Lois Baldwin, head of Baltimore County's Arts and Sciences Commission, is retiring because County Executive Roger B. Hayden is eliminating her office to save money.
Baldwin, 63, who has headed the commission for 12 of its 16 years, said she was notified of the county's decision Jan 2.
"I'm in a state of shock," she said.
She chose to take advantage of the county's current retirement incentive, she said, because "frankly, it would be too painful for me to preside over the demise of this agency which I've worked very hard to create."
Members of Maryland's art community said they will lose a valuable supporter when Baldwin leaves at the end of the month.
"It was really a shock to us," said Marsha Reeves, executive director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation, one of the organizations that has benefited from grants through the commission.
"It's very difficult when you don't have someone who understands your program who is a point of contact . . . we're very concerned about what's going to happen."
"We're very sad to see Lois go," said Pat Purcell, director of development for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. "She's been a wonderful supporter for us, for the symphony."
Hayden said he decided that elimination of Baldwin's office would save the county money. Consultations with the county's Arts and Sciences Commission, he said, convinced him it would not hurt the arts groups that Baldwin works with.
The commission itself, an advisory body composed of citizen volunteers, will continue to exist. But the paid staff that administered county grants will be eliminated.
"I don't think it's going to have any impact of any magnitude," Hayden, adding, "We're very interested in the arts."
Hayden said annual grants to county agencies will be administered by the county's Economic Development Commission starting next year, with an eye toward linking arts attractions to tourism.
Budget director Fred Homan said the move would save about $63,000 a year, counting both Baldwin's salary and that of a currently vacant secretary's position. A second secretary will be moved to another county agency, he said.
County Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly said he felt obliged to warn Baldwin that her office would be eliminated after June 30 in time for her to take advantage of the early retirement. She could have chosen to stay and work in another county agency.
Baldwin said she will continue to work in the arts.
"I certainly need a little bit of time to regroup because it's so sudden," she added. "I do not intend to get out of the field . . . I'll be out there fighting for the arts in some volunteer capacity at the very least.
"I look forward to a new phase of life. I'm not going out to pasture, even though I'm being pushed out there."