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Several of former Harford executive's top aides have followed him to state government

David Craig served a record nine years and four-plus months as Harford County's chief executive and when he left office last December, very few of those who served as his top advisors stayed behind with the county.

Like Craig, who became secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning under Gov. Larry Hogan in January, several of his former top aides are working in state government.

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On July 24, Hogan named Russell J. Strickland, Craig's former director of emergency services, to head the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and while Strickland is the first member of Craig's former cabinet to receive a state cabinet level job under Hogan, four others also landed with the state, as did one of Craig's former spokespersons.

A few former Craig aides stayed on with the county under Craig's successor, Barry Glassman, while others retired or entered the private sector.

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Pete Gutwald, who was Craig's director of planning for most of his tenure, moved on to the City of Annapolis, becoming planning director there in December.

"It's going great; there's a lot of great people here and a lot of interesting work," Gutwald said Monday over the phone from his office.

Gutwald said he is still living in Harford County and commuting daily, "but I'm looking; there are a lot of night meetings...it's a little tough driving home at midnight."

He said there are both differences and similarities between his current and former posts. In Annapolis, he said, the planning and zoning process is "more regulated," particularly with regard to historic preservation regulations and architectural standards. There are annexation requests to review that he is seeing from the opposite side from when such requests were pending in Harford.

Though Annapolis may represent a small scale compared to Harford County, some issues never change, he said, in particular "traffic and trees."

Gutwald said there is a lot of infill development in existing neighborhoods in Annapolis and redevelopment occurring around the City Dock, "so it's picked up since I've been here."

In addition to Strickland, among the ex-Craig aides, who went to work elsewhere is Robert McCord, former county attorney, who works for Craig as director of operations at state planning. McCord served a record almost 11 years as the county's top legal advisor, including all of Craig's tenure.

Although he wasn't retained by Glassman when the county administrations changed in December, McCord continued working for the county for several more months as a temporary employee assigned to special projects once Glassman took over, the county executive's spokesperson, Cindy Mumby said.

Former treasurer Kathryn Hewitt joined the Maryland Office on Aging, where she serves as director of its Fiscal Services Division.

Former county housing agency director Shawn Kingston works for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development as deputy director for special loans.

Jim Ports, who served as acting head of the county Department of Community Services from September until the end of the Craig administration, is deputy secretary of operations for the Maryland Department of Transportation. Ports, who ran Harford Transit during most of his time working for the county, worked previously for MDOT.

Four long-serving Craig department heads retired from county government at the end of his administration: Mary Chance, director of administration; Deborah Henderson, procurement; Richard Lynch, inspections, licenses and permits; and Arden McClune, parks and recreation.

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Chance, who was with the county for 28 years, works for the Jones Junction auto dealerships in Fallston, where she is involved in community relations and charitable giving. She said she is happy with a new dimension to her life, one that is less stressful than her former position.

"It's going well," Chance said. "I'm enjoying it. I like that I am still connected to the non-profit community."

Chance served as the county's director of community services before becoming Craig's top cabinet member during his final term. With Jones Junction, she is working on setting up a charitable foundation.

"I certainly miss the folks with the county, but I was ready for a change and to let somebody else have all the responsibility," she said. "It's really been a perfect change, because I had said I couldn't go from 150 miles an hour to zero."

Chance said she works fewer hours, which gives her more time to spend with her daughter and three granddaughters, who live near her.

"I love Harford County; I loved working for the county, in particular the community service part," she said. "I don't miss the politics."

Three former Craig cabinet members, who left office between 2013 and September 2014, were Scott Gibson, human resources; Aaron Tomarchio, chief of staff; and Beth Hendrix, community services.

Hendrix, who was replaced by Ports, went to work for the federal government, while Tomarchio and Gibson took private sector jobs. Gibson was succeeded by his deputy, Janet Schaub, who stayed on as deputy human resources director in the Glassman administration, but has since retired.

The former Craig cabinet members who continue to work for Glassman are Tim Whittie, public works; Ted Pibil, information technology; and Jim Richardson, who moved from head of the office of economic development under Craig to human resources director under Glassman. Richardson served as human resources director under Craig's predecessor as county executive, Jim Harkins.

In addition, Nancy Giorno, who was Craig's legislative liaison, stayed with the county as an independent contractor working on projects for the new administration, including drafting state legislation, according to Mumby.

Robert Thomas, who was Craig's chief spokesperson from 2007 until moving to a community outreach post with the county Department of Emergency Services in mid-2013, left county employment this spring and became director of media relations for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Sherrie Johnson, who was Craig's spokesperson in the final 18 months of his term, briefly worked for the Harford County Council at the end of 2014 and then left in January to become public information officer for Prince George's County Public Schools.

"I'm enjoying it; it's really going well," Johnson said in a phone interview from her office in Upper Marlboro.

"As a former education reporter, I'm enjoying the positive stories," Johnson, who was a TV news reporter before coming to Harford, said of her new job.

Johnson also said she was "glad to hear" so many of her former Harford colleagues landed new jobs after leaving county government.

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