Politics, No Numbers, Yes

May 01, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The hand-lettered nameplate on county Financial Officer John Hammond's door says it all: Mr. Louise Hammond.

His wife, elected in March to the Annapolis City Council seat Mr. Hammond gave up to become Anne Arundel County's top fiscal official, is in the limelight now as the family politician. Mr. Hammond has gone behind the scenes.

Since he took his job Dec. 30, he has been closeted in the Arundel Center, coordinating the county budget that will be released tomorrow.

"As someone succinctly summed it up, you're jumping on board a train that's going 60 mph, and you're trying to get caught up, and that's what I've been busily trying to do," he said.

And that, Mr. Hammond said, suits him just fine.

"From my seat here at the Arundel Center, I have purposely not wanted to get involved in any kind of political entanglements at all," he said, sitting in front of a desk strewn with papers full of numbers.

"I view my role here is to be a financial and fiscal adviser to the county, and I'm going to give the best professional advice that I can to the people that I work for," Mr. Hammond said.

"I don't think anybody can perform that role effectively and have a political agenda also. So that's in the closet."

In any event, he can live the political life vicariously through his wife.

"It isn't as if I've gone cold turkey on what's going on in the city of Annapolis, having my wife involved there," Mr. Hammond said. "It has allowed me to at least be kept abreast of the late-breaking developments."

Mr. Hammond, 45, formerly an insurance company executive, said he enjoys working within walking distance of his home in Annapolis, where he lives with his wife, his daughter, Hunter, 15, his son, Kemp, 13, and four cats.

His boss, County Executive Robert R. Neall, said Mr. Hammond was his first choice when the previous head of the Finance Office, Steven Welkos, resigned late last year.

Mr. Neall and Mr. Hammond met on the first day of seventh grade at Annapolis Junior High School, where Mr. Hammond sat in front of Mr. Neall. They graduated together from Annapolis High School in 1966. And Mr. Neall, no financial slouch himself, recognized Mr. Hammond's talents as head of the City Council's Finance Committee.

"He's a good nuts-and-bolts, meat-and-potatoes type of guy who keeps things running," Mr. Neall said.

Mr. Hammond, who had been criticized by some council colleagues for being abrasive, seems to have relaxed more in his new job.

"He was an elected official then. All of us are abrasive sometimes," said County Councilman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville. "Now that he's a member of the Neall administration, diplomacy and tact fill the need."

County Auditor Joseph H. Novotny says relations between his office and the administration have never been better.

"From what I've seen so far, [Mr. Hammond] has been really trying to help this office out," Mr. Novotny said. In the past, "it was like pulling teeth to get information."

Mr. Hammond gives the credit to his staff.

"It's been a really easy transition for me to come into because of the competency of the people above and below," Mr. Hammond said. "They've been through the drill so many times, they know what to do."

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