Edward Hopkins, a retired lieutenant with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, who has been its chief spokesman for the last year and a half, has been appointed chief deputy, effective July 1.

Hopkins will replace Col. Greg Carlevaro, who is retiring to become a college professor, according to Sheriff Jesse Bane.

Bane announced the Hopkins appointment at the Harford County Council meeting Tuesday evening.

"Eddie has everything I am looking for in the chief deputy position," Bane said in a phone interview after the meeting. "I have to be careful who I put there. It has to be someone people in the agency can relate to, people have to trust Eddie, have faith in him. People have to think the chief deputy would be fair. Eddie has a lot of those qualities."

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Hopkins said he is thrilled and honored to have been chosen as Bane's chief deputy.

"I have an opportunity to be part of an organization and help lead and direct that organization and it's an opportunity I could not pass up," he said. "Whether it's five months or five years, I'm honored to serve in the position regardless."

The sheriff, who is the county's chief law enforcement officer, is elected. Bane, a Democrat, is running for his third term this year. He is unopposed in the primary election and will face the winner of the Republican primary between John Ryan and Jeff Gahler in the November general election, and Bob Peck, who is unaffiliated.

The shake up at the top of the Sheriff's Office appeared to catch many people by surprise. Hopkins, who is a Republican, had been approached by several people about running for the council presidency being vacated by Billy Boniface. He declined those overtures, he said.

He also is not prepared to abdicate his role as Bel Air town commissioner because the voters of Bel Air elected him to a four-year term.

"I serve the voters of Bel Air, who elected me, and I'm obligated to serve. To leave sooner than the term they voted me in for wouldn't be appropriate," he said, saying he thought it was the "ultimate compliment" to have someone ask you to lead the county into the next decade.

Council president requires full-time dedication, Hopkins said. And he wasn't sure, from a financial position, he would be able to be council president and have another full-time job to provide a college education for his three sons.

"When you work all your life to do good, and someone makes that kind of suggestion for you, it really hits home that you've made that kind of impact and they recognize your skill sets," he said.

Not a political move

Bane admitted that Hopkins is very popular around Bel Air, if not most of Harford County, but said his appointment has nothing to do with politics.

"If I were making an appointment because it is an election year, I would have contacted Bob Ehrlich and asked him if he wanted to be my chief deputy," Bane said, noting the former governor remains very popular in Harford.

"This was not for political reasons. I don't run the office with politics in mind," Bane said. "For 42 years, it's always been my desire to move the agency ahead as far as we can. It's always been my desire to focus on the job, not the politics."

He added it would have been unfair to Hopkins if the appointment were political, and contrary to his own moral compass.

"I run the office the same way in a political year as I do in any other year," Bane said.

As chief deputy, Hopkins will earn around $123,000 a year; he makes about $70,000 as the spokesman for the agency, Bane said.

Hopkins joined the Sheriff's Office in 1976 when he was 19 and rose through the ranks, retiring after 27 years in 2003 at the rank of lieutenant.