Newcomer to chair Baltimore County Council

January 08, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Douglas B. Riley, one of five newly elected members of the seven-member Baltimore County Council, was chosen its new chairman by a 6-1 vote.

Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, another of the new council members, was the only "nay" vote. He said he felt that the freshman members had too little experience -- 32 days -- for any of them to serve immediately as chairman. The five newcomers were sworn into office Dec. 5.

Riley, R-4th, is the first Republican elected council chairman since Gordon G. Power was chosen for the post in the first public election after charter government began in Baltimore County in 1957.

Riley, a Towson lawyer, minimized the role party politics will play, however, saying he wants "to dispel the notions of new Republican muscle."

He said the change is symbolic of the strong message voters sent in the November election that they want a different style of government, dedicated to slowing growth, spending and the reliance on the property tax. The basis of his support for chairman, however, lay solidly with the three Republicans elected in November, including himself, and Dundalk Democrat Donald Mason, D-7th. As chairman, Riley replaces Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, one of two remaining incumbents.

Riley said he, like so many other observers of county politics this year, is "mystified if not awed by the pace of events." He referred to the startling triumph of Republican Roger B. Hayden, who upset a heavily financed incumbent, Democrat Dennis F. Rasmussen, and the defeat of five of seven incumbent council members.

In other business yesterday, the council approved Elwood H. Banister as county fire chief, at a salary of $82,338, higher than his predecessor's $67,600 pay rate.

Banister, as a deputy fire chief with 36 years experience, was already making the higher salary anyway, however.

Retired Associate School Superintendent Mereen Kelly was offered to the council as the executive's choice for county administrative officer, at a salary of $85,000, $16,000 above the pay given to Frank C. Robey Jr., who resigned the post Friday.

Robey, the last major holdover from the Rasmussen administration, will stay on until May 31 as emergency services chief and adviser to Hayden. He held the top county appointive job since January 1988.

In addition, Hayden yesterday named A. Samuel Cook, a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Venable Baetjer and Howard, to chair the county Economic Development Commission. Cook will replace Phyllis B. Brotman, who has held the post for three years. She announced her resignation, effective Jan. 24.

Gardina had announced last week that he would introduce a resolution to urge the county to make up the difference in wages for its employees called to active duty as part of Operation Desert Shield. But yesterday he was forced to modify, then withdraw the measure for lack of the required four votes.

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