Kelly retiring as Balto. Co. administrator on June 30 He served 2 executives after career as educator

April 10, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County administrator Merreen E. Kelly -- the county's top appointed official for some of its toughest years -- is retiring June 30, saying he expects County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger to win re-election and keep the county running smoothly.

"If I thought a new executive was coming in next year, I'd feel I would have to stay," said Kelly, a former school administrator who will be 62 a week before he retires.

A low-key man with an easy laugh but a strong will, Kelly said his younger brother's recent retirement and a desire to spend more time with him playing golf helped Kelly decide to leave his $85,000-a-year job.

"I just felt it was time," Kelly, who became county administrator in 1991, said yesterday.

Ruppersberger, rumored as a possible gubernatorial candidate, all but shut the door yesterday on running for anything but re-election, but didn't endorse Gov. Parris N. Glendening for re-election.

Speaking at a news conference about the county's General Assembly performance, Ruppersberger answered a question about his plans by saying, "I'm going to run for county executive," but added, "Never say never."

Ruppersberger works well with Kelly, although they are very different. A high-energy, peripatetic man with a bounteous appetite for food and politics, Ruppersberger depended on the quiet, nonpolitical Kelly to keep things running smoothly day to day.

"He's been a rock of Gibraltar," Ruppersberger said.

The white-maned, meticulously dressed Kelly -- who prizes privacy and clockwork regularity in his personal life -- presided over four tumultuous years under former County Executive Roger B. Hayden.

The recession of the early 1990s threw the county budget into chaos, and Hayden laid off nearly 300 workers in 1993 -- unprecedented in modern county history. Libraries, senior centers and health centers were closed, and annual county employee pay raises ended, sharply increasing tensions.

However, he remained calm through it, saying yesterday that, although he was sad for those who lost jobs, he knew someone had to do the tough things.

Kelly started his education career in 1957 as a math teacher at Parkville Junior-Senior High School and retired in 1991 as an associate superintendent. He then came to work that year as administrator for Hayden, a former school board member.

Ruppersberger said he will begin considering a replacement after next week, when he returns from a short vacation.

Pub Date: 4/10/97

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