Hayden vows to watch spending Baltimore Co. victor hopes to rebuild morale, voter faith

November 08, 1990|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

Republican Roger B. Hayden, who won the race for Baltimore County executive Tuesday in an election that dramatically altered the face of county politics, pledged yesterday to be a more down-to-earth executive who keeps his door open and his eye on every dollar.

Mr. Hayden said he will drive himself to work, meet personally with as many county workers as possible, give back a $12,000 pay increase he's due, and examine "every one of the county's major spending projects."

"I'm going to try to restore morale with county employees by getting out and talking to them more, and restore the public's faith in the county government," said Mr. Hayden, 45, of Baldwin, a former vice president of Eastern Stainless Steel.

His plans are partly in response to criticism that brought down County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, whose defeat was so resounding that he failed to carry any of the Essex precincts he represented for three terms in the General Assembly and won only 38 percent of the vote.

Mr. Rasmussen was accused of turning off county workers by seldom leaving his office to meet with them, for spending money on a Lincoln Town Car and an 11-man Office of Communications, and for getting a pay raise from $73,000 to $85,000.

Mr. Hayden, only the second Republican county executive, was joined in victory by three GOP County Council candidates -- Berchie Lee Manley in the 1st District, Douglas Riley in the 4th and William A. Howard IV in the 6th.

That represents a tremendous change in a county that hasn't had a Republican executive since Spiro T. Agnew in 1962 or a GOP council member since Eugene L. Kibbe Jr. and Clarence R. "Bud" Ritter were elected in 1974.

"I don't think there's any doubt, but that the face of politics in Baltimore County has taken an historic shift toward a two-party system," said Richard Bennett, chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Party.

But many political observers, including some Republicans, said Tuesday's vote was less a vote for strong GOP candidates than a statement against all incumbents.

"I don't think it was that they wanted to put Republicans in because Republicans are good guys. It was a case of wanting to send a message to all incumbents that 'Hey, you guys better get busy and do your jobs,' " said state Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, R-9th.

Mr. Rasmussen agreed that the anti-incumbent sentiment was a major factor in his downfall.

"Roger was simply able to ride a tidal wave of anti-incumbent sentiment," said a subdued county executive, who go 82 percent of the vote when he won in 1986. "There was nothing logical about this election."

The two surviving incumbent council members -- two others were defeated in the Democratic primary -- pledged yesterday to work for smooth relations with their Republican counterparts, but acknowledged it could be a more contentious council.

"I think once everyone gets together and sees as a body how much work we have, hopefully we'll meet the challenge and work together," said Council Chairman C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd.

"Most of what the council deals with isn't Republican or Democratic issues. It's about fixing a pothole in the street or fixing street lights," added Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd.

Donald Hutchinson, a former Democratic county executive, said that the elections' long-term implications are that the county will be more fiscally

conservative and that the executive and council will not always agree on priorities.

"You've got a lot of independent agents on that council now," he said. "With every issue, Roger's going to have to develop his coalitions to make things work for him."

Mr. Hayden said yesterday that he would crack down on unnecessary spending.

He intends to closely scrutinize the $32 million emergency communications system that has been planned by the county administration over the past three years, with an eye toward seeing if it should be scaled back.

The system, being installed by the Motorola Corp., was criticized by Mr. Hayden during his campaign because it was due to be completed a year ago but still does not work properly.

He also said he would look closely at whether the county needs the $20 million fire maintenance and training facility being planned for Sparrows Point over the next three years.

But he said he has promised county police and fire officials that he will discuss both issues with them before reaching any decisions.

Mr. Hayden also promised a different style of government. He said he would schedule two 12-hour days each month, when he will open his door to any worker who wants to meet with him.

And he plans to reduce the 11-member staff of the Office of Communications to four people and is committed to cutting costs by paring 200 positions from the 1,200-member county government.

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