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Former Frostburg Mayor Dr. James Cotton Passes

April 3rd, 2019 by WCBC Radio

Former Frostburg Mayor Dr. James Cotton has passed away. 

Cotton, who chaired the Geography Department at Frostburg State University for 18 years and was also the Dean of Natural and Social Sciences for 8 years.  In all, he spent 38 years at Frostburg State College/University, and was chariman of the Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission for 25 years.  

He served as Finance Commissioner from 2000 and served as Mayor from 2002 through 2006.

We asked Frostburg City Administrator John Kirby for his thoughts:

I first met Dr. Cotton in June 1975 during my Freshman Orientation at Frostburg State College.  I was a goofy kid from south Cumberland and he was the Chair of the Geography Department.  Eventually he became my academic advisor and when I graduated in the May 1979 it was with a major in Geography.  He was both humorous and serious at the same time.  He let me know when I was goofing up and when I was on the right path. 

During those four years, Dr. Cotton provide both educational and career lessons.  He, along with others in the Department, inspired many hundreds, maybe even thousands of us to go into public service as our careers.  Starting with a degree in Geography and a summer internship, we spread out across the nation in Planning and Community Development.   

Some years later, 1985, when I joined the Allegany County Department of Economic Development, there was Dr. Cotton again, serving on the Cumberland/Allegany County Industrial Foundation.  Back in the day when we were successful in building industrial parks, shell buildings and attracting manufacturing, Dr. Cotton was an active member of the Foundation that help guide our investments and recruitment.  When I served as Director of the Department, Dr. Cotton and George Waingold, a legend in local commercial real estate, were fixtures at our meetings, prospect visits and the annual Annapolis PACE Reception. 

Then in the fall of 2004 I had the great blessing of being named as City Administrator for Frostburg under then Mayor James Cotton.  It was altogether fitting for me to return to municipal government to work for a man that I had known my entire adult life. 

His impact on my career and my education cannot be overstated.  His impact on Allegany County and Frostburg and Frostburg State will be felt for generations.  I will miss him every day.

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