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Harford department heads Chance, McClune step down after decades in government

After spending 28 years with the Harford County government, the last four as director of administration, Mary Chance will be retiring Dec. 1. She plans to the Jones Junction auto dealerships as a community liaison leader.
After spending 28 years with the Harford County government, the last four as director of administration, Mary Chance will be retiring Dec. 1. She plans to the Jones Junction auto dealerships as a community liaison leader. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

When a new administration takes over Dec. 1, two longtime Harford County government employees, who rose through the ranks to become leaders of major departments, will be among those ending their careers.

Director of Administration Mary Chance and Parks and Recreation Director Arden McClune are stepping down after a collective 58 years behind some of the biggest projects and most important services in the county.

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Outgoing Harford County Executive David Craig said he was happy to keep both around when he assumed the top spot in 2005.

"I had worked with each even before I was county executive and knew that they were experienced and dedicated," Craig said via e-mail."I was very pleased when Mary and Arden said 'yes' to serve in directors of the two departments.They did a great job."

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Chance, who is 67, will bid farewell Dec. 1, noting she is retiring voluntarily and not being asked to leave.

"This is not one of those 'You're not welcome' situations," Chance explained.

After spending 28 years with the county, the last four at the helm of administration, Chance will not just be sitting quietly at home.

She plans to continue working, becoming a full-time community liaison leader at Jones Junction dealership.

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"They realize they have been supported and blessed by this community," Chance said of Jones Junction's outreach efforts.

She added that even a new full-time job will be a step down, work-wise, from her demanding roles with the county.

"Anything after this job is a part-time job," Chance said of her time as director of administration, explaining she is "looking forward to a little less stress" and to spending time with "three beautiful grandchildren."

Despite the high-profile job, for which Chance is earning $139,924 annually, she said it has been a great opportunity.

"My time with the county has been really, sincerely, a true blessing for me. I have loved every minute of it and it's like leaving a major part of my family behind," she said.

"It's a little bit bittersweet but it's definitely my choice and it's the closing of one chapter in my life and the opening of a new chapter," she said.

Chance first began working with the Office on Aging before becoming director of the Community Services department, where she spent most of her time.

She especially recalled the opening of the McFaul Activity Center, which she noted faced a lot of skepticism as the first such multipurpose center in Harford.

"Initially people thought, 'You are going to put kids and seniors together? What?' And now they are the best investment; they are used seven days a week," Chance said of the centers. "I just wish we could build a couple more."

Chance said the growth of the Harford Transit bus system and the recent opening of a new Emergency Services Building are two more items she is especially glad to have helped create.

The emergency building, which represents bringing together many county institutions and rescue agencies, "is huge," Chance said, adding it will be able to deliver much better services to county residents.

Harford Transit was originally focused on seniors, helping them get to, for example, doctors' appointments, she said.

Now, she said, "it's a real system and it's grown, and I am really happy about that."

After three decades of working to improve county services, Chance said she is ready to move on.

"It's time for a change and I am not feeling at all bad about my decision," Chance said. "I am going to miss the people, but it's time for new blood to come in and serve the people."

McClune, meanwhile, is getting ready to move out of the century-old office she has occupied since taking over as parks and recreation director after Joe Pfaff retired in February 2010.

McClune, 63, whose salary is $119,600, started with the Harford County government as a planner in 1984.

With a background in urban and regional planning, she moved to the county from North Carolina after her husband was transferred with the Kmart corporation.

In 1988, she became chief of current planning and comprehensive planning, and in 1995, she was appointed by then-County Executive Eileen Rehrmann as planning and zoning director.

In 1998, McClune was chosen by then-County Executive James Harkins to move to parks and recreation, where she has been since.

"It has been very interesting to see the county grow, to see county government brought up to be much more modern," McClune said, recalling when the planning and zoning department got one personal computer in 1985 that employees had to share.

"The technology has been tremendous," she said about changes over the years. One notable change for her department is progress in GIS, or geographic information system, which she said can now details on everything from topography to forest cover.

McClune said she has watched Harford grow in population and diversity over the years, but noted she has been glad to see the county largely stay within the parameters of the development envelope set in 1977, which focuses growth on the Route 24 and Route 40 areas.

McClune oversees 100 employees in parks and recreation, 40 to 50 percent of whom are maintenance staff, she said.

She said she is especially proud of the Annie's Playground project, which opened in 2005 in Fallston.

"That was an incredible effort," she said of the "community-built park."

Like Chance, McClune said she was also proud of facilities like the Havre de Grace Activity Center, the Edgewood Recreation and Community Center and the Veronica "Roni" Chenowith Activities Center in Fallston.

She said getting groups to share those facilities has been really impressive.

"We have done a really great job with that," she said, adding the department has also improved relationships with the public school system, although it is difficult to compete with high schools for access to their facilities.

Other projects from McClune's department in recent years have included plans for an event center at Cedar Lane Regional Park and the ongoing construction of a horse riding area, the Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding Center, in the Havre de Grace area.

McClune said finding more ways for people to get outdoors is especially important to her, noting the Ma & Pa Trail "is probably our most visited site."

As residents continue pushing to connect the final leg of the trail, she is confident it can be done.

"We have one option that we have been working with the property owner and we remain optimistic that that will continue to happen," she said of the extension.

Like Chance, McClune is also hoping to spend more time with her family after she steps down.

Her husband, Tony McClune, who has been with the planning and zoning department since 1988, is optimistic he can stay on, she said.

"I plan to spend time with my daughters and my eight grandchildren, who range in age from 22 down to 15-month-old twin girls," McClune said. "Tony and I love to travel, so I will be planning trips for us."

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She called Harford an ideal place to spend the majority of her long career.

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"I have enjoyed it," McClune said of her time in county government. "Harford County grew to be my home very quickly."

The county, she added, "has been the perfect size government to work in. We are big enough to have assets and do things… and we are not so large that we are pigeonholed into doing this little piece of the puzzle."

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