County gains budget director with wide experience

Ex-state official Seeman most recently worked for Prince George's schools

July 27, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After five months without a permanent budget director, Howard County has hired Jonathan Seeman, Prince George's County schools' budget director since 2003 and a former state official. He begins his new job Monday.

The choice satisfies the county's need for an experienced person familiar with programs and budgets on state and local levels, and Seeman's desire for a new challenge.

"For me, this was a step up, in that I was working for a county school system and this was a job with a county government," Seeman said. He had been looking for a county government job with a broad range of responsibilities since leaving state government, he said.

"It's really the breadth of programs. The opportunity to work on the whole range of programs and services that is a challenge and something I was looking forward to," he said.

Seeman, 54, replaces Raymond S. Wacks, who announced his retirement in January and left March 2 after three decades as Howard County's fiscal wizard to take a similar job in Baltimore. Gale Benson has been acting budget director since then.

Raquel Sanudo, Howard County's chief administrative officer, said Seeman was chosen from about 40 initial applicants who were narrowed to a group of six finalists by a six-member committee of government officials and private business people.

"He's clearly a top-notch professional," Sanudo said about Seeman. He stood out from the group, she said, because of his wide experience.

"He had a big-picture perspective of budgeting as well as governance," she said.

In taking a job with just 16 months remaining in the final term of County Executive James N. Robey, Seeman takes a risk that Robey's successor might want to choose his or her own budget director, but Sanudo said the job is not a political one.

"I think I was fortunate to find him, with only 16 months left in my term," Robey said, adding that Seeman's extensive experience was the big attraction. "I'm happy to have him."

Sanudo noted that in Howard, the budget officer has not changed with the political winds. Wacks served 30 years in the budget post, working for Democratic and Republican administrations.

Seeman lives in the Sandy Spring area of Montgomery County with his wife and two children, ages 7 and 18.

Prince George's County school board President Beatrice Tignor said Seeman has been an excellent employee.

Because of his experience in government budgeting, "the learning curve for him will be very short. He'll be missed. His expertise will be missed," she said. "Not only does he understand his budget, but he understands policy and politics. Those three are a strong combination."

Donna Hathaway Beck, a parent activist in Prince George's County and a former PTA president, warmly praised Seeman as a man who "had a reputation of being trustworthy and dealing straight."

Seeman said he will take a slight pay cut in the job switch, from $120,000 a year to $113,547 in the Howard job.

Sanudo said Seeman was a Prince George's County budget analyst starting in 1983, who later held a series of high-level state government jobs in the administration of then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat who was previously Prince George's County executive.

From 1995 through 1997, Seeman was deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

From 1997 to 1999, he was chief operating officer of the Maryland Transportation Authority, and then served as deputy secretary of operations for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene until 2003, when he returned to Prince George's for the school system job after Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took office.

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