Mayor urges quick interim hire

Westminster public works and planning director was called up

city also seeks manager


Faced with the imminent departure of the city's public works and planning director, Westminster Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson is urging City Council members to act quickly to interview and hire an interim replacement.

Thomas B. Beyard, whose management is integral to two of the city's busiest departments, departs in mid-June to go on active duty with the Maryland Army National Guard. He will be absent for nearly 18 months.

"The timeline is pretty tight," Ferguson said. "I'm concerned that the interim is in place in time to get somewhere up the learning curve so that no vacuum is left upon Tom's departure."

Nearly 10 people had applied for the interim position by the deadline last Monday.

The council is also moving forward with plans, approved two months ago, to create a full-time city manager position. The city has hired a national search firm, the Mercer Group Inc., which will receive about $22,500 to have a candidate in place by mid-summer. Officials are also working on amendments that would include the new position in the city code.

When the council installed a city administrator in 1991, that position soon fell victim to political controversy, with Mayor W. Benjamin Brown at odds with the council on balancing administrative powers.

Ferguson doesn't foresee those problems now. Westminster's part-time mayor will remain the chief executive. A city manager would oversee department heads, Ferguson said.

"We're all on the same page about how the roles should be laid out," he said. "We'll make sure the roles are clearly delineated in the code."

During Beyard's deployment, largely in Kuwait, the interim replacement may not be necessary for the full 18 months, Ferguson said. A well-qualified city manager could gradually take on some of Beyard's responsibilities in planning and public works until he returns from active duty.

Beyard is currently focusing on four construction projects worth about $15 million, he said. Those include the West Green Street renovation, the additional water treatment plant on Old Manchester Road, the pipeline from the Medford Quarry to supplement the city's water supply during droughts, and a community walking trail. The water issue remains pressing as the city reviews the Westminster Environs Community Comprehensive Plan and tries to match demand with future water supplies.

The future of economic development in Westminster depends upon securing water and sewer infrastructure, Beyard said.

"Without those two resources, we're going to have a difficult time supporting all the other things we want to do," Beyard said.

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