Commissioners might not fill economic development job


The county commissioners may not replace James C. Threatte, who resigned Thursday as the county's economic development director, according to the commissioner president.

"That's a possibility," Donald I. Dell said Friday.

Not replacing Mr. Threatte -- who earned $47,240 a year -- would help ease the county's continuing budget crunch, said Mr. Dell, who has not been a strong proponent of economic development.

Neither Mr. Threatte nor the commissioners would say why Mr. Threatte left after three years at the job.

Mr. Threatte, 59, met with the commissioners for about 10 minutes Thursday morning and told them he was resigning effective that day, Mr. Dell said.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said they were working on a severance package.

County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr. said the commissioners could not discuss details of the resignation because it was a personnel matter.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said, "We're working with human beings, and the public has a right to know, but I have a right to protect our personnel from anything that might injure them.

"Jim has done a lot of good service for the economic development department. We don't want to send out the message that our regard and concern and enthusiasm for economic development is diminished because of this," Mr. Lippy said.

Mr. Threatte, reached at home Thursday afternoon, would not comment.

Mr. Dell, elected two years ago with a pledge to "Keep it Country," said an announcement about who will oversee the county's economic development efforts will be made this week or next.

"Enough people feel it's important to keep it active," he said of the office.

Asked if he was one of those people, he replied, "I have to concede it [economic development] is necessary. It's not as much a priority with me as with other people."

But if a "good-looking industry" wanted to relocate in Carroll, Mr. Dell said he would not "stand in the way."

Mr. Threatte and the Economic Development Commission -- a group of 25 county business leaders -- have recommended that Carroll work to attract more industry to lessen the tax burden on homeowners.

Mr. Dell said he's not sure that strategy has worked in other counties.

"I'm not 100 percent convinced of that. But I'm willing to be convinced," he said.

In a county government reorganization in May 1991, the commissioners downgraded the Department of Economic and Community Development to the Office of Economic Development and transferred oversight of the housing office to another department.

At the time, Mr. Threatte said, "I don't see any hidden conspiracy."

His budget was reduced by about 8 percent from fiscal year 1990-91 to fiscal year 1992-93. The budget for the latest fiscal year is $185,235.

Mr. Threatte supervised four employees and the county's job-training partnership office.

Among other projects, he advocated a new zoning district to allow employment campuses that would combine manufacturing, offices and research and development companies with restaurants, banks, health clubs and other services.

Paul Denton, president of Maryland Midland Railway Co. in Union Bridge and an EDC member, said he was impressed with Mr. Threatte's work.

"The man is just an honest, decent, hard-working individual," he said.

Albert Lang, another EDC member, said Mr. Threatte helped commissioners understand the workings of government. "His expertise was good for the county," he said.

Before coming to Carroll, Mr. Threatte, a South Carolina native, was economic development director for two years in Somerset County.

He also had worked in economic development in Prince George's County for three years.

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