Women who have lived and/or worked in Bel Air include passionate community activists, beloved teachers, long-time volunteers, dedicated librarians, compassionate law enforcement officers, welcoming innkeepers and restaurant owners, trendy shopkeepers and dedicated elected officials. For the next few weeks, we will spotlight some of these women and show how Bel Air wouldn’t be the same without them.
We’ll start with a look at the four women who have served as Bel Air’s mayor. Each rose to the challenges of their time in office.
Mayor June Weeks
Served 1977 – 1985
Mayor June Weeks, a native of Scotia, New York, taught high school French in Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y. When her husband Maurice, a toxicologist and pharmacologist, went to work at the Army Environmental Hygiene Agency at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in 1953, the family moved to Bel Air.
Always interested in government, Weeks helped organize the Harford County Chapter of the League of Women Voters and twice served as its president. She understood the numerous issues that came with the Town and county’s rapid growth, so she volunteered for a seat on the Town’s Planning Commission. She also worked on the Harford County Charter Board, which established a new county charter government. In 1976, she was elected to the Board of Town Commissioners and became Bel Air’s first female mayor.
During her tenure, Mayor Weeks oversaw the complete revision of the Town’s long-outdated Comprehensive Plan; the annexation of Major’s Choice, Bel Air’s largest land annexation; the adoption of the Town’s Development Regulations, which replaced a 1950s-era zoning ordinance; and the organization of Bel Air’s first Historic Preservation Commission.
Later in her life, Mayor Weeks followed her lifelong interest in preservation, becoming a member of the Bel Air Historic Preservation Commission. She played a pivotal role in preservation of the 1789 Van Bibber House on Main Street. Inspired by his mother, her son Christopher Weeks wrote the quintessential book on Harford County historic buildings, An Architectural History of Harford County Maryland.
Mayor Susan McComas
Served 1991, 1995 and 1999
Mayor Susan McComas says she never set out to be a politician. Instead, after moving to Bel Air and practicing law here, she became intrigued with the idea of public service in a town that she had grown to love. She decided to run for a position on the Board of Town Commissioners and went on to serve as mayor three times.
Not stopping at town government, McComas was later elected to the Maryland House of Representatives in 2002. Since then, she has represented the district that includes the Town of Bel Air in Annapolis.
Mayor McComas and the Board of Town Commissioners worked to solve the many issues that confront population and infrastructure growth: water service, trash collection, parking, zoning and enhancing small business supports.
Downtown Bel Air, particularly Main Street, remains a special place for her. Delegate McComas says that it has always been “The Heart of Harford” since the ‘30s and ‘40s when farmers gathered there every Friday night to shop and socialize. As a state representative, she provided a crucial vote that funded Bel Air’s Main Street major upgrades in the early 2000s, making it a more accessible destination for residents, visitors and businesses.
Mayor Susan Burdette
Served 2011 – 2019
Mayor Susan Burdette loved to answer questions and concerns from residents and business owners. It reflected her previous 35-year career at Harford County Public Library. “Any question that came to you, you answered,” she says of both jobs.
One of her first mayoral duties was to work with the Bel Air Department of Economic Development to present the Town’s proposed Armory Marketplace concept to state level leaders for their subsequent funding and support. The now-completed project houses incubator business spaces and the permanent location of Harford Artists Gallery. It has won state acclaim for the Town of Bel Air and its staff. She also championed the innovative Drug Abatement Response Team (DART) that helps the Bel Air Police Department provide support and treatment options to drug overdose victims as well as their families. Mayor Burdette co-founded the annual Authors and Artists Sale and initiated the popular tree seedling giveaway that takes place on the opening day of the Bel Air Farmers Market every year.
Mayor Burdette was known for building relationships with Maryland’s other municipalities and counts her attendance at the first White House Summit for 100 Women Mayors of America in 2018 as an opportunity to bring national attention to Bel Air.
Mayor Burdette’s enduring legacy may be in the message about public service that she shared during numerous visits to youth groups, Scout troops and the Boys and Girls Clubs. “Your parents gave me my job by electing me. You are my boss. I work for you.”
Mayor Amy Chmielewski
2019 – present
Mayor Amy Chmielewski’s roots run deep in Bel Air. She and her husband live in the same house in which she grew up with her parents and five siblings. The Bel Air High School alumna commutes on foot to Town Hall as well as across the street to Har-co Credit Union, where she is the assistant vice-president and branch manager.
The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Harford County just months after Mayor Chmielewski stepped into her new role. Naturally, it’s been a challenge but she focuses on the positive: “I have met more people because of the pandemic, even though many have been via e-mail.” Most wanted to know how the Town was responding to the crisis.
The mayor, along with the other commissioners and staff, knew that public and staff safety was a priority. They shut down buildings, reached out to residents about how to temporarily access services and rallied to support local businesses with information about financial supports and ways to adapt to the crisis. The Mayor made as many public appearances as possible, including at several days of public demonstrations that took place in Bel Air in response to the ongoing nationwide unrest.
Mayor Chmielewski’s mayoral style reflects her many years in management. She prefers in-person problem solving and looks forward to the day when that can happen. “The Board of Commissioners is like a board of directors. We are equals and are working together. We want our businesses to be successful and our residents to be safe, stay healthy and live life well in the Town of Bel Air.”