There are plenty of decent people who work long and hard in government but leave no imprint. There are others who move and shake but produce no discernible improvements. Credit Linda Rossi with both clear vision and determined energy in the 3 1/2 years she has served as head of Maryland's juvenile services programs, one of state government's most thankless tasks.
Rossi was set to serve through Governor Schaefer's second term, but if an irresistible job offer from her home state of Rhode Island is approved by the legislature there, she will soon be departing Maryland. If so, she will leave behind a department still making the difficult transition from a system largely oriented toward incarcerating children toward one that depends more on small, community-based programs geared toward providing intensive supervision of wayward juveniles.
Rossi's tenure hasn't always been smooth. Her goal of more humane and effective services for Maryland's young people involves risks for legislators, something no elected official likes. The process of reaching that goal also brings unwelcome changes for departmental personnel accustomed to old ways, whether they work or not. Even with those difficulties, Rossi has produced real progress toward effective juvenile services. She has made a difference, and she will be missed.