Joseph McCann, who as director of the county Recreation and Parks Department for the past 15 years saw it expand to where it became a nationally recognized model for other park systems, is resigning from the post.
Dennis H. Parkinson, the county chief administrative officer, said yesterday that McCann's resignation was a decision made on his own, and that no resignation date has been determined.
"He's leaving. We haven't cut him loose," Parkinson said.
After lengthy closed-door meetings, Parkinson said yesterday that he hopes McCann will remain in the $84,558-a-year post at least until a successor is appointed, or until work is completed on a parks department budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
He said that a key issue in choosing a successor will be how the county decidesto develop recreation and park lands, particularly the parcel being sought from federal officials at Fort Meade.
"We need to assess what the future of recreation and parks is all about. I really don't know how we're going to approach recruitment. I know we have to addressthe issue of what kind of recreation facilities we need in the West County area," Parkinson said.
McCann would not comment on his departure last night, but said he "maybe will have something in 48 hours."
Parkinson praised McCann as a tireless worker and "a phenomenal department head" who built up the department and the county recreation programs to a level that made them the envy of other counties.
"He is clearly a leader in the field of recreation and parks in the country," Parkinson said.
A Philadelphia native who lives on Kent Island, McCann is a triathlete who played football in high school and college and has been active in sports and the outdoors all his life.
He was budget director before being appointed director of parks andrecreation by former County Executive Robert A. Pascal 15 years ago.
The job meant overseeing a department of 106 employees and handing a myriad of recreation programs at sites throughout the county.
His tenure included expansion to include such attractions as Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis and Downs Park in Pasadena, both waterfront parks that have won national recognition.
Former County Executive Joseph Alton, who preceded Pascal, said McCann told him about two weeksago that he was leaving.
"He said it's time to move on to new challenges," Alton recalled.
He added that McCann may have viewed thefiscal constraints placed on government as a signal it was time to leave.
"I don't think the challenge was there anymore," Alton said."I think what he recognizes is the real glory days are over as far as acquisition and building a park system."
McCann and other countyofficials say there is a critical need for park lands in West County. But without Program Open Space money, which the General Assembly cut this year to balance the state budget, the county could not afford to purchase a park site.
Alton said McCann's real talent lay in working with numbers.
"He was one of the best fiscal minds in the budget office," Alton said. "He was not only sharp financially, but he had a real knack for getting to the heart of an issue and working with people."