The former owner of a Bel Air radio station was approved as the county's new director of economic development Tuesday night, despite someCounty Council members' concern over his level of experience and ties to former state Delegate William H. Cox Jr.
James D. Fielder Jr., 42, won the council approval by a 5-1 vote after answering questions on his experience, ideas for economic development and his relationship with Cox, a Bel Air realty agent.
He started work Wednesday. The job had been vacant for about fourmonths.
"I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say I have some reservations," Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, said when casting her vote in favor of the nomination. "I was assured by Mr. Fielderthat he would be independent."
Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B, opposed Fielder's appointment to the $50,000-a-year job. She said she does not believe Fielder has enough experience for the post.
"In interviewing him, I felt there was a lack of overall experience," Parrott said after Tuesday's meeting. "I see this position as a training ground for him."
Councilman Philip J. Barker, D-District F, was out of town on business.
Fielder told the council that he put his realty license on inactive status when he was nominated for economic development director as "an expression of public trust."
"It will stay on inactive status as long as I'm in this office," hesaid.
Fielder also said he has no interest in any real estate ventures or partnerships in Harford County.
The Bel Air resident saidhe met Cox when he bought a house at Cox's Tudor Manor development in Bel Air. He said Cox later invited him to join Cox's real estate firm, an offer he accepted. He sold houses on a part-time basis betweenAugust 1988 and November 1989, he said.
Cox lost his seat in the House of Delegates last year after it was learned he served as a loanguarantor for Maryland Reclamation Associates Inc.'s proposed asbestos and rubble fill on Gravel Hill Road near Havre de Grace.
Fielder worked for Cox's firm while he was president and owner of the WHRF-AM, a Bel Air radio station, according to his resume.
The new economic development director left Cox's firm and sold the radio station in November 1989. He sold his interest in the station for $320,000, FCC records show. He joined Real Property Group Ltd., a county real estate firm that has handled leasing of some property developed by Steven H. Hankins of Bel Air.
Fielder worked for Real Property until November, leaving to join Fairview Realty Inc. of Bel Air, where he most recently worked, his resume says. He worked as a commercial and industrial real estate broker at both firms.
As director of economicdevelopment, Fielder said he would build a consensus among the County Council, county administrators and citizens to determine what kindsof industries and businesses should be lured to Harford.
"We're at a tremendous point of opportunity for Harford County," he told the council. "Our land is becoming increasingly valuable."
The county needs to create job opportunities for residents, he said. He noted that about half of Harford's 80,000-member work force travels out of the county to their jobs, and he'd like to set goals for increasing thenumber of residents who work in the county.
The Havre de Grace native returned to Harford in 1988 after working as vice president and partner of MacArthur Corp. in Flint, Mich., his resume says. The firmis a manufacturer of pressure-sensitive labels for car parts.
Fielder worked at MacArthur from July 1982 to April 1988. His duties included implementing marketing strategies, revising the accounting system and establishing a quality-control system, the resume says.
Before joining MacArthur, Fielder served as director of budget, personnel and institutional analysis at the University of Michigan at Flint from March 1981 to June 1982, the resume says.
Fielder is the brother of former two-term county Councilman G. Edward Fielder, a Democratwho failed in his re-election bid last year.
The new director also served on Eileen M. Rehrmann's campaign for county executive last year.
Fielder is Rehrmann's second choice for the economic development post. Her first nominee, Patricia A. Perluke, requested that her name be withdrawn in early February after The Harford County Sun reported discrepancies in her resume and qualifications summary.