Arundel delegate Rzepkowski to resign

April 23, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Del. James E. Rzepkowski, the northern Anne Arundel Republican who was first elected in 1994 at age 23, will resign his seat to begin a job next month with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

"It is bittersweet," Rzepkowski said yesterday. "I've enjoyed it. I'm coming off a very big win. But it's an opportunity."

He said he will resign as a delegate effective April 30 and start work the next day as associate deputy secretary, a new $84,456 position within the state agency.

In the general assignment position, he will initially focus on maintaining federal funding for the vast number of military facilities in Maryland, Business and Economic Development Secretary Aris Melissaratos said yesterday. Rzepkowski also will work on other projects, although none of the agency's approximately 350 employees or consultants will report to him, Melissaratos said.

Rzepkowski - who said he also will resign from his full-time job doing customer relations for a State Farm Insurance agent - said he expects to serve as a liaison to the business community and General Assembly.

His hiring comes less than six months after the three-term delegate won the most votes of all District 32 delegate candidates.

His resignation will open a seat that could potentially be filled by Terry R. Gilleland Jr., 26, who ran unsuccessfully in November for the district's state Senate seat. Gilleland is the chairman of the county's Republican Central Committee, which will recommend a choice for Rzepkowski's seat to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The governor will appoint a replacement to serve through 2006.

Gilleland said last night that he intends to pursue the vacancy.

Rzepkowski - who had signed an anti-slots pledge during the campaign - voted this month in favor of allowing slot machines at horse racing tracks when the bill came before the House Ways and Means Committee. Ehrlich had been pushing for slot machines as a way to close the state's budget gap, but the measure failed.

Rzepkowski, the House's chief deputy minority whip, said yesterday that his vote was unrelated to his expression of interest in - and selection for - an administration post.

"My slots vote was wholly about the fiscal crisis of the state," he said, adding that his record shows he is far more opposed to taxes than gambling.

"I knew my future status in the administration wasn't going to change," he said.

Rzepkowski, who lives in Glen Burnie, has links to the governor. He said he served as the master of ceremonies for Ehrlich's congressional re-election party in 2000. He said Ehrlich passed his name to Melissaratos, who offered him the job early this month.

Melissaratos said the delegate will provide the political savvy needed to help preserve Maryland's defense funding.

"We don't want to lose any command from any of those installations in Maryland," Melissaratos said.

Sun staff writer Rona Kobell contributed to this article.

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