Upbeat in Baltimore County

September 08, 1992

Not only has Roger Hayden awakened and smelled the coffee, he's behaving as if he has downed a pot or two of the stuff.

Nearing the mid-point of his first term as Baltimore County executive, Mr. Hayden increasingly shows signs he realizes there won't be a second term unless he cures some of the ills of his administration. That's why lately he has seemed to attack his tasks like a man juiced on java.

The pace picked up noticeably about two months ago, when Mr. Hayden hired Chuck Jackson to put some life into a moribund communications department. Around that same time, Kenneth C. Nohe resigned after a calamitous seven months as director of the county's economic development office. Mr. Hayden, criticized by local politicians and business leaders for ignoring the mess made by Mr. Nohe, saw an opening to do a major shake-up of the agency, his biggest embarrassment. He named respected banker H. Grant Hathaway to head the economic development commission and later filled 13 long-standing vacancies on the 25-seat commission.

The new development team was rounded out last week with Mr. Hayden's announcement that E. Neil Jacobs, a former banking associate of Mr. Hathaway's, will direct the development office.

County business leaders used to complain they didn't have the administration's ear, so they should be pleased by the new team's game plan -- to enhance conditions for existing businesses, before trying to lure outside companies to the area. Emphasis will also be placed on improving communication between local businesses and the government. Community groups, too, will be brought into the loop, Mr. Hayden has promised.

Further reason for optimism is the working relationship that has existed between Mr. Hathaway and Mr. Jacobs. Under the two bankers, the office should run more smoothly than it did when Mr. Nohe and A. Samuel Cook, Mr. Hathaway's predecessor as commission chairman, were locking horns (and egos) over office operations.

The difference between this new style and that of the Nohe regime is, as one Towson politician put it, "like night and day." Much of the credit for the change belongs to Mr. Hayden. Faulted for the errors of the past, he should be commended for taking the steps that have local leaders upbeat about the direction of this important county agency.

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