After four stormy years with County Executive Robert R. Neall, the union leaders representing the county's work force say they think John G. Gary is a man with whom they can do business.
The unions fought some bitter battles with Mr. Neall over pay, health care benefits, and most recently over a bill that would have allowed the county's firefighters to retire, after 20 years, at half their salary. The County Council passed the bill at its last meeting, but Mr. Neall vetoed it.
What frustrated them most about Mr. Neall, union leaders said, was his unwillingness to compromise. They expect that to change under Mr. Gary.
"I have an expectation that John Gary will at least sit down and talk," said Dennis Howell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 70, which represents county police officers.
"That's one thing Bobby Neall didn't do. Bobby Neall did not entertain conversation," he said.
The county's firefighters, who wrangled with Mr. Neall over pensions and health care, had endorsed him in 1990. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, the firefighters this time endorsed Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus, who had solid union credentials.
LeRoy A. Wilkison, president of the Anne Arundel Professional Firefighters Association, said their failure to endorse Mr. Gary does not mean they expect another adversarial relationship.
"We're going to do our best to work with him," Mr. Wilkison said. "We've got four years ahead of us, and I think it's clear we can get more done working together than battling."
Cecilia Fabula, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 67, which includes the county's unions representing clerical employees and blue-collar workers, said relations between her members and Mr. Neall had improved in the past year. She pointed to the 6 percent wage increase employees received this year, noting it was better than any state worker received.
Still, life with Mr. Neall did have its rough spots.
"Mr. Neall came in with the attitude of, 'I don't like unions, I don't like collective bargaining, and that's that,' " she said.
"[Mr. Gary] has extended to us the invitation to work with him," she said. "We intend to work as closely as possible with Mr. Gary."
The optimistic words do not mean there will not be some inevitable conflicts.
George C. Shenk Jr., who is leading Mr. Gary's transition effort, said there is an expectation that money will be even tighter than during Mr. Neall's administration, thanks to the property tax cap and some likely cuts in state aid.
"The state will have major financial problems in the coming years, and I think we'll see that trickle down to the local governments," Mr. Shenk said. "I want to try to look ahead in a more fiscally conservative manner."
That means an almost certain paring down of the county work force in some areas. Some departments, such as the school system and public safety, will remain at current levels or will be beefed up, he said. But elsewhere, cuts are inevitable, although they will probably be accomplished through attrition rather than layoffs.
"We're not chopping down trees here, we're pruning," Mr. Shenk said.
And even though there will be a Republican administration and a Republican majority on the County Council, don't look for massive privatization, Mr. Shenk said.
"I'm the guy who privatized Arts and Culture, so I'm very familiar with the process," he said. Mr. Shenk is president of the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County, the nonprofit organization that was previously part of county government.
"But the reality is it works in certain cases and doesn't in others, so you have to be very careful."
Mr. Shenk said, the focus will be more on eliminating the duplication of county services for savings.