Smith likely to pick two black officials

Balto. County executive confirms talks with council about possible nominees

Move applauded by coalition

Human resources, employment office positions remain open

April 29, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Amid criticism from Baltimore County's growing black community that county government isn't doing enough to hire and promote minorities, County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is set to nominate two politically connected African-Americans to head the county's Department of Human Resources and Office of Employment and Training.

Smith confirmed yesterday that he has been in discussions with the County Council about nominating Theresa Stokes Hill, a 23-year human resources veteran and cousin of former Baltimore mayoral candidate Carl Stokes, to head the Department of Human Resources. He is also in discussions about nominating Barry Williams, a former Randallstown High School principal and brother of Del. Adrienne A. Jones, to lead Employment and Training.

Smith said the prospective appointments are part of his desire to make county government more inclusive and are not a reaction to the newly formed Countywide African-American Coalition, which met for the first time in Catonsville two weeks ago and has called for the hiring and promotion of more minorities.

"I think throughout the campaign I talked about bringing everyone into participation in the county," Smith said.

Although there is no timetable for formal nominations, rumors of these appointments have been circulating in county government for weeks, before the coalition's first meeting.

Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat and the first African-American to serve on the council, said last week that he wanted the executive to fill three of the four unfilled appointed positions in county government with African-Americans. There is only one African-American department head, Dr. Michelle A. Leverett of the Health Department.

"I'm elated at the prospect of him nominating two African-American department heads," Oliver said. "If they're confirmed by the council, we would then have three African-American department heads, which is more than I think any other county executive has had in Baltimore County."

There are 16 county departments, so three African-American department heads would almost mirror the county's population, which is more than 20 percent black.

Hill, who lives in Baltimore, has been a human resources executive with Baltimore-area firms since 1980 and is a human resources manager at CitiFinancial. She declined to comment until she is formally nominated.

Williams, a lifelong Baltimore County resident, has served in administrative positions in the Baltimore County and Baltimore City school systems since 1989. He is principal of Southern High School in Baltimore.

He said he has discussed the position with Smith but is focused on running his school. He said the job interests him, though, because of his background in education.

"I am very much interested in ... helping folks become better equipped and improving their plight in life by becoming better trained and better informed," Williams said.

Harold Gordon, one of the organizers of the African-American Coalition, said he knows Williams well from his days at Randallstown and is pleased to see such a "capable guy" as a possible nominee.

Though he said he does not know Hill, her depth of experience in the field is comforting, Gordon said.

"The only requirement from the community is that we have qualified people and people that are actually going to do something," Gordon said. "When I say `do something,' I mean really try to do something about diversity and inclusion in the employment ranks."

Smith said he was intent on diversifying county government but didn't want to nominate African-Americans just for the sake of it.

"I was looking for the highest-quality people," Smith said. "That's why I looked and looked and looked, and interviewed and interviewed and interviewed."

County Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, said he is impressed with Hill's qualifications and has long known Williams and admired the job he did at Randallstown High.

"He came in a situation where there was a lot of confusion and student discipline problems and parental dissatisfaction such that I was getting almost daily complaints about activities at Randallstown High," Kamenetz said. "When Barry became principal, those complaints dissipated to almost zero."

Oliver and Gordon said the human resources and employment training departments could play an important role in making the upper ranks of the county work force more diverse.

Penny McCrimmon, another organizer of the coalition, said that these possible nominations are a good sign, provided they are the first step in rethinking county government, not the last.

"I'm glad to see he's making some movement," McCrimmon said. "The problem is, we need to do so much more."

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