Drug Czar Holmes Resigns After Three Trying Years

March 20, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Bonnie Holmes, a charter member of Annapolis' drug office who weathered three years of controversial changes and rose to become the drug czar, has resigned.

Her decision to leave comes just a year after Eric Avery, the founding drug policy specialist, resigned over philosophical differences with Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins. The office was restructured under the Hopkins administration, a move applauded by some city leaders but criticized by others, who fear Annapolis' war on drugs is stagnating.

Holmes, who replaced Avery last spring, said she's accepted a better-paid position with New Beginnings at White Oak, an adolescent treatment center in Cambridge. The 35-year-old mother of two, who was paid $26,000 as Annapolis' drug czar, said her new job also will allow her to spend more time with her family.

One of the first members of the office, Holmes coordinated youth programs and took a group of city children to a national drug conference in Orlando, Fla. When the recession forced the city to cut the trip the next two years, Holmes suggested the county hold its own drug summit, patterned after the national program. The Severna Park resident will continue to chair the committee planning the June 1993 summit.

Holmes also helped shape the Annapolis Community Partnership, a coalition of 40 civic and religious groups that was awarded a $1 million federal grant to develop agrass-roots plan to fight substance abuse. Annapolis was one of 252 cities in the nation to receive the five-year grant.

Former Mayor Dennis M. Callahan said Holmes' departure "completes the dismantling"of the office he created amid much fanfare in May 1989. Holmes said she believes the office did not lose visibility, but changed its focus when it was combined with the city's community services department.

"With the reorganization, we concentrated more on the local level," she said. "I think we made a conscious effort not to be so visiblein the papers, not to be rubbing elbows and going to lunches."

Several city leaders expressed concern about the office's future, saying Annapolis still has a serious drug problem.

"Not to be knocking the office or anything, because Bonnie really did provide the support, but what's going on in the community is a lot of denial," said Alfred Matthews, a community activist. "They don't see what's going on --those young men standing out on the street corners and looking for the big bucks."

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, questioned whether the office "will even survive this upcoming budgetary round" since the mayor's transition team recommended eliminating it.

City Administrator Michael Mallinoff said he expects to announce a replacement soon. He also denied that the office would be combined with the county's drug-prevention program.

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