Col. Kent D. Menser, the garrison commander of Fort George G. Meade who has been changing the base from a training ground for soldiers to a "federal office park," confirmed last night that he has been asked to retire.
The 49-year-old garrison commander may be falling victim to the same military downsizing that triggered changes at Fort Meade. He has been transforming a base once used to prepare soldiers for war into one that functions primarily as an administrative post.
Fort Meade officials have declined to comment for the past several weeks on Colonel Menser's future, stressing that a decision is not yet final.
But the commander himself confirmed the rumors last night at a meeting of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association, where he was giving one of his many presentations of Meade 2000, a slide-show on how the base will change and grow in the next 100 years.
"I could be retiring this summer," Colonel Menser told the 40 people who came to the Odenton Fire Hall, responding to a question from the audience. "But I don't know."
In an interview later, Colonel Menser, who has spent 27 years in the military -- 2 1/2 years at Fort Meade -- said he and other officers have been asked to take early retirement by June 1 as part of military downsizing. He would not elaborate beyond saying he is waiting for an answer from the Pentagon that could come within 10 days.
Norman Myers, the president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association who has seen seven garrison commanders at Fort Meade in the past seven years, said the community will particularly miss this colonel.
"We have had some great garrison commanders," Mr. Myers said. "But I don't think we can get anyone who can surpass what we've had at Fort Meade."
Colonel Menser took over command at Fort Meade just as more than half the base -- 8,100 acres of mostly old firing ranges dating back to World War I -- was being transferred to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
What is left is about 6,000 acres 1and buildings that were designed for another era.
The colonel is in the process of tearing down most of the asbestos-filled barracks built during Wold War II and had plans to realign roads and build an office park along Route 175, near the main gate on the Boomtown strip in Odenton.
In 1995, three Department of Defense schools that train military public affairs officers will be consolidated at Fort Meade, bringing 1,000 students and staff with them.
And Fort Meade is the first choice for a $40 million EPA lab and science center, which could be the first tenant for the office park which base officials hope will attract government and civilian firms.
It is the beginning of a complex of schools, research facilities and intelligence gathering operations that Colonel Menser believes will make Fort Meade one of the most important installations in the region. The massive National Security Agency already is headquartered on the post.
In an interview several weeks ago, Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall noted that the colonel held a seminar explaining to county business owners how they can take advantage of the $80 million in contracts the base puts out to bid each year.
"He wanted the local businesses to get their fair share," Mr. Neall said, adding that if the colonel departs, it would be "a real loss for Anne Arundel County. He has been a neighbor in every sense of the word."