When Roger Hayden takes the oath of office today, he will be only the second Republican to occupy the county executive's office since charter government was adopted by Baltimore County in 1957. And while the three Republican council members do not constitute a majority of that seven-member body, they have lined up enough votes to grab the rotating council chairmanship. Republicans will be running Baltimore County.
Mr. Hayden defeated the Democratic incumbent, Dennis F. Rasmussen, without ever defining his positions on many crucial issues. The voters never learned his philosophy on planning, for example. Mr. Hayden said he was not happy with the current master plan but he never detailed why. Yet one of his first acts in office must be the reappointment or replacement of five of the planning board's 15 members.
This is a far-reaching decision for the new executive because of the planning board's influential role. Since five board members' terms expire this month, Mr. Hayden's nominations are an urgent matter. The planning board has already delayed consideration of important issues because of the change of governments and uncertainty about its own composition.
The Hayden administration, in its first months, will be called to act on many decisions which already were reviewed by Mr. Rasmussen. The state-mandated update on the water and sewer plan is among them. It would establish two independent water systems outside the metropolitan district to serve communities plagued by ground-water pollution. If the new executive has any problems with his predecessor's decision, he should not hesitate to reconsider it before the matter goes before the county council.
Another item with far-reaching implications is the annual solid-waste plan update. Its importance lies in the city-county cooperation that was begun in this area during the past year. The question is how to continue and increase that cooperation -- and whether to extend that cooperation to other surrounding jurisdictions as well.
These are examples of the complicated issues that await Mr. Hayden and the new council even before the county executive presents his budget in mid-April. In the meantime, literally hundreds of personnel appointments must be considered.
The current economic picture is so unsettled that we urge Mr. Hayden to revive the practice of delivering an annual state of the county address before the unveiling of his budget proposal. That would give him an opportunity in February or March to discuss the realities of Baltimore County and its government after a couple of months in office. Such an address could set the tone of the Hayden administration.