MOUNT PLEASANT — Hundreds of municipal employees gathered in the Town Hall gym Wednesday to bid an emotional farewell to Mayor Harry M. Hallman Jr. on his last day in office.
Hallman, 74, announced Tuesday at a Town Council meeting that he was resigning effective at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday because his struggle with Alzheimer's disease had hampered his abilities to function effectively as mayor.
At 4 p.m. Wednesday he handed the mayor's gavel over to Mayor Pro-Tem Kruger Smith, who will be acting mayor until the next town election in November.
Town employees gave Hallman a framed aerial photo of the boulevard that the General Assembly recently named in his honor. It runs from the soon-to-open Memorial Waterfront Park to Patriots Point Boulevard.
Police Chief Harry Sewell and Fire Chief Herb Williams hugged Hallman after their remarks. Some workers wiped away tears. Williams recalled that when he became fire chief, Hallman told him, "Just do your job, and I've got your back."
Smith noted that he has been a councilman under four mayors. "You are the best mayor that I have ever worked for," he told Hallman.
In retirement, Hallman said he would travel some and use his connections to help the town. "I feel like I can be useful if they need a front man," he said.
He and his wife Brooke Hallman planned to board an Amtrak train at 5:20 a.m. today to travel to Miami, where they would rent a car to tour the Florida Keys. "There's a lot of this country I haven't seen yet," he said.
Hallman, who was elected mayor in 2000, said his symptoms of Alzheimer's include forgetfulness and occasionally not being able to recall a name. Because of his memory issues, he decided it was in the best interest of the town for him to step aside.
He revealed his Alzheimer's diagnosis at a Town Council meeting last June, at which time he said that he planned to serve the remainder of his term.
He said Wednesday that he felt comfortable with the decision to resign because he is leaving the town in the hands of Smith, the senior councilman who has more than 20 years of experience.
And the transfer of power was possible without a $25,000 special election for mayor because it was occurring within 180 days of the next general election in November, he said. Smith said he would not campaign for the mayor's office in the fall.
Hallman's legacy as mayor includes an ambitious road-building and improvement program to relieve traffic congestion, revitalization efforts for Johnnie Dodds and Coleman boulevards and construction of the $14 million Memorial Waterfront Park, which opens Fourth of July weekend.