Filling an 11-month vacancy, County Executive Charles I. Ecker yesterday named as economic development administrator a political castoff from the state's biggest economic engine, Montgomery County.
Eckerselected Dyan Lingle Brasington, who left her job as Montgomery County's economic development director when her boss, Executive Sidney Kramer, was voted out of office last fall.
"Their loss is our gain," Ecker said. The executive said he had talked to Kramer, who had "the highest praise" for Brasington's work under his administration.
Howard County's business leaders had longurged Ecker's predecessor, M. Elizabeth Bobo, to appoint a director for the Economic Development Office after Barry Bogage's March resignation.
Instead, the department was removed from the county office building and Bobo set out belatedly to find a director.
One of those business leaders, Chamber of Commerce President Richard Pettingill, praised the appointment but added that the position needs more clout.
"We really feel like the position needs to be elevated" and theeconomic development administrator "must get the ear of the county executive" on policy decisions affecting economic development, Pettingill said.
Asked how much influence Brasington will have in his administration, Ecker said, "She's going to report directly to me" and would "certainly have input in decisions" in such major areas as growth management.
Under Bobo's chain of command, two administrators came between the executive and the economic development chief.
Eckersaid Brasington's first task will be to draw up a plan for her office; her second will be to "try to find a storefront," where her officewill promote tourism as well as economic development.
Although she may have the executive's ear, she won't have his wallet.
"I've tried to be honest with Dyan; I've showed her this year's budget and said there's not going to be any more," Ecker said.
The Economic Development Office had a budget of $678,200 last year and is bracing for a 10 percent cut this year. Brasington will receive $69,400 in salary, $17,765 less than she received in Montgomery and $17,461 more than Bogage's final salary.
The 39-year-old Rockville resident has worked in the economic development field for 14 years, first doing promotion and marketing for the Florida Department of Commerce.
She came to the Washington suburbs in 1983 as director of economic development and tourism for Prince William County, Va.
After four years inVirginia, she was appointed economic development director in Montgomery County.
Unlike Montgomery, Brasington said, Howard has a "reallure" for businesses, given historic Ellicott City and Columbia's well-planned mix of housing, office and retail development.
She saidher resignation from her Montgomery County job was prompted by a "political decision that I be replaced." The new executive, Republican Neal Potter, "ran on an anti-economic development ticket," Brasington said.
Her successor in Montgomery, Jon A. Gerson, strongly disagreed with that characterization of Potter's economic development plan.
"Neal Potter is not anti-business; he is, however, uncomfortable with the unbridled growth that has occurred over the past several years at a rate far beyond government's ability to provide adequate roadsand schools," he said.
Instead, Potter would like to see the county attract "primary" businesses, like federal laboratories and biotechnology firms, that will need other businesses to support them.
"We're sitting on 5 million square feet of vacant commercial office space right now. It makes no sense to facilitate further development of commercial space," Gerson said. His salary is $22,165 less than Brasington's last year.