids and that was pretty much it. In that job (county commissioner) you have so many meetings to attend." He said he got out of politics to devote more time to his family.
"I do miss it. But not enough to run again," he said. "I'm still interested in politics and if anyone calls and asks for advice, I'll give it. But I'm not interested in putting my name on the ballot."
"Two years into county commissioner and I missed being mayor," he said.
He also offers some advice to Rising Sun's new mayor.
"Do not let the title and the power take you away from what you promised to the voters," he said.
Truslow currently lives outside North East town limits with his wife and three children. "I would love to be involved in the Town of North East again. This is my hometown. My whole life has been in and around here. My students are residents of North East. And I'd love to be involved," he said.