RISING SUN — Word got back to town hall this week that Thomas Mumey, former mayor and town commissioner, died at his Florida home last month.
Mumey, who served as an appointed mayor from 2011-12, died June 10. He was 82.
“He served this community in more ways than I can remember,” said Deputy Mayor Allen Authenreath at the opening of the Tuesday night town meeting, asking for a moment of silence in memory of Mumey.
In the lobby of town hall, the table is draped in black fabric on which is a framed print with the words “In Deepest Sympathy” and a framed photo showing Mumey when he was a commissioner, accompanied by Mayor Judy Cox, Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Kendall Ehrlich, first lady.
“We want to recognize Tom and all he did for this community and he is certainly going to be missed,” he said.
While he was best known in Rising Sun for serving on the elected board and with the Rising Sun Chamber of Commerce and the Rising Sun Historic Preservation Commission, Mumey got his start in town politics as a founding member of The Friends of Rising Sun, a group started to fight the construction of the Maple Heights Apartments.
First elected in 2005, Mumey’s time as a town commissioner was marked by the fierce debate over the town’s water and wastewater infrastructure, which was the impetus for a building moratorium, lawsuits from developers and years of debate over how to proceed led by former Town Administrator Robert Fisher.
After serving two non-consecutive terms as a commissioner, Mumey was unanimously appointed mayor by his peers in April 2011 after then-Mayor Sandra Didra was forced to step down after being convicted a month earlier of felony theft and embezzlement.
In his short tenure as mayor, Mumey would oversee some projects that would last long after he was gone.
Over his roughly 13 months in the top seat, Mumey and the board of commissioners approved an updated town logo, featuring a Mason-Dixon marker, five intersecting roads and the Maryland flag, which is still in use today. He also was behind the switch from two town meetings a month to one town meeting and one work session, where ideas could be discussed more informally.
In June 2012, Mumey lost his re-election bid to Fisher by just two votes — a result that held up after a subsequent recount.
The two-vote difference was especially meaningful as the town had voted to disallow non-resident property owners from voting in the election just weeks before Election Day. That decision purged 64 voters from the town’s rolls. Until the move, Rising Sun was the last town in Maryland that still allowed the non-resident vote.
Former Mayor Cox is among the many who say it was the loss of that non-resident voter base that lost the election for Mumey.
She was mayor from 2003 to 2010, losing to Didra. Cox recalled there were times when she and then-Commissioner Mumey would disagree, but it was more of a debate than an argument.
“Tom was a very gentle soul,” she said. “It might take us a couple of hours, but we could always see each other’s sides even if we disagreed.”
For Town Administrator Calvin Bonenberger, Mumey was instrumental in his ability to take the heat for the elected body as Rising Sun worked to replace its aging and obsolete infrastructure.
“Water and sewer is more than shovels in the ground,” Bonenberger said. “It takes the commitment of the elected body to see that through. Tom plowed the road so it was clear for us.
“He took a lot of the criticism,” he noted, adding the town’s battles were more than water and sewer. “But he was a stabilizing force. We really needed it at that time.”
His one regret, Bonenberger said, was that he never got to express that appreciation to Mumey.
“The success of the town now came from our ability to stand on the shoulders of people like Tom Mumey,” he said.
Cox said she would also remember Mumey for his failed attempt to get the board to agree to making the portion of Walnut Street that runs from East Main Street to North Queen Street one-way.
“The town paid for a study,” she said of the study that found that the intersection would be much safer with the one-way mode in place. “Even the (Maryland State Highway Administration) agreed with him that it should be one-way.”
Mumey remained a presence in Rising Sun, serving as president of the historic commission and the town chamber of commerce.
“The one thing Tom enjoyed thoroughly was his participation on the historic preservation commission,” Cox said of the volunteer group that was founded during her administration.
During SunFest, the 150th anniversary of Rising Sun, the town’s annual Christmas Carol Sing and the Cecil County Christmas Parade, Mumey would dress in the attire from the early years and promote the historic commission.
“He loved making people happy,” Cox said.