The Carroll Commissioners are in the midst of the biggest bureaucratic shuffle here in eight years.
They propose new departments, new bureaus, new responsibilities and new titles.
They explore options for hundreds of county workers.
And they produce a series of revamped and redrawn flow charts.
While few residents are cognizant of how government is organized -- most are moreconcerned about the tax rate, police protection, garbage collection,education and other services -- the structure gives important clues to how things get done.
"You're always trying to work out how departments and functions relate to each other," said Eileen M. Rehrmann,the newly elected Harford County executive, who has been working on her own organizational chart for several months.
Though not exactly best-sellers, the organizational charts are used by government to show who reports to whom differ from county to county.
Take a look at Carroll's proposed chart, and the thrust of the county's three commissioners is quite clear -- a consolidation of duties under fewer departments with more direct contact to the commissioners.
"They arerunning the show," said George Grier, a 20-year veteran of county government who served as Carroll's executive assistant until 1983. "I'mnot surprised they're finding out they need to do something to be more effective."
The revamped structure would put Carroll's commissioner form of government in line with the organization of such charter-governed counties as Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel.
And while those three counties have most branches of government reporting directly to a county executive -- an office that does not exist in Carroll, Frederick, Washington and 14 other Maryland counties -- Carroll'snew structure appears to place direct lines of responsibility between departments and the commissioners' executive assistant, Robert A. "Max" Bair.
"I think the commissioners were looking for a way to bemore informed on the activities of government," Bair said a week after the restructuring was announced and the new flow chart was released. "I don't see this as an increase in my role, but I will be up on what other departments are doing."
Some political observers have called the shift toward more central authority a signal of possible charter government in Carroll, although Commissioner President Donald I.Dell and Commissioner Julia W. Gouge campaigned against such an idea. Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. has remained open tothe possibility.
The commissioners themselves say the change in government structure reflects an attitude toward "efficiency" and "cost-effectiveness."
But Carroll already has the second least expensive government in the Baltimore area. As it stands, only Harford County -- whose government employs one person for every 182 residents and costs $1,141 per capita -- has a less expensive government.
Carroll County's government employs one person for every 149 residents, while its per capita cost is $1,220.
In Anne Arundel County, the costper person is $1,701, while the government employs one person for every 122 residents; Baltimore County employs one person for every 87 residents, but the cost per capita is $1,541.
Howard County government, the region's most expensive, employs one person for every 104 residents, while it costs each resident $1,992.
Some government experts say running a government should be more like running a corporation. And in a corporation, designing a structure is an important component in getting results.
"If things are running smoothly, if the citizens are getting their services, that's generally all that the public cares about," said Jeanne Bilanin, project administrator for the Institue of Governmental Services at the University of Maryland. "Essentially, if things are running smoothly, people don't care what makesthem run smoothly."
With the reorganization comes a whole new definintion of departments, offices, administrators and directors, Gougesaid. But she and the other commissioners do not know what that definition is.
"To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure anybody knows at this point what it all means," she said.
Carroll's commissioners have proposed whittling the number of people reporting to them throughBair to 11, the smallest number of agencies reporting to the top of governments in surrounding counties.
With nearly the same population and budgets, Washington County has some 42 agencies directly reporting to the County Commissioners.
Most of the area's other county governments are a little more streamlined than Washington's. In Howard County -- a charter county with an elected executive -- 12 agenciesreport directly to the top. Anne Arundel's county executive has 31 agencies reporting directly to him. Harford's has 21 reporting to her,and Baltimore's executive is directly linked to 17 agencies. Frederick's commissioners have seven divisions with 30 departments reportingto them and their administrative officer.
While Carroll's three commissioners say they are not moving toward an executive-led government, they do admit to wanting more input in day-to-day activities of the government.
"We want to see how things work," Dell said. "We'reresponsible to the voters, so I think we should have a handle in howgovernment is run."