Harrington City Council member Joe Gannon is going away to sea.
Gannon told the council Tuesday night that his ship had come in, and loosely keeping to a water-connected theme, said this meeting would be his swan song: He'll be stepping down from his District 1 seat.
I called Gannon on Wednesday for more information on this, and he called back after his dance lesson — he’s learning the salsa and the Texas two step, he said.
He meant the line about the ship coming in more or less literally.
“I’m 70 and I’ve always dreamed of sailing,” he said. Last year, right around the time COVID hit, he went to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and bought a 29-foot sailboat. He got a hotel room for a week but ended up stranded, living on the boat for five months because of the pandemic.
He said it sounded like the apocalypse had hit back in the states, and “I thought you know, I’m not really keen on jumping on an airplane with a lot of people.”
Eventually he sailed his way back to the Chesapeake Bay, but now his boat is ready for another journey.
Gannon said he told the city council a day would come when he would sail over the horizon again. The council members seemed a little startled, nonetheless, by his announcement.
Gannon was appointed to the council in 2018, when, he said, the former mayor stopped by his office and asked him to serve. Then when the seat came up for election, nobody initially ran for it, so Gannon put in his name, he said. Another candidate ended up running, but Gannon still won the seat.
“After a while I really loved doing it; it took a while for me to get in the groove,” he said.
Gannon grew up milking cows on a dairy farm outside town and didn’t travel much, he said. He recently retired from EnviroCorp Labs in Harrington, a company he started in 1984. His son now runs the company.
He plans to leave on his sailing trip soon and head for St. Thomas again, then tour other Caribbean islands. One he especially wants to visit is Montserrat, a volcanic island he saw profiled by National Geographic. Once he gets some experience, he hopes to someday traverse the Panama Canal to the Pacific.
Gannon’s two sons are used to his wandering, he said, as he’s also done a lot of cross-country motorcycle trips on his Harley.
Gannon suggested to the council that District 1 resident Bob Farmer would be a good replacement for him. Whomever the Council confirms to the seat would serve until the term ends, which Gannon said is in May. District 1 is on the east side of Route 13, where the population is set to spike with a couple of new planned developments.
Gannon sports a striking curled moustache, and Farmer, his suggested replacement, also has impressive facial hair. Beyond that, though, Gannon said Farmer is a practical, down-to-earth person who would be really good for the city. He called Farmer a “very selfless individual” who is willing to serve if confirmed.
“I really am honored to have worked under you,” Gannon told the Council on Tuesday, to applause from the room.
Council members thanked Gannon for his service to the town.
“We are going to miss you and we value all the input that you brought to the table,” Mayor Duane Bivans said.