Balto. County attorney Barnhart to leave post to join Towson law firm

Seven-year veteran hailed as `visionary'

March 19, 2001|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

The exodus of high-level employees from Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's administration continues, with County Attorney Virginia W. Barnhart returning to private practice in June.

Barnhart, 42, has been with the county attorney's office for seven years. She was hired as a deputy by former executive Roger B. Hayden. Ruppersberger promoted her after his election in 1994.

Known for her keen legal mind and professional demeanor, Barnhart oversees a staff of 28 attorneys. She said she is most proud of hiring high-quality lawyers and expanding the office's expertise in litigation and contracts.

"Dutch told me to make this a credible and quality law firm," said Barnhart, whose resignation is effective June 1. "I am pleased to say we enjoy a very strong reputation in federal and state courts."

Barnhart has accepted a position as partner with Pope & Hughes, a small Towson firm that specializes in commercial litigation. It was founded by attorneys previously with Miles & Stockbridge, the firm where Barnhart spent several years.

"She is a superb attorney," said founding partner Stephen J. Hughes. "She brings an expertise that is a tremendous complement to our practice."

Beth Woodland-Hargrove, a former deputy county attorney who is now general counsel for the Community College of Baltimore County, called Barnhart a "visionary."

"Ginny is a demanding boss, but she doesn't demand any more from those who work for her than she demands from herself," Woodland-Hargrove said.

Barnhart has been one of Ruppersberger's most influential advisers, participating in most important county decisions. She will leave with 18 months remaining in the Ruppersberger administration, meaning it could be difficult for the executive to fill the position from outside.

"It's been an issue that I've struggled with," Barnhart said. She said she began looking for a job in December, but didn't expect to find one so soon. A worsening economy and the prospect of saving for her children's college education forced her decision, she said.

Barnhart has previously applied to become a county circuit judge, but said she is putting her judicial aspirations on hold.

Her resignation comes shortly after the departure of George G. Perdikakis, the county head of environmental protection and resource management. Other top managers who have left since last year include Fire Chief John F. O'Neill, Public Works Director Charles R. Olsen and executive assistant Michael H. Davis.

"Ginny is one of the brightest, most competent lawyers I've had occasion to work with," Ruppersberger said. "I'm sorry to see her go. At the same time, I'm happy she has such a great opportunity in front of her."

Barnhart earned $112,228 as county attorney. Ruppersberger has not named a replacement.

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