Leopold appoints Callahan

Republican Arundel executive-elect names Democrat chief of staff, chooses new police chief

November 17, 2006|By Jamie Stiehm and Nia Henderson | Jamie Stiehm and Nia Henderson,Sun reporters

The Anne Arundel County executive-elect, Republican John R. Leopold, named a prominent Democrat as his chief of staff and replaced the veteran police chief yesterday as he began assembling a new Cabinet.

Leopold, 63, a five-term state legislator, appointed Dennis Callahan, a former Democratic mayor of Annapolis, as chief of staff.

The new executive said the decision to tap Callahan was a result of time spent together on the campaign trail this fall - Callahan lost in the Democratic primary for county executive to Sheriff George F. Johnson IV.

Callahan, 65, who summed up his style as "no-nonsense," served 7 1/2 years as recreation and parks director under Democratic County Executive Janet S. Owens and had endorsed Leopold.

"During the course of campaign forums, Dennis and I found a pleasant rapport," Leopold said after a brisk morning news conference. "Government is run on personal relationships. ... I've known most of these people for 20 years."

Leopold announced the appointments of Callahan and 18 others six days after absentee ballots sealed his win over Johnson.

In other appointments, Leopold announced that Deputy Police Chief James Teare Sr. will take over as chief of police from P. Thomas Shanahan, an Owens appointee who has filed his retirement papers.

Teare, an eight-year department veteran who commands the field operations bureau, was unavailable for comment.

As he prepares to succeed Owens Dec. 4, Leopold said he has strived for diversity and competence in making appointees. One of his appointments is a freshman Annapolis city council member, Democrat Wayne Taylor, an African-American who said he plans to resign his council seat to direct the county Department of Aging.

Seven of the key posts will be filled by minorities or women, said Rhonda Wardlow, a spokeswoman for Owens, who will keep her job with Leopold. Eight were held over from the Owens administration, including John Hammond, the budget officer; Comptroller William Brown; Ron Bowen, director of public works; and Frances Phillips, the health officer.

"This is a healthy combination of the old and the new, institutional knowledge as well as my vision," Leopold said. "This is one of the things I think about at 3 in the morning."

Cathleen M. Vitale, the Republican vice chairwoman of the County Council, said the choices signaled the moderate Republican executive-elect's determination to govern inclusively.

"John reaches into all four corners," she said. "This is characteristic of him. He also knows that when you clean house completely, you lose a lot of institutional memory."

In selecting Callahan, Leopold tapped a well-known politician with experience in city and county government. The pair also share an independent streak. While Leopold stressed his independence from developers during the fall campaign, Callahan bucked his party to endorse Leopold, saying that Johnson's support from Annapolis lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano should "send chills down everyone's spine." Bereano was convicted in 1994 of mail fraud.

Owens, who said Leopold consulted her about only one position, praised Teare's promotion yesterday.

"Jim Teare is held in respect by the rank and file and the community," she said.

Shanahan, 52, the police chief whom Owens appointed shortly after taking office eight years ago, had told associates he planned to retire at the end of her second term. He joined the department as a cadet in 1973.

"I told Owens more than a year ago that I was going to retire after the end of her administration," said Shanahan, who formally submitted his retirement papers this week. "I wanted to wait until after the elections so that the Police Department wouldn't be a campaign issue."

Recruiting to fill the 41 current vacancies out of a force of 684 will be the biggest challenge for the new chief, Shanahan said.

Among Shanahan's accomplishments were upgraded DNA technology and putting defibrillators in new police cars, Owens said.

All Owens' appointees, by protocol, formally submit their resignations to Leopold. About 45 government jobs are filled by the county executive, officials said.

But Leopold did not retain Carl O. Snowden, an aide to Owens and an outspoken civil rights activist who spearheaded a drive to build Maryland's first memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.

"I have not received his letter of resignation, but when I do, I will accept it," Leopold said after the news conference.

Snowden announced his resignation an hour after the news conference.

"I had already decided that there were other things that I wanted to do," he said, hinting that he had a new public sector job.

Snowden praised the appointment of Taylor, who expressed near-shock at his new job. "This was out of the clear blue sky for me," he said.

As a former toy-retail manager, he has no formal education or training in the geriatrics field. Yet as a former program director for Edgewood Social Programs for six years, he brings seniors programming and budget experience to the job.

In other appointments, Bob Leib, a former naval officer and education expert, was named special assistant for education and town centers, focusing on sprucing up Odenton, Parole and Glen Burnie.

Yevola Peters, a long-standing community activist, is the new community services director.

Leopold has not announced a decision regarding the fate of Ronald D. Blackwell, the county's first black fire chief, who was appointed by Owens in 2004.

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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