Institutional Memory Loss

March 28, 1995

Some of the major department heads and bureau chiefs in Carroll County government have been fixtures for years, if not decades. Yet since the new year began, a number of them have resigned or announced plans to leave county service. From all indications, the county commissioners were not unhappy about these departures and may seek to have other long-time department heads vacate office as well.

Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr., county attorney for the past 16 years, decided to leave before he was asked to do so. After last November's election, the newly elected Board of Commissioners made it clear that it wanted to revamp the county attorney's operation. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown would like to farm out much of the legal work to private counsel. Commissioner Donald I. Dell never felt much affinity toward Mr. Thompson and indicated privately he would like to replace him. Rather than wait to be axed, the 46-year-old Mr. Thompson looked elsewhere and landed a job as counsel for Montgomery County government -- a big step up in professional stature and pay.

Keith R. Kirschnick, director of public works, was the next department head to announce his resignation. A 42-year-old civil engineer, Mr. Kirschnick ran a shop responsible for roads, bridges, landfills and utilities. He supervised 210 employees with a budget of $11.5 million. After seven years of county service, half that time directing public works, Mr. Kirschnick decided to pursue "other career opportunities." Ironically, at the time of his announcement he said he did not have another job lined up.

Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman, the county's planning director for 25 years, is the most recent department head to announce he will be leaving. Mr. Cueman, 55, developed Carroll's master plan and comprehensive zoning ordinance. While he was a professional in every manner and assembled a highly competent staff, he often found himself on the losing end of arguments about the direction of growth in Carroll. Even though he opposed sprawl in the suburbanizing county, it appears that Mr. Cueman has been blamed for it.

With the departure of these three department heads, a great deal of competence and institutional memory is leaving county service. Replacing them will be a formidable task.

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