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A former director of the county Housing Authority, who won the respect of tenants and federal officials for his tireless, outspoken leadership, is a main candidate to take over the troubled agency.

Donald Rosenshine, an Annapolis resident who headed the agency from 1978 until 1985, is being considered to fill the executive director's post.He was one of four candidates picked from a pool of 260 applicants, said Charles St. Lawrence, chairman of the governing board.

A search committee chaired by Walter Chitwood, assistant to County Executive Robert R. Neall, narrowed the list to 20 applicants and interviewed them in the last two weeks. The authority now is checking references, but remains "some distance" from appointing a new director, St. Lawrence said.

"Frankly, the right selection is better thana quick selection," he said.

Three executive directors have come and gone since Rosenshine left in May 1985 to start his owndevelopment business. The last, June C. Waller, arrived in summer 1989 with hopes of rebuilding the agency, but was dismissed six months ago.

Herpredecessor, Vincent O. Leggett, resigned in January 1989 amid reports of lavish spending and budget irregularities, including buying a four-wheel drive vehicle laden with options and installing a luxury executive suite.

By the time he took a post with Anne Arundel Community College, the authority's reserve fund had fallen by almost a third. He also left in his wake growing vacancy rates in the seven low-income housing projects.

Waller made plans to achieve the occupancy standard of 97 percent recommended by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But only 82 percent of the agency's 1,062 units were rented when she returned to Colorado in January.

The authority has made substantial progress in renovating and leasing the boarded-up units in the last six months. But Sandra A. Ervin, acting director and chief of finance, cautioned that theagency is older and has more infrastructure problems than when Rosenshine was director.

"He's a nice guy, a people person," she said. "He was very concerned about the tenants."

Rosenshine currently is interim director for Helping Hand, a non-profit agency for the homeless in Annapolis, and serves on the county's Affordable Housing Coalition.

Janet S. Owens, who headed the authority for a year after Rosenshine and now is an Orphans Court judge, agreed that he was extremely popular with the tenants.

"He is a very direct, outgoing, outspoken sort of person," shesaid. "People either loved him passionately or they'd get mad."

Owens said she believes he would be "a positive influence" in dealing with the authority's long-standing problems. She agreed with a housing authority employee, who asked not to be identified, who described Rosenshine as "a fighter, who would go down to HUD in Baltimore and just camp out until he was heard."

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