Economic director resigns Sudden departure called voluntary

August 19, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Howard County Economic Director William H. Howard Jr. resigned abruptly Monday, a week after he had put together a deal that will keep 300 high-tech jobs within the county.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said the departure was not a forced resignation.

"There was no problem with the director. Bill did a good job," Mr. Ecker said, adding that Mr. Howard is leaving to pursue other opportunities.

When Dyan Brasington, Mr. Howard's predecessor, resigned after a little more than a year, she stayed on for several months before taking a $125,000-a-year job as economic development director for West Virginia.

Mr. Howard's resignation takes effect Sept. 7, but he had left by noon Monday.

"He was planning to take a vacation," Mr. Ecker said.

"I would like to concentrate more on business on a smaller scale," Mr. Howard said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I love this county and want to stay in this county and be as fTC involved in this county as I possibly can. I was honored to be chosen as director of economic development in the first place.

"I appreciate the opportunity [Mr. Ecker] gave me. I respect this man and think he is doing a world of good for the county."

The brief tenures of Mr. Howard and Ms. Brasington are signs that "the economic development office is in disarray and the county economic development program is in disarray," said County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a 3rd District Democrat.

"Repeated changes in leadership don't bode well for businesses looking to come to the county," Mr. Gray said. "This is a Rolls-Royce county, but we can't seem to find a driver for more than six months."

Word of Mr. Howard's resignation passed through county corridors quickly Monday, but there was no official announcement.

"Only Dr. Ecker can talk about it," a spokesman in the county press office said.

Members of the newly appointed Economic Development Authority, a public and private partnership created to replace the Department of Economic Development, were either out of town or did not return phone calls yesterday.

William Munn, president of the Chamber of Commerce, also was unavailable for comment.

Other business leaders were not willing to talk about the resignation on the record.

When she announced her resignation after a little more than a year as director, Ms. Brasington was praised by the business community.

Mr. Howard took over in the middle of a recession as two key people in the five-member office were leaving. He said that he saw his role as implementing Mr. Ecker's policies to support businesses here and to attract new businesses to the County.

Mr. Howard won praise for his work in finding a buyer that will keep Columbia-based S3 Technologies and its 300 employees in Howard County.

The opening of Wang Zi Cashmere Products in the Route 100 business park at the end of this month is another source of pride, Mr. Howard said.

It could make Howard County a major source of business for China, giving it East Coast access to Boston, New York, Washington and Atlanta, Mr. Howard believes.

Mr. Ecker said he will not advertise for a new director but instead will review the 400 applications the county received before Mr. Howard's appointment as director in November 1992.

Mr. Ecker said he hopes to have a new director in place by Oct. 1. Meanwhile, Linda Cooper, an employee in the economic development department, will serve as acting director.

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