CHARLESTOWN — As Bob Meffley recounts, Jim Massey’s colorful nickname can be traced back to a funny exchange they had with a waitress at a restaurant one night while they were having dinner together after a Cecil County Council meeting.
After the waitress told Massey he looked familiar, Meffley, face impassive, informed her that Massey was a famous retired boxer. And then Massey, who was also always up for a good laugh, joined in the story, as did her other dinner companion, Councilor Bill Coutz.
The story, which grew in volume as the conversation progressed, reached the point where the waitress told the trio, yes, the name of that famous retired boxer sitting in front of her rang somewhere in the back of her mind.
“I told her that Jim is a Philly boxer and goes by the nickname ‘Krazy Legs Massey,'” Meffley said before breaking into a big smile and then delivering the kicker. “I told her they even did a movie about Krazy Legs Massey and it was called ‘Rocky’.”
Massey continued to roll.
This story embodies Massey’s sense of humor – one of his many qualities, which speakers touched on Thursday (November 17) during a retirement reception for him at The Wellwood restaurant in Charlestown.
Massey, 70, began working as a council manager nearly 10 years ago, in the midst of Cecil County’s transition from a five-commissioner-led government to a charter system of government with five councilors and a county board. His resignation will take effect on December 31.
The evening’s celebrations also marked an official farewell for Coutz, who, like Massey, likes to laugh. Coutz lost his bid for a second four-year term when challenger Rebecca Hamilton defeated him in the Republican primary four months ago.
Speakers provided the audience with funny stories and inside jokes about Massey and Coutz. In addition, they shared warm memories of her. It was clear that both men are deeply respected by their friends and colleagues. Mutual admiration was evident as Massey and Coutz talked about each other, also from the podium.
A 1970 graduate of Bel Air High School and a 1974 graduate of McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., Massey, who also earned a master’s degree in instructional technology from Towson University, brought a wealth of experience when he was then – Robert Hodge, President of Cecil County Council, hired Massey in February 2013 – selecting him from a field of 44 candidates.
At the time, Massey’s resume reflected more than 35 years of government experience, including 24 years in the public library system, four years as Administrator of Harford County Council, three years in the Department of Aging and five years as Director of the Board of Elections.
But it was the experience Massey gained while serving as a college intern in the Harford County government in 1972 – when that county switched to charter – that best served Cecil County after he left the council’s job some 40 years later Managers had accepted here. (His four years as administrator of Harford County Council, a position he held for several years after college, also proved invaluable.)
“He was a godsend,” said Joyce Bowlsbey, who served on Cecil County’s first council from 2013 to 2018, the last two of those years as president. “The council didn’t know what they were doing because the charter system was new to all of us. The charter is only a guideline, left to interpretation. He helped us a lot to figure out how that circumstance fits into this charter.”
It is notable that Bowlsbey served as chair of that county’s charter committee, meaning that she played a role in the choice of language in that constitution. Yet she also relied heavily on Massey’s experience and insight in applying these guidelines to real-world situations.
“He’s one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to the inner workings of county government,” Bowlsbey said.
Regarding Massey – the person – Bowlsbey remarked: “He’s a kind gentleman, a dear friend and I love him. I love him to pieces.”
Meffley, the current president of the council, also commended Massey for helping the county transition to the charter system of government.
“When Cecil County went to charter government, we only had a few words on paper. But no one knew how to use them. However, Jim knew exactly what to do. He’s often referenced Harford County because that’s where he got his experience of transitioning to charter government,” Meffley said. “Jim was a big piece of the puzzle.”
Meffley also commended Massey for the daily guidance he gave him and the advice which resulted in high productivity.
“With the help of Jim Massey, we passed six constitutional amendments during my four years as President. Normally a council can push through an amendment or two,” Meffley said, adding, “Harford County’s loss was Cecil County’s gain.”
Commenting ahead of Thursday night’s celebrations, Coutz said: “Jim has passed many councils and has always been the leading light. He has a great background and knowledge. I don’t think you could ever replicate it.”
A few speakers noted that Massey had a gift for defusing tense situations and serving as a bridge to unite two opposing sides of an issue.
“It’s rare that we have peacemakers like you in this world,” Del said. Kevin Hornberger while presenting Massey with a proclamation and gifts including a book perfect for a history buff like Massey.
With that in mind, Wayne Tome, director of Cecil County Emergency Medical Services, commented from the podium, “He could smooth everything out.”
Referring to Massey’s decade as council manager, County Executive Danielle Hornberger told the audience, “He shaped our past and shaped our future.”
She thanked Massey for his “quick wit and laugh” which kept morale high in government offices. The district manager chuckled as he recalled Massey’s talent for “pointing out expired items in our fridge”.
Addressing the audience towards the end, Massey gave a light-hearted “roast” to several of his colleagues, prompting plenty of laughter as he shared stories and inside jokes about them with a comical, dry delivery.
If Massey’s nickname is Krazy Legs Massey, then Coutz’s nickname—or alter ego—is Indiana Coutz. That’s because at one point during the presentation, Meffley and Council Vice President Jackie Gregory Coutz provided an Indiana Jones-style hat and leather jacket to wear, as well as a whip.
However, the backstory behind Indiana Coutz wasn’t as clear as that for Krazy Legs Massey.
A Cecil County native, Coutz was raised on his family’s Calvert farm. In 1989 he graduated from Frostburg State University. He won his council seat in 2018 after campaigning to strengthen law enforcement and fight the opioid epidemic in Cecil County.
Gregory and councilman Al Miller praised Coutz for his ability to bring his humor to a situation, which sometimes served to ease tension in the room, and then seamlessly redirected his attention back to business at hand.
“You made me laugh during even the most serious of meetings,” Gregory said from the podium, explaining that the council members are starting to feel like family.
Miller used the word “hardworking” to describe Coutz, who, e.g. B. was pedantic about providing the Council with his written updates after attending the weekly Intelligence meetings, which were attended by representatives from every law enforcement agency in Cecil County.
Danielle Hornberger noted that Coutz always sought to “find common ground” when he encountered opposing views in exchanges with his colleagues.
Without notes, Coutz delivered an eloquent speech during the portion of the presentation that focused on him.
“It was never a job; it was an honor,” Coutz said of his position as a councillor.
He continued, “This job is full of decisions that you make every day.” After noting that typically 50 percent of people aren’t happy with the decision they make, Coutz stressed that the goal is to realistically balance the balance at 55 or shifting 60 percent of the people in favor of the outcome.
Separately, however, Coutz stressed that after weighing all options and votes, making the right decision – one that serves the greater good – was more important than trying to reach a public consensus.
In his parting words, Coutz urged the next council to “serve the county with dignity and respect and avoid resolution.”
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