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Ex-Harford county executive Harkins to retire from Maryland Environmental Service post

Harford County resident Jim Harkins, right, is shown congratulating County Executive Barry Glassman following Glassman's inauguration in December 2014. Harkins, who served as Harford's executive from 1998-2005, announced his retirement Monday as head the Maryland Environmental Service, an independent state agency he has headed almost 11 years.
Harford County resident Jim Harkins, right, is shown congratulating County Executive Barry Glassman following Glassman's inauguration in December 2014. Harkins, who served as Harford's executive from 1998-2005, announced his retirement Monday as head the Maryland Environmental Service, an independent state agency he has headed almost 11 years. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Harford County resident Jim Harkins has announced his retirement as head of the Maryland Environmental Service, the independent state government agency he has headed since 2005.

A Pylesville resident, Harkins, who is 62, joined MES about midway through his second term as Harford County Executive, a post to which he was first elected in 1998 and re-elected to in 2002. Prior to that, he served eight years in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1991-99 and represented northern Harford County. He also served as a Harford County deputy sheriff for 25 years.

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"My wife Debbie retired a few years ago. Our two daughters, Andrea and Stephanie, are now grown and have each become very successful in their careers. We also now have two grandsons, Grant and Emory, who are the love of our lives," Harkins said in a statement released Monday. "It is my hope to join Debbie in spending more time with them and our family."

"I also plan on working on my bucket list of travel plans (some of those on two wheels)," added Harkins, a motorcycle enthusiast.

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"The recent death of my former Harford County Sheriff's Department colleagues has reminded us all how short life really is," the statement continued. "So it is with a whole lot of pride that I say thank you. It has been one amazing ride!"

Harkins also thanked the three governors he served under, Robert Ehrlich, Martin O'Malley and Larry Hogan. He was originally appointed by Ehrlich, a fellow Republican and state legislative colleague, but lasted for the full eight years of Democrat O'Malley's administration.

Though its director and a majority of its board serve at the pleasure of the governor, MES operates independently, providing a variety of services to government and private sector clients, including water and wastewater treatment, solid waste management, composting, recycling, dredged material management, hazardous materials cleanup, stormwater services and renewable energy, according to the agency's website.

MES is self-sustaining financially and receives no direct funding from Maryland state government.

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Last summer, Harford County government entered into a contract with MES for it to take over the county's solid waste operations, including the landfill at Scarboro.

Harkins noted in his statement that when he joined MES, the agency had about 400 employees and operating losses of $2 million annually.

"Those first couple of years were very difficult. With the help of a great team of employees we were able to turn those dark days around," Harkins said. "We established a solid business plan to set the tone for our renaissance."

"For the past eight years, MES has steadily grown," he continued. "Last year, we hit 8 percent higher than our projected budget returns. This year we are 10 percent above even that. Those numbers mean budget savings to our customers: state, county and municipal governments. That translates to lower taxes for Maryland citizens."

"Our workforce of 400 has more than doubled, to 850 employees," he said. "Make no mistake, these great numbers are a direct result of the tremendous work ethic of the MES employees. They genuinely care and strive to improve the environment of our state. I am proud to have been their leader for these many years; they are amazing."

Harkins has served on the Board of Trustees of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System since 2004, where he is a member of the Audit Committee and is chair of the Administrative Committee. He has served as the president of the Maryland Association of Counties, and currently serves on the Maryland Shock Trauma Board of Visitors, the Board of Directors for the University of Maryland, Upper Chesapeake Health and on the Board of Directors of Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.

Harkins was traveling Monday and unavailable for additional comment, MES Communications Director Christina Garrigan said. According to Garrigan, the resignation takes effect March 15.

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