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Balto. Co. to give hiring preference to returning veterans

By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

7:40 PM EST, January 24, 2012

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Baltimore County will begin giving priority to veterans when making local government hiring decisions, officials announced Tuesday, a policy focused particularly on those returning from conflicts overseas.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the decision at the National Guard's Gen. Harry C. Ruhl Armory in Towson, surrounded by uniformed soldiers and yellow ribbons.

"We want to make the return home for these men and women who have fought so valiantly as easy and successful as possible," Kamenetz said.

When the county is selecting from a group of candidates that it considers equally qualified for a job, it will select military veterans above other applicants under the new policy. Such preference for veterans is permitted under the county code and is in line with state and federal policies, officials said.

Sgt. Leila McLean has a full-time job but knows many National Guard colleagues who are looking for employment. She promised to spread the word.

"These are hard times for so many of us," she said. "This sounds like a really good opportunity."

Lt. Edmund G. Schwartz, a county firefighter who recently served a tour in Iraq with the National Guard, said he believes many veterans will take advantage of the offer.

"Absolutely, a lot of veterans will want these good-paying jobs," Schwartz said. "These soldiers will be a real asset to the county. They already have the best training in the world."

The priority policy grew from the county's 6-year-old Homefront program, which offers services to returning military personnel. Veterans are a vital resource for the county, Kamenetz said.

"This is the least we can do for these individuals who have given so much," he said. "They will bring to us outstanding qualities and their experience from military service."

The county has tailored many of its job-training and employment-counseling services to veterans' needs. Officials urged veterans to visit the Homefront website at bcpl.info/veterans. It lists available services in education, housing, health care, counseling and employment.

Each of the county's three workforce development centers employs a counselor dedicated to assisting veterans.

Maryland is home to about 465,000 veterans, including 6,500 National Guard members, with 1,000 of their number currently deployed around the world.

"This jobs program is important to returning vets," said Adjutant Gen. James Adkins of the Maryland National Guard. "They sign off on readiness when we send them overseas, and they sign off at re-entry that they are ready to come home."

The prospect of a good job can mean a successful re-entry, he said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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