Economic director appointed Executive to head development office

It was a busy day at the county's economic development office.

William H. Howard Jr., an Ellicott City resident and former banking executive, was announced as the new director yesterday. And Dyan Brasington, the former director, confirmed that she will become economic director for the state of West Virginia, beginning in December, at a salary of $95,000 a year.


That salary, which is $23,000 more than West Virginia's governor makes and $25,000 more than she earned in Howard, could grow to $125,000 annually with incentives. Although Friday is her last official day in Howard, she will continue to work for the county as a consultant the next two weeks.

Mr. Howard, meanwhile, will join county government tomorrow at $61,348 a year -- down $8,089 from what Ms. Brasington was making.


If that fact bothers Mr. Howard, it doesn't show.

"I'm ecstatic," he said, upon learning of his selection as director. "It's kind of humbling to know that you've been chosen from among 187 applicants -- all of whom I am sure are well-qualified."

A 1972 graduate of Georgetown University with a government degree, Mr. Howard, 42, has worked for Riggs National Bank, First Pennsylvania Bank, American Bankers Association, Equitable Bank, First National Bank of Maryland, Washington Realty Group, Federal City National Bank, and K & H Associates.

He earned a master's degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland in 1974 and a master's of business administration from Maryland in 1978. He has been a banking executive since 1984. Mr. Howard was one of four finalists, three of whom are from Howard County.

"I am delighted with the choice of Mr. Howard," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said.

Mr. Ecker was impressed because much of Mr. Howard's banking experience was devoted to developing new business. He also accompanied Gov. William Donald Schaefer on some business trips abroad to help lure international firms to the state.

"My banking responsibilities always took me outside of Maryland," Mr. Howard said. "I always felt it was incumbent upon me to sell the county, city or state where my employer was headquartered. I was calling to entice business to Maryland or to increase business people were already doing. If that's not economic development, I don't know what is."

"He is very polished, very professional and will be a good ambassador for Howard County," said Earl Armiger, a former chamber of commerce president and a member of the seven-member search committee.


"I've got to hand it to [Mr. Ecker]," Mr. Armiger said. "He showed real vision in picking someone who doesn't have a stereotyped TTC economic development director resume."

Mr. Armiger said he had a bias against people without such resumes, but Mr. Howard overcame that bias.

"He is committed to Howard County over the long haul," Mr. Armiger said. "We asked every candidate about their commitment to Howard County knowing that the position could change with the [possible] establishment of an Economic Development Authority next July."

If the state gives the county permission to make economic development a quasi-governmental organization, a new director would be jointly hired by Mr. Ecker and a board of directors. Mr. Ecker alone makes that choice now.

Mr. Howard said he believes the most effective way to conduct economic development would be as a quasi-public, quasi-private endeavor.

"I'm convinced that the best people to market the county will be the business people," he said. "I have to be optimistic about the future. I've already met with three people in the department and I hope that after six months, we would deserve a vote of confidence and that [new employers] would feel it's best to keep the momentum going."


Ms. Brasington, who was also a member of the committee that selected Mr. Howard, said "his slant [on economic development] can only add to what we've done so far. We've done a lot of hard work and laid a good foundation. With my departure, [Mr. Howard] will have a chance to build on that foundation."

Ms. Brasington resigned her post in June for family reasons, but agreed to stay on until September, and kept getting extended. She said a "headhunter" called her in late October to tell her about the West Virginia job, and that she was interviewed Oct. 26. She accepted the job Monday.

Mr. Ecker said he knew of West Virginia's courtship of Ms. Brasington.

"There was some talk of her staying on" as economic development director in Howard, he said, "but we never got down to serious talk." The salary issue was too much of a problem, he said.