Schaefer names new chiefs of general services, environment

November 28, 1990|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun Sandy Banisky of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer, still brooding over the results of his re-election and uncertain whether to be embarrassed or gratified by his margin of victory, reacted yesterday with a further shake-up of his Cabinet.

The governor sent General Services Secretary Earl F. Seboda into retirement and replaced him with Martin W. Walsh Jr., who has served since July 1987 as the first secretary of the new Department of the Environment.

Mr. Schaefer replaced Mr. Walsh with Robert Perciasepe, who served as Mr. Walsh's deputy for the past 18 months and once worked in Mr. Schaefer's planning department when the governor was mayor of Baltimore.

The governor, admitting that he was still attempting to figure out what message voters were trying to send elected officials this year, said there might be additional changes to his Cabinet or his top staff. He said he might even reach down into various state agencies and departments to change appointees in the second and third tiers.

Both the governor and Mr. Seboda denied that the 52-year-old secretary was forced out of the Cabinet, although Mr. Schaefer complained that he had been unhappy with the speed and quality of some state construction projects and with the maintenance of state buildings. Mr. Seboda was a carry-over from the administration of Harry R. Hughes, and Schaefer confidants have long acknowledged that his style differed sharply from the governor's.

The governor had nothing but praise for Mr. Walsh's performance as secretary of environment, even though the behavior of the former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers colonel after taking office so alienated his staff that one of the governor's closest advisers recommended in July 1988 that he be fired.

"I think he did a great job," the governor said, saying Mr. Walsh inherited a department that for years had been a "stepchild" within the health department. "I just need Mr. Walsh in another spot."

The change, however, was praised by representatives of the environmental community, who said they had difficulty getting along with Mr. Walsh.

"Marty Walsh was not popular with the grass-roots environmental groups I work with," said John Kabler of Clean Water Action, adding that "morale in the department was awful, and good people were leaving." By contrast, he said Mr. Perciasepe was "highly regarded by everybody. He's smart, he knows how things work, he understands what he is doing, and he understands the politics of how environmental groups work."

Mr. Perciasepe, 39, who holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science from Cornell University and a master's degree in planning from Syracuse University, said he didnot plan any immediate changes in the department other than "fine-tuning."

Mr. Seboda, who became secretary in 1983, said he was proudest of the automated purchasing system his department instituted and of the telecommunications network he said was saving the state on phone costs. But during his tenure, he was blamed for problems at various state construction projects, especially the myriad problems at the new state prison in Somerset County. His agency also was castigated for mismanaging a program to remove asbestos from state-owned buildings.

Mr. Seboda said he had been considering retirement for at least a year and had just finished building a retirement cabin in Garrett County.

He becomes the second Cabinet secretary to leave since Mr. Schaefer defeated Republican William S. Shepard Nov. 6 by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. Two weeks ago, Transportation Secretary Richard H. Trainor announced plans to retire and to become a part-time paid consultant to the governor.

At a marathon Cabinet meeting the day Mr. Trainor's resignation was announced, Mr. Schaefer asked for the resignations of all his Cabinet secretaries and certain other staff aides. Some of those letters of resignations, he said, he intends to accept.

"There are some people on the second and third levels that are going to go -- are leaving us, let's put it that way," he said. "All levels. Top, bottom, whatever."

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