When J. Randall Evans was lured back to Maryland as state economic development secretary in 1987, Gov. William Donald Schaefer praised him as a consummate public official who embodied Mr. Schaefer's "do it now" spirit. Four and a half years later, Mr. Evans has proved the governor right by energizing the state's business expansion and pursuing new and potentially lucrative markets.
But now an enticing offer in the private sector has drawn Mr. Evans' attention. Next month, he becomes vice president for corridor development at CSX Transportation, helping to establish commuter-rail and light-rail lines as CSX tries to maximize profits along its vast rail network near urban centers. Mr. Evans also will be in a key position to foster increased CSX activity in Baltimore -- especially at the Port of Baltimore -- and to give the transportation giant a more forceful corporate presence in Maryland.
He is ideally suited for the challenge, as he was well suited to promote development and business growth for Governor Schaefer.
Unlike the governor himself, Mr. Evans enjoyed a warm rapport with members of the General Assembly. They uniformly praised his efforts to boost economic opportunities, though at times they disagreed with the speed and breadth of his vision. Mr. Evans has positioned Maryland to take advantage of the budding high-tech boom and has pushed the governor to explore new avenues of international trade in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and with Mexico.
Of the governor's cabinet members, Mr. Evans stood out from the crowd. He was totally loyal to Mr. Schaefer yet able to retain the trust of legislators. His candor and persuasiveness made him a star in the administration. His departure so early in the governor's second and last term could signal a string of similar moves as other cabinet secretaries look for security in private-sector jobs before Mr. Schaefer truly turns into a lame duck.
This can be averted if the governor persuades another high-powered figure to take Mr. Evans' job. C&P's J. Henry Butta would be a compelling candidate. From this pivotal post, he could be the Schaefer administration's strongman, a cabinet member who could encourage his colleagues to enforce the tough decisions that have to be made in dealing with crushing deficits. A loyalist who could help hold the Schaefer government together.
Randy Evans was expert in creating a climate to nurture and attract industries vital to Maryland's long-term prosperity. Hank Butta could build on this by insisting on good-business realism in tackling the real-time, real-life issues facing Governor Schaefer during his remaining 42 months in office.