The end of the 2014 General Assembly session in Annapolis will mark the end of 48 years in public service for Howard County Sen. Jim Robey.
Robey, an Elkridge Democrat, confirmed Tuesday, April 16, that he will retire next year after eight years in the Maryland Senate.
"I just feel like it's time to leave public service," Robey said. "I've given a lot, I just feel it's time to step aside and let someone else step in."
Robey, 72, has served in the Senate since 2007 representing District 13, which covers much of southern Howard County.
He previously served two terms as Howard County Executive from 1998 to 2006. He also was the Howard County Chief of Police from 1991 to 1998 and a county police officer from 1966 to 1991.
The Howard County native said he looks back on his years of service with no regrets.
"I've made a lot of people happy and I've made a lot of people unhappy, but that's the nature of the business we're in," Robey said. "We can't make everyone happy."
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said Robey brought "good government" that focused on quality of life, public education and public safety as county executive.
"I have the utmost respect for him and for all he has done in Howard," he said.
Ulman, who served on the County Council during Robey's second term as executive, said Robey laid the groundwork for "an incredible police department that has tremendous integrity."
In 2007, Ulman dedicated the fire and police training center in Marriottsville as the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Center as recognition of Robey's service and commitment to funding the center.
"It is absolutely indispensable," Ulman said of the center. "It would not be there without Sen. Robey."
Robey said he "thoroughly enjoyed" his time in Annapolis, but acknowledged the legislature has made some tough decisions over the past two years.
Robey estimated he had received more threats over the last three months than he had in 32 years of law enforcement because of his support for Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control package.
He said that was not a factor in his retirement.
Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat, said one of Robey's greatest strengths was making tough decisions.
"That's what he is all about. He did the right thing that had to be done, whether it was popular or not," Kasemeyer said.
In 2001, Robey raised the county's income tax rate from one of the state's lowest to the highest allowed, not a popular decision.
Robey said that was a "very difficult" decision for him, but he felt that it was his responsibility to maintain the county's quality of life, which included investments in education and public safety.
Kasemeyer said Robey's retirement will be a "great loss" for the Senate.
"He was a good consensus builder and just a very reasonable individual," he said. "It will be a really significant loss."
Kasemeyer said he and Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller lobbied Robey to reconsider his decision.
"Within any organization, you want to keep talented, quality people," Kasemeyer said. "He is a valued member because he is smart, reasonable, and understands the issues."
Robey acknowledged that choosing to retire was not an easy decision after discussing the possibility with his wife, Janet, over the last six to eight months.
"Of course it was difficult," he said. "This [public service] is what I've done my entire life."
Robey plans on staying out of politics unless someone he supports asks for his assistance on the campaign trail.
Del. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat who co-chairs the Howard County Delegation with Robey, described his colleague as the type of lawmaker that you go to when you need to solve problems.
"He is one of the finest public servants that I've ever had the privilege to work with," he said.
Guzzone, a County Council member during Robey's eight years as County Executive, said it's hard to pinpoint one accomplishment of Robey's that stands out.
He acknowledged Robey's support of public safety and education, including support for school construction funds and the hiring of more teachers.
Robey made public education a priority during his administration, allocating funding for the construction of eight new schools and the renovations of others during his tenure as county executive.
"I think it proves itself today that education is probably one of the most important things we've done in the county," Robey said.
Guzzone said Robey's efforts as county executive laid the groundwork for the success Howard County is seeing today.
"He helped build what has become probably one of the greatest places to live, work, and learn in the country," he said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun