Anne Arundel drug czar Huntley J. Cross is leaving the limelight to go back to school.
Nineteen months after taking over the Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Cross is ending his television spots to return to a post hepreviously held with the county school system. He will become assistant for pupil services as of July 1, said Louise Hayman, spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall.
A veteran school administrator, Cross was praised widely as the driving force behind the school system's substance abuse program before former County Executive O. James Lighthizer appointed him drug czar in October 1988.
Cross' decision to return to his old job comes less than two months after Neall decided to place the Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs -- formerly an independent agency under the county executive -- under the county Health Department.
The move was prompted by a report from Neall's transition team that praised the agency's visibility but criticized its overall effectiveness. Jeanette Wessel, who led thecommittee that studied the county executive's office, said the agency "has excelled in public relations, but goal-setting and actual accomplishments weremarginal at best."
Cross has defended his agency's work and maintained the move was not a demotion. He emphasized that Neall and Health Officer Thomas Andrews wanted to bring the county's prevention and treatment programs together.
David Almy, Neall's deputy chief of staff and former campaignmanager, will become acting drug czar. It's unclear whether a permanent replacement will be hired.
Asked whether the move to the Health Department influenced his decision to leave,Cross said it "was not a major factor." But he acknowledged the drugprogram would be run differently in the future.
"I think this county over the last 12 or 13 years made a major commitment to be involved in substance abuse," he said. "Hopefully,I made my mark in my time."
Cross, 49, was known as an energetic and enthusiastic leader, who brought the drug war into people's homes with talk shows and a series of student commercials aired by Jones Intercable system. He was constantly on the go -- conducting anti-drug rallies and school programs, meeting with community leaders, educators, parents and students.
"Being out in front, working with our grass-roots organizations
is probably what I'm proudest of most," he said.
Superintendent of Schools Larry L. Lorton could not be reached for comment on Cross' return to his previous job. The school system currently has a hiring freeze, but Cross said he actually was "on loan" to the county government for the last 19 months.
Heading back to school won't mean a cut in his annual salary of $63,900, he said.