Balto. Co. official resigns as head of department

Hannon was the director of economic development

January 04, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Robert L. Hannon, who played a major role in attracting thousands of jobs to Baltimore County and in efforts to revitalize Essex and Middle River, said yesterday that he has resigned from his post as the county's economic development director.

He is the second county department head to resign since James T. Smith Jr. took over as county executive, but unlike former Parks and Recreation director John F. Weber III, Hannon made clear that his departure is entirely voluntary.

"This is an honest-to-God resignation," Hannon said. "I very much like public service, having done it here in the county and in Baltimore City, but there is a time when you've gotten your fill, and you're looking for new challenges and new things to do."

During Hannon's tenure, the county attracted a number of high-profile businesses and gained more than 38,000 jobs.

Hannon was a major public face on the Ruppersberger administration's plan to use condemnation in some areas, mostly on the east side, to spur redevelopment. That plan, Senate Bill 509, was soundly defeated at referendum in 2000.

But Hannon, an Essex native, has also played a major role in some continuing efforts at east-side revitalization.

In recent years, the county has razed two crumbling World War II-era apartment complexes in Middle River. The land from one is being developed into a neighborhood of single-family homes, which are being sold for more than $200,000, and the other is being turned into a park.

"He's a true professional," Ruppersberger said. "Economic development is almost like a science, and Bob Hannon really had the ability to know the formula you needed - not pay too much money and yet put on the table what was needed to bring in the major businesses."

Smith said he doesn't have a candidate in mind to replace Hannon, who will stay on the job for several weeks. But the new executive said the department is important to him because of his desire to revitalize older neighborhoods and business districts.

He said he will likely move forward in the coming weeks with management audits in several county departments, economic development among them.

"It isn't a criticism of what they're doing," Smith said. "It's just looking at the future, that's all."

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