Setting aside plans to create an environmental enforcement agency within Anne Arundel County, Ronald Nelson has rejoined the state Department of the Environment.
Nelson, who quit two months ago as state director of hazardous and solid-waste management, has been rehired asdeputy secretary of environment, said spokesman Michael Sullivan. Nelson resumed work at the environment department on Jan. 3.
Nelson, who helped draft the state's toxic pollution and landfillregulations, left the state in November to become environmental health director for the Anne Arundel County Health Department.
When hearrived, he outlined plans to expand the environmental health division -- traditionally concerned with restaurant inspections, private septic systems and recreational water quality -- to enforce state and federal anti-pollution laws.
"I figured, if I couldn't get the whole state straightened out, maybe I could straighten out the county," Nelson said in December.
Nelson, a Lake Shore resident, did not return a half-dozen telephone calls to his state office.
As deputy secretary, Nelson will assist the agency's new chief, Robert Perciasepe, who was tapped by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to succeed Martin W.Walsh Jr. Walsh was transferred to oversee the Department of GeneralServices.
Nelson's salary will be about $70,000, Sullivan said. His county salary was $62,500.
"Easy come, easy go," said County Health Officer Thomas C. Andrews, who recruited Nelson specifically to give the department a higher environmental profile. "If I had been Ron, I would have had a tough time passing it up. It's a capitalist world."
Andrews said he will begin a new national search for a replacement with similar qualifications.
The health officer said he is in no hurry. The county's tight budget means the agency cannot expand any time soon, and County Executive Robert R. Neall has instituted a hiring freeze on all vacancies, Andrews said.
"Hiring freezes are a fact of life," Andrews said. "You just have to do it to save money."
However, Louise Hayman, a Neall spokeswoman, said the county executive likely will make an exception to replace Nelson.
Andrews, who was deputy secretary of the environment before joining the county two years ago, also recently lured Dr. Katherine Farrell away from the state. Farrell, the county's community health director, was assistant state secretary for toxics, environmental science and health.