Dover City Council President Thomas Leary has always tried to approach his leadership role on council as that of a facilitator since his peers on council elected him to wield the gavel from the president's chair in 2011.
Dover City Council President Thomas Leary has always tried to approach his leadership role on council as that of a facilitator since his peers on council elected him to wield the gavel in 2011.
Leary said he knew that approaching the job as an ideologue who wanted “my way or the highway” would have made him lose control within months. Instead, he wanted to emulate the style of former Council President Robin Christiansen, who served during Leary’s first stint on council in the 1990s.
“He had a knack for being just firm enough to keep things moving along,” Leary said. "I minimize the input of my own opinion. At the [legislative] committee level I’ll say what I think. But as the residing officer I think it’s my duty to make sure my colleagues speak.
“I always allow input for the agendas,” he said. “You have to be willing to suck it up and make sure everyone else is treated fairly.”
Leary’s leadership style and his financial knowledge as a stock broker have earned him the respect of his peers on council. But, Leary has decided that nearly 14 years combined on council has been enough time served, particularly when faced with a longer term.
“Four years is a big commitment,” he said. “Running for re-election didn’t appeal to me under those circumstances, frankly. I’ve got a thriving business and the family’s growing. Though I’ve enjoyed the work and thought I did a good job, I just think it’s time for someone else to step up to the plate.”
Leary, 62, is an associate vice president and a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley.
Leary’s victory in the special election of 2007 for council’s at-large seat was the beginning of his second stint on council. That was the year that former Mayor Stephen Speed resigned and was replaced by current Mayor Carleton Carey Sr., who had been in council’s at-large seat. Leary’s first stint on council lasted from 1992 to 2000.
“I ran in 1992 and ended up replacing Patrick Lynn, who’s the late father of [current Councilman] Sean Lynn so I’ve had a pan-generational experience with the family, which is kind of neat.”
Leary said one of his proudest moments as council president was overseeing the sometimes-contentious debate on establishing a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the city, a process that culminated with the city’s dedication of MLK Jr. Boulevard in the legislative district on Jan. 19.
“Not to sound too self congratulatory, that could have come off the tracks quick at one point,” Leary said. “I think that process worked. I was just glad I took an evenhanded approach. We know how to get the job done. It’s just a matter of keeping the train on tracks.”
Former Councilman Timothy Slavin has filed to run for council’s at-large seat.
“When I got back on council in 2007, Tim was a member of council,” Leary said. “He’s a good man. We didn’t always agree but it was a good working relationship and I’m glad to see him throw his hat in the ring.”
Current members of council were sorry to see Leary go but respected his personal decision.
“He’s been a superb leader,” Councilman David Anderson said. “He’s helped build consensus in the right direction and really fostered an environment that allowed everybody’s individual ideas to be brought forth so they could be discussed. I’m definitely going to miss him.”