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The Harford County Council voted, 5-0, with two members abstaining, to approve Cheryl H. Worthington as the county's new director of Community Services last week.

The action was somewhat overshadowed by controversy over the forced resignation of Community Services Director Joan Traub Philippe in January. She had been in the post nine years.

The resignation wasn't announced until nearly a week after it occurred, and only became known when County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmannappointed Worthington.

George Harrison, a spokesman for the executive, said Rehrmann "just felt a management change was needed." He said the post pays about $50,000.

Worthington, 41, and a Edgewood resident, had been working for the City of Baltimore since May 1990. Before that, she was special projects coordinator for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Worthington, a black, is the first minority hired as a department chief by Rehrmann.

Susan B. Heselton, R-District A, was absent due to illness, which the council counts as an abstention. The other abstention on Worthington's appointment was castdeliberately by Councilman Robert S. Wagner, R-District E.

"It's no reflection on Cheryl. She deserves a shot to prove herself, so a 'no' vote would have been wrong," said Wagner. "But a vote for her is a vote condoning the county executive's hiring and firing practices."

Wagner and other council members have continually praised Philippe for her job performance.

Wagner said he never heard a specific reason for Philippe's resignation. Philippe has declined to comment onthe matter.

Philippe was one of five county department chiefs whoretained their posts when Rehrmann took office a year ago. There are12 department heads. Council member Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B,said she thought Worthington's experience as general manager of Employment Development Centers in Baltimore's Office of Employment Development would help the county.

"I think the personnel will feel the loss of losing Joan Traub Philippe. She was respected by her staff and well-liked by the community," said Parrott. "And I did not like themanner in which she was asked to resign. But Mrs. Worthington has lived here for a long time and is part of the community and is well aware of Harford's needs."

In an interview Friday, two days after taking office, Worthington said her first priority as the new community services director will be to make sure the people who need the agency's services are receiving them.

The director oversees the county'sDrug and Alcohol Impact Program, the Office on Aging, TransportationServices and the Commission for Women. The community services agencyemploys more than 50.

Worthington said she plans to tailor programs to meet the needs of Harford's mixed rural and urban population.

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