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."
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.
He served as a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, both as a deputy from 1994 to 2002 and later as a civilian following his retirement from 2003 to 2005.
After serving as the director of communications for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services from 2005 to 2007 and deputy director of operations for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency from 2007 to 2012, Hopkins returned to the sheriff's office in November 2012 to again become public information officer and chief spokesman.
Hopkins does not have current police certifications, Bane said, adding that he will likely have Hopkins take the necessary steps to obtain them, even though the chief deputy job is more of an executive position rather than patrol.
Long community service
Hopkins, a lifelong resident of Bel Air, is chief of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, which he's been a member of for 40 years, and has been a Bel Air town commissioner since 2007, serving as the town's mayor from 2011 to 2013. He has a master's degree in public administration with a minor in police management from the University of Baltimore.
When Carlevaro's retirement was announced, someone suggested to Hopkins that he talk to the sheriff about the position, but Hopkins said he was happy in his job as spokesman for the agency and figured there was someone in the agency more seasoned for the position, and he thought nothing more about it.
"Several days later, the sheriff asked me to come to his office. I was thinking I was going to write a press release, so I was prepared to take notes," Hopkins said.
"Then he presents me a scenario about the agency. Then a couple minutes in Hopkins realized the sheriff wasn't asking his opinion on who it should be, he was asking if I would be."
"It's rare to catch me speechless. But I was, I was speechless. I was stifled. And I was honored," Hopkins said.
When he joined the sheriff's office at 19 years old, Hopkins goal was to finish his career as a major. Had he not been offered a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to work for then Gov. Robert Ehrlich at emergency management, he probably would have met his goal.
"Now I'm going back to my bucket list. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to have this type of leadership at an agency I've loved and enjoyed working for, for so many years, all my life, really," Hopkins said.
Run for office?
Hopkins hasn't ruled out a run for sheriff someday, but "it's too early to make that call."
"I don't know. Now I'm happy if I'm successful in the position I've been appointed to," he said. "It is something I would like to consider in a few years if I'm successful."
As the new chief deputy, Hopkins may have to give up, or at least scale back, some of his other activities.
He is assessing whether, in his new role, he can still be chief of Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, which has been as much a part of his life, if not more, than his time with the sheriff's office.
"I have to take a look at my new job responsibilities and contrast those with the responsibilities I have at the firehouse and determine what's best," Hopkins said.
He did the same thing with his role as town commissioner, and the town attorney told him he does not see a conflict, so Hopkins will continue to serve the Town of Bel Air.
Bane, who has known Hopkins his entire career, said Hopkins wasn't the first person he had in mind to take over as second-in-command. The sheriff said he also was considering two of his majors.
"But as I thought more and more about this office and the position, Eddie seemed to be most logical choice for me," Bane said.
As chief deputy, Hopkins will be "running the show" when Bane is not around.
The sheriff's office is the people's office, "we work for the people," Bane said. "Eddie gets that."
In a lot of ways, Hopkins and Bane are a lot alike, Bane said.
"He thinks like me, he believes in my philosophy, he wants to take care of people, he wants to make sure the public gets the best service it can," he said, adding he wants a chief deputy who is a visionary, "someone who can see what is coming in the future. Eddie has always been able to do that."
Before announcing the appointment to the county council Tuesday, Bane said, he told the two majors whom he had been considering for the position. Bane's choice was well-received by one, not the other, he said.
"Every time I do a transfer, make an appointment or a promotion, there are people who get upset and people who are happy," he said.
Carlevaro, who as chief deputy has oversight of the Harford County Detention Center, will become a professor in the criminal justice program at Harford Community College, where he has been a faculty member for many years, according to a press release from the sheriff's office.
Also retiring is Maj. Dale Stonesifer, who has 27 years with the sheriff's office, who has worked uniform patrol on the uniformed drug interdiction team, covert operations, criminal intelligence, the Narcotics Task Force and other departments within the office.
Stonesifer has accepted an position with R.L. Oatman and Associates, a Towson-based executive protection and risk assessment firm he's worked for part-time for 18 years.