St. Mary’s County Delegate John Wood is retiring at the end of this year after 28 years in the Maryland House of Delegates. In the first of what can be expected to be a number of accolades for the remainder of his term, Wood was bestowed with the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award for St. Mary’s County in a ceremony Wednesday at the Mechanicsville firehouse.

The award was created by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot in honor of the late mayor of Baltimore, Maryland governor and state comptroller. Since Franchot defeated Schaefer for comptroller in the Democratic primary in 2006 and they were thus political opponents, Franchot noted at the ceremony that Schaefer “didn’t have much use for me.”

Franchot observed however that Schaefer loved his mother because she was from the old school. “Schaefer was old school. Everything was personal. He never forgot the little guy.”

“Delegate Wood represents the very heart and soul of Southern Maryland that sometimes quite frankly seems a little bit old-fashioned.” But he explained that he had just come from touring the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, whose residents are from the country’s “Greatest Generation.” He likened Wood to that generation. He said of Schaefer, “He loved Johnny Wood.”

Wood and Franchot served in the General Assembly together and had neighboring offices. Franchot said that even though he was a liberal from Montgomery County and Wood was a conservative from Southern Maryland, they always got along. “We became friends,” he observed.

Wood along the way lost a committee chairmanship for bucking the Democratic leadership. Franchot said that Wood put the state of Maryland first before “leaders of our party.”

With a packed house and the Mechanicsville fire apparatus in the background, a number of speakers came forward to praise Wood. “We thoroughly appreciate what you have done for us,” said St. Mary’s County Commissioner President Francis “Jack” Russell (D).

“You have been a voice of reason in representing the people,’ said Commissioner Todd Morgan.

Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris observed, “You know how to take care of people.”

Former Delegate Ernie Bell, who served alongside Wood in his early years in office, was also asked by Wood to say a few words and he told some stories about their time together in Annapolis.