Clanzy steps into county job armed with military know-how

August 02, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Making sure the county government is equipped to do its work is probably the smallest job Rufus Franklin Clanzy has had since he was a U.S. Army second lieutenant 32 years ago.

"But it's big in the sense that everything is more critical," says the county's new general services director.

In the Army, he worked on projects so big that if his estimates were within $10 million, they were considered accurate. "Here, it is more critical to be exact," he says.

Mr. Clanzy may joke about coming within $10 million on a project, but he has a reputation for precision, says Cecil Bray, the deputy county administrator, who served with Mr. Clanzy for a time at Fort Meade.

"He has a tremendous amount of integrity, a great work ethic, is very organized and very smart," Mr. Bray says.

"He is really able to plan and think ahead. He tackles things. He is low-key and soft-spoken, but he can be firm and direct. I think he's going to do a great job for the county. I really do."

As general services director, Mr. Clanzy has three main tasks ahead of him: bringing order to the county's troubled 911 system, developing a centralized repair and maintenance service for all county vehicles, and supervising the remodeling of the county's $6 million Gateway office building and the deployment of personnel there.

He has been at his new job only a month but is already immersed in it. During a recent interview, he was interrupted four times by "hot line" calls that come to him directly rather than through a secretary.

He has added five people to the 911 communications center, which had been so understaffed that callers sometimes got recorded messages. Training classes for new dispatchers began last week.

"We're not all the way out of the woods yet," he says, "but there is improvement over what we had before, and enhancements are still being made. I feel safer in terms of the response I would get now. My confidence level is considerably higher than one or two years ago. All the things we have planned will make our system one of the better ones in the country."

The work Mr. Clanzy is doing for the county is very similar to what he did in the Army, only on a much smaller scale.

"His experience in logistics and his management of buildings, facilities and fleet maintenance make him ideal," Mr. Bray says. "People will like him before anything else. That's the type personality he has."

Mr. Clanzy specializes in providing support. He is not so much the quarterback as the person the quarterback turns to in clutch situations.

"Logistics is no easy job," he says. "You're always providing support. If you don't do your job, [the people you're supposed to support] can't do theirs very well."

A native of Covington County, Ala., Mr. Clanzy, 56, had expected teaching to be his life's work. But, while attending Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he participated in the Army ROTC and upon graduation was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps.

"I was planning to stay for two years and then go back to teaching," he says, "but I kept running into some good people, having some tough jobs and having some fun doing the work."

His first assignment was as commissary officer at Fort Dix, N.J., where, Mr. Clanzy says, "they were operating out of a World War I horse stable and having difficulties with accounting, lack of security and loss of supplies."

Though a "green second lieutenant," he was asked to bring some order from the chaos. "Accounting was the real challenge," he says. "I didn't have any experience, so I followed the school solution, dug in and did a 100 percent audit of everything."

It worked. Sales, which had been declining before he came, practically doubled before he left. He was given the Army Commendation Medal for his work, the first of many decorations in a 28-year career.

After promoting him to first lieutenant, the Army sent him to West Germany to command a maintenance company, a reward of a different sort, since company commanders are usually captains.

"During the week, we worked 12- to 16-hour days to keep the equipment running," he says, "but on Saturdays we would have hot dogs, hamburgers and play flag football. Everybody was close. Everybody helped out. That's when I decided to make it a career."

Included in that career were two tours in Vietnam during which he twice received the Bronze Star for meritorious service, and tours as deputy chief of staff at Fort Meade and as inspector general for the National Guard and the Army Reserve in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and on all states east of the Mississippi.

Although he moved 11 times during his first 12 years in the army, Mr. Clanzy has maintained a residence in Howard County since 1971. His first year as inspector general, he flew out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport during 44 weeks. He flew during 46 weeks the second year.

When ordered to a second tour in West Germany, he kept his family here so that his children could continue to attend Howard County schools.

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