Zoning administrator retires

Priorities: Robert A. `Max' Bair says leaving his longtime county job will allow him to focus on making positive changes in the community.

September 30, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After 31 years in the county's employ, Robert A. "Max" Bair is leaving the job that has been his lifelong career.

Carroll County's zoning administrator and the commissioners' special assistant announced his retirement Friday, effective immediately. He planned to spend yesterday packing up his office on the third floor of the County Office Building in Westminster, a modest space adjacent to the commissioners' offices.

Then he will ponder his future, certain that it will include ways to help "make positive changes in the community in which I live," he said.

"I have no definite plans for retirement. But I am open to opportunities that might present themselves. Retirement will give me more time to focus on my priorities and do what I can for the community," he said.

That he is retiring at age 53 surprised many of his colleagues. A steady stream of co-workers came to his office Friday to wish him well. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said Bair's decision was not completely unexpected.

"He has been talking about it off and on since last year," Gouge said. "I tried to convince him he didn't want to retire. A lot of other people tried to talk him out of it, too."

In the past year, Bair has become increasingly involved in the ACTIVE Alliance for Carroll County - Adults and Children Together Improving Values and Ethics. The mostly volunteer coalition of churches and community organizations aims to strengthen Carroll families through programs including faith-based marriage counseling and long-term drug treatment. It is working to reduce crime and substance abuse.

A fundamental goal of the coalition is to help children make sound decisions. The commissioners have committed $50,000 to the effort, the bulk of which pays the salary of two coordinators.

"The alliance is where my heart is," said Bair. "We are seeing kids with a less than great future because of the trends existing today."

The events of Sept. 11, when terrorist hijackers took thousands of lives in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, steeled his resolve, Bair said.

"I saw incredible evil brought to bear, and then, the absolute best in people responding at the scenes and across the country," he said. "It had a great impact on me."

In his resignation letter to the commissioners, he wrote, "Opportunities exist to sustain this focus beyond the short term and I feel a compelling urgency to be involved in this effort in some meaningful way on a full-time basis."

Bair started working for the county as a planner in 1970, shortly after earning a bachelor's degree in economics from Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va. For many years, he has served as executive assistant to numerous boards of commissioners. The decision to leave, although difficult, was "100 percent my own," he said.

"He is the true memory here," said Gouge. "There will be a really big hole in our management team now. Max has a real understanding of the way the board works. He has given guidelines on what he thought might work for us in the future, but nothing takes the place of the person who understands all the issues."

Bair maintains that no one person is indispensable. "Institutional memory lies with many more individuals here," he said. "There is specialization and an expanded base of knowledge and expertise."

Bair is the third longtime county administrator to quit in the past several weeks. Planning Director Steven Horn left Aug. 17 to head the Frederick County planning department and County Attorney Laurell Taylor resigned Aug. 28.

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