Choosing a planning director Howard County: Executive-elect Robey must in short order weigh whether to retain Rutter in key role.

November 20, 1998

JAMES N. ROBEY, Howard County's executive-elect, says it may take him half a year to install his government team. In many cases, that's OK. In choosing Mr. Robey over Republican county Councilman Dennis R. Schrader, voters signaled that they were more comfortable with incremental change.

Democrat Robey was attractive to many Howard Republicans who thought Mr. Schrader appeared inclined to move too fast. Mr. Robey, the police chief for current County Executive Charles I. Ecker for the past seven years, in many ways represented the status quo.

But Mr. Robey does need to fill some key positions soon. A refrain voiced by nearly every candidate was that the county's general development plan and adequate public facilities ordinance should be reassessed. For that reason, if Mr. Robey intends to replace Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr., he ought to do it now rather than later. That does not mean a decision should be made in haste or without careful consideration. But it shouldn't take long to decide whether Mr. Rutter can carry out Mr. Robey's vision for development in

Howard County.

Critics say Mr. Rutter too easily toed the line in carrying out policies of Mr. Ecker that favored development. But that's what one would expect of a Cabinet member carrying out orders. Mr. Robey campaigned on the promise that he will be more careful about approving new development.

The planning chief seems an easy target in a suburb gripped by concern about growth. When Mr. Ecker replaced Elizabeth Bobo as executive in 1990, her prolific planning director, Uri Avin, was immediately dismissed.

The new executive and council will have difficult decisions to make about growth, which will affect other decisions on taxes, new schools and roads. Mr. Robey does not have the luxury of much time to choose on his planning director.

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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