Part evangelist and part Army general, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden has begun a series of informal pep talks with county supervisors and workers in an effort to inspire them during tough budget times.
In his exhortations to supervisors at the first meeting yesterday, and in comments to other groups, the usually reticent executive made clear his own dependence during the crisis on his business experience at Eastern Stainless Steel. He worked there for 22 years before leaving in 1986 and getting elected in 1990.
Even facing more than 200 managers in the County Council chambers yesterday, Hayden lowered his voice and began quietly.
"I believe in people. I believe in organizations," he said. "It's no different than at Eastern Stainless Steel. The backbone of any organization is management."
Hayden also made several references to Gen. George S. Patton's World War II campaigns in Europe, to illustrate the need for advance planning of several strategies when confronting a tough enemy.
The executive has made similar comments in addressing other groups recently, as when he met with representatives of 65 county highway and utility contractors Monday. They told him they feared their businesses might fail if the county doesn't help by awarding more capital infrastructure projects.
"We're making business decisions, not political decisions," Hayden replied in a soothing tone. He referred to the contractors' complaints that the county's capital spending on infrastructure has dropped from $30 million in 1990 to $9.5 million projected in 1992.
That, with the recession's effect on private-industry jobs, has forced the layoffs of 40 percent of the small- to medium-sized firms' best workers, said Augustus Robbins 3rd, the group's spokesman.
"Would you do it [spend more] not knowing if the revenue was there? We have to do the best job we can," he told the contractors. He also told them, as he did county community college trustees several weeks ago, that while this budget crisis may be new to them it's similar to periodic crises that hit the stainless steel business every two or three years when he worked in it.
His style, developed long ago, he said, is to keep a low public profile, "work, listen and watch," while rallying his workers to bond together and save every dollar possible. Only that, he said, will restore the faith of voters in government.
Hayden also took the time at yesterday's meeting with managers to tell them that although the budget crisis may eventually ease, it won't be soon and things won't ever be as before.
"I don't think we're ever going to see days like the '80s again," Hayden said, though he added that he believes the recession will end by late spring.
The worst time may be the coming fiscal year starting July 1, he said, depending on what the legislature does about the latest round of state budget cuts.
The county has already handled $45 million worth of state cuts to various branches of local government and decreased revenues, Hayden said. The key to surviving what may be even deeper cuts is to work together as a team, yet be demanding managers too, he told the group.
"I had a reputation as a laid-back manager at Eastern Stainless Steel," Hayden said at one point, "but I fired more people than anyone else at Eastern." He said it's important to speak to workers who aren't producing and to praise those who are.
"This is a team. You are Baltimore County," he concluded.
Hayden will meet with rank and file workers tomorrow, when he says he will decide on $10 million worth of cuts to county services in anticipation of the next round of $23.5 million in state budget cuts.
He already announced that county workers will be furloughed without pay for five days in the coming five months to make up the rest of the expected state cut.