City drug czar quits for youth job

September 19, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

People are telling Darius Stanton that they don't understand why he did it.

Why would Annapolis' drug czar, believed to be the youngest drug policy official on the East Coast, suddenly relinquish his job in City Hall and set up shop in a tattered community center in one of the most troubled neighborhoods in Annapolis?

He smiles broadly. "I felt it was time for growth and change," he said.

Mr. Stanton, now 24, was only 18 when Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall hired him to work for his drug and alcohol prevention office.

Three years ago, Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins spotted him and asked him to work for his Office on Substance Abuse Policy.

Mr. Stanton helped set up a summer jobs program for teens, spoke in the schools and at community meetings against drugs and alcohol, and aided aldermen in drafting legislation to curb smoking in the city.

While proud of those achievements, he realized he wanted to be in a place where he could more directly see the impact of his work.

Then the Boys and Girls Club offered him a job as a branch executive in Annapolis Gardens and Bowman Court -- two Annapolis Housing Authority projects off West Street -- overseeing the staff and helping raise money.

About 180 youngsters belong to the club, with between 40 and 80 participating in the club's sports, tutoring and leadership programs.

After only three days on the job, he already has achieved a small measure of success. The children who come into the center after school greet him with an enthusiastic "Good evening!"

The boys and girls quietly sit down at a metal table, pull out their homework and begin to study. One boy waits patiently for Mr. Stanton to check his homework.

Mr. Stanton picks at cold French fries left from his lunch and explains that there is another reason he left the city.

He was tired of the politics.

June was especially difficult for city employees, he said, with the city's aldermen scrutinizing positions and cutting jobs as they reviewed the city budget.

Mr. Stanton survived the cuts, but everyone's morale suffered. "I didn't like that whole environment," he said.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins praised work Mr. Stanton's work, but said he has no immediate plans to fill the position. He said he wants time to review the job and decide what it should be.

The previous mayor, Dennis Callahan, created the Office of Substance Abuse Policy in 1986 to secure grants to fight drug abuse in the city.

When Mr. Stanton took over the job, he shifted the focus to community relations. In taking the job, he followed his mother, father and other family members who work in community service positions.

"It's in my genes," he said.

He agrees that the mayor needs to reconsider the position and find a way to incorporate both the administrative and the service duties.

Mr. Stanton said he wants to focus on working his way up the ranks of the Boys and Girls Club. He said he's intent on completing his college degree in human services, then continuing his work to battle substance abuse.

"I'm blessed to get paid for something I love doing," he said. "I'm never coming out of this field."

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