Almy Quits 3-month-old Drugs Post

January 12, 1992|By Elise Armacost and JoAnna Daemmrich | Elise Armacost and JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writers

Anne Arundel drug czar David Almy, who managed County Executive Robert R. Neall's 1990 campaign, has left county government to write speeches for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edward R. Madigan.

Almy resigned Dec. 19, just three months after he was named permanent coordinator of the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program. Neall had appointed him acting coordinator in June, after the resignation of formerdrug coordinator Huntley J. Cross.

Maren "Marnie" Hagberg, who has been the director of Focus on Family, a drug counseling program for teen-agers and their families, is serving as acting director until a replacement is found.

Another member of the drug and alcohol program also left in the last month. The Rev. Richard Johnson, a minister who was widely known for his work with children from poor neighborhoods, took a job with the Prince George's County school system.

The office shake-up came shortly afterpublic health officials unveiled a comprehensive new plan -- which Almy helped design -- to fight alcohol and drug abuse. The countywide effort, Neall announced at the end of November, will take the war on drugs to the streets, homes and schools of every neighborhood.

Although members of the drug program acknowledged Almy's and Johnson's departures have "slowed things down a little," they said the office isbusy with the new program. "We're still moving ahead with it," said Evelyn Stein, spokeswoman for the county Health Department, which oversees the program.

Billed as an "aggressive" and "measurable" effort, the plan includes monthly surveys of residents, new school programs, partnerships with civic groups and business workshops. Some partsof the plan have been put on hold until a new director is appointed,including surveying 2,000 households every month to gauge the county's drug problem, Stein said.

Almy said yesterday he was "challenged and tickled" to have had a part in the new drug strategy.

But heacknowledged that the drug coordinator's position was not one he hadsought. After months in an influential, high-profile position as Neall's campaign manager, Almy had hoped to work on policy matters, either political or "global, strategic issues" affecting the county.

Administrative insiders say the relationship between Neall and Almy changed after Neall's narrow election victory, and Almy was left with relatively little clout. He served as deputy chief of staff for several months and worked on several transition projects before he was sentto the drug program.

"It was a different kind of influence," saidLouise Hayman, Neall's press secretary, whose job Almy turned down.

Almy first worked with Neall during the latter's unsuccessful 1986congressional campaign, serving as finance director.

Between 1989and 1990, he worked as press secretary for Madigan, then an Illinoiscongressman.

Asked if he left on good terms with the executive, Almy said, "You'll have to ask Mr. Neall that. I will say I left on hopeful terms."

Neall was meeting with bond rating agencies in New York yesterday and could not be reached.

A Crownsville resident, Almy said he plans to take an increasingly active role in Anne Arundel Republican party politics. Asked whether, given the opportunity, he would work for Neall in a future campaign, he said, "It depends on howhe asks me."

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