Darius Stanton, the charismatic anti-drug leader who brought his message of "peace and love" to thousands of children across the county, has been chosen to lead Annapolis' war on drugs.
The 22-year-old youth coordinator for the county's substance abuse prevention program replaces Bonnie Holmes as city drug czar. Holmes left after three years with the drug office for a better-paid position with an adolescenttreatment center in Cambridge.
Stanton has won widespread praise for his efforts to teach children to resist the lure of drugs. With his self-confidence and youthfulenthusiasm, he has moved easily from rapping with school children toleading seminars and meeting with county officials, his previous bosses said.
"We feel he will really be out there in the community, working with people, getting to know the kids," City Administrator Michael Mallinoff said.
Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins is said to be a fan of Stanton's and friends with his father, Leslie Stanton, a community leader and commissioner of the Annapolis Summer Basketball League. When the mayor learned Holmes was leaving, he immediately called DariusStanton, Mallinoff said.
In an earlier interview with the Anne Arundel County Sun, Stanton said he was too focused on basketball and church activities as a child to notice the drug problem. At Annapolis High School, he was shocked to find some of his friends and teammatesexperimenting with marijuana and cocaine.
He joined the popular basketball league founded by his father, a former standout at Annapolis High and the University of Maryland. But Darius' dream of playing college ball ended when he was injured in a car accident after graduation in 1988.
A year later, Stanton was working in a summer theatergroup to raise awareness about drugs and AIDS when Huntley J. Cross,the county's former drug czar, spotted him. Cross hired him as the youth coordinator, to run drug-prevention programs and serve as a mentor to children in the county.
Stanton worked tirelessly to teach children that "peace and love," his favorite slogan, offer more than drugs. He taught children in public housing anti-drug rap songs and school children about the dangers of alcoholism.
His appointment to the $26,000-a-year position as drug policy specialist was to be announced last night. He will report to Emily Green, director of communityservices.
Stanton is the third employee to leave the county Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program in recent months.
Like the city's drug prevention program, the county office has been criticized for focusing too much on public relations. County Executive Robert Neall's transition team recommended shifting it under the county Health Department to better coordinate treatment and prevention programs.
Cross left last June to return to running the school system's drug-prevention program. His replacement, David Almy, Neall's former campaign manager, left six months later. A federal drug policy specialist, Charlestine Fairley, was hired to replace him last week.