New Crofton Town Manager Says He's 'Street Person'

December 07, 1990|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Jordan L. Harding was sitting around his Chevy Chase home two months ago browsing through a magazine published by the International City Managers Association when he saw an ad from Crofton.

He was about to retire from his federal government job and was looking for something to do, so he applied. Monday night, he was hired as town manager.

"I thought this is just perfect for me," the 60-year-old, former seven-term mayor of New Carrollton said. "I've always admired Crofton. It is well kept, well maintained and has high educational standards."

Harding's first day will be Monday, when the Civic Association plans to vote on a proposed $503,000 operating budget.

Acting Town Manager Barbara Swann had proposed a $520,000 budget last week, a 7 percent increase over last year's $482,000 budget.

But the board voted to slice $17,000 from her plan, including $5,200 in overtime pay and $2,200 in bonuses from the police department budget. The board also decided to limit cost-of-living increases for employees to 3 percent.

But Harding said he is not worried. He has experience managing a budget in New Carrollton -- Maryland's 12th-largest city -- that was two to three times larger than Crofton's.

The new town manager is beginning at a time when the civic association that runs the special taxing district like a municipal government is seeking new ways of getting things done. The association recently elected a new 13-member board and lost a town manger who had been on the job nine years.

"It's not run like a town," said Harding, adding that one of his major goals is to secure more state and federal grants for the special tax district. "Crofton is potentially a very powerful political unit," he said.

"Its time hasn't come yet, but its time will come."

Harding says he is a "street person" who prefers roaming around the community talking to people than sitting behind a desk. "In New Carrollton, I took the City Council on long walks through the city, looking at sidewalks, roads and drainage ditches.

"I'm not a television-watcher," he said. "I am an activist. What I mean by that is, I am not a desk person. I want to be where the action is."

Harding started his political career in 1968 when he was elected to the New Carrollton City Council. He became mayor of the Prince George's County city in 1970, serving seven two-year terms. He decided not to seek re-election in 1984 when he was offered a job as an executive assistant at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.

He returned to the United States in 1987, where he picked up his former job as a labor relations specialist and grievance examiner for the U.S.

Information Agency. He also has served as president of the Prince George's County Municipal Association and as vice president of the Maryland Municipal League.

Married almost four years to Ilo-Mai Harding, he has four children from a previous marriage -- all of them grown. One daughter is a homemaker, another works as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation consultant for the federal government. One son is an accountant and another is an assistant state's attorney in Prince George's County.

Ed Dosek, president of the civic association, said Harding was chosen because he had the most experience. The board interviewed six applicants.

"There are many ways to get something done," Dosek said. "I'm hoping revitalization will come from him. We're not going to change our methods, but we're going to take a fresh look at where we have been and where we ought to go."

Harding said he plans to transplant some of his experience from New Carrollton to Crofton, pushing for a tax deferment system in which the county would reimburse Crofton for services such as street lights and police protection.

"They should give us back in money or in services what they would normally spend," Harding said.

He said he implemented a similar plan in New Carrollton, promising to start studying how a similar program could be done in Crofton. Harding said he believes he has the contacts in the county and the state necessary to move such a program forward.

"Paying city taxes does not mean the county should cut your services," he said.

Although Harding is all set to begin work, the association board hasn't determined his salary. The pay scale for the job is between $28,000 and $35,0000. Harding said he expects to earn top scale.

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