Hayden picks school administrator as chief deputy

November 26, 1990|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore County Executive-elect Roger B. Hayden has selected county school administrator Merreen E. Kelly as his executive secretary.

Kelly, 55, of Timonium, who is retiring as associate superintendent of schools, says he expects eventually to become county administrative officer, replacing Frank C. Robey Jr. as the county's top appointed official.

Hayden refuses to comment on that possibility, but a highly placed source in his new administration confirms the plan.

Robey, 53, said Friday that Hayden had not mentioned his intentions during three meetings the two men have had.

The county charter allows Robey to keep his job at least until June to ensure a smooth transition from one administration to another.

In accepting the job as executive secretary, Kelly is following a trail blazed by former county Administrative Officer B. Melvin Cole, who retired from the county school system to become executive secretary and later administrative officer for then-County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson.

Cole remained administrator under Dennis Rasmussen and died in office in December 1987.

As executive secretary, Kelly would replace Robert M. Infussi, outgoing County Executive Rasmussen's chief political operative.

Kelly has 33 years with the school system and has been receiving $83,000 a year as associate superintendent. Infussi makes $57,000 a year and Robey $69,000. Kelly says salary was not decided in his talks with Hayden.

Now in charge of staff and community relations for the school system, Kelly says he will be working at both his education department job and his new position for several weeks until he takes over the executive secretary's job exclusively. He says he then will "organize the [county executive's] staff and help [Hayden] review his department heads."

"I've had a lot of experience working with the county public works, recreation and parks and budget offices," Kelly says, adding that he has a lot to learn about the mechanics of operating a large government.

In an announcement last week, Hayden said: "Merreen Kelly is a top-notch administrator, knowledgeable about county government and, above all, a people-oriented executive."

Robey has been criticized within county government for his sometimes abrasive manner.

Kelly began his school system career as a mathematics and science teacher. He graduated from Catonsville High School and, in 1957, from Towson State University. As a top school official, he has worked on the school system's budget and physical facilities since becoming an associate superintendent in he says.

Robey, a former city school principal and three-term member of the House of Delegates, once roomed with Rasmussen during the 90-day legislative sessions in Annapolis.

In August 1987, he was appointed director of Central Services for the county. At the time, he was deputy state secretary of general services.

In November 1987, Robey was appointed one of two new deputy county administrative officers. He got the top job in January 1988 after the death of Cole.

Hayden is to be sworn in as executive Dec. 3. Kelly is his second staff appointment. Last week Hayden named Carol L. Hirschburg as his public spokeswoman. She was campaign manager for Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd.

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