Jordan Harding resigns as Crofton town manager


Jordan L. Harding, the town manager who helped move Crofton from isolation into the Anne Arundel mainstream, has resigned, effective the end of April, to pursue other job opportunities.

While the 62-year-old Potomac resident said yesterday he simply wants to face new challenges, he conceded that he has faced criticism in recent months from members of the Crofton Civic Association board who, he said, second-guessed his decisions.

But he said the complaints, which he called "petty," had no bearing on his decision, which he announced to the board during a closed meeting Monday.

He said he was not asked to resign.

"You can't do this job without being criticized," Mr. Harding said yesterday. "If I didn't catch hell, I would think something was wrong and I was on my way out. Petty politics does impede progress, but it was not a factor in my departure."

He denied that the recent budget process, in which the board rejected nearly all of Mr. Harding's employee-incentive proposals, including raises for police officers and the community counselor, figured into his decision.

Becky Daniels, a board member who was elected 10 months ago to head the covenant review committee, also resigned yesterday. She said her decision is independent of Mr. Harding's.

Mr. Harding said he does not have a job waiting for him, but that he had been offered several positions during his two years and three months in Crofton, some at double his $38,000 salary.

He said he may pursue another job in municipal government, serve as a legislative liaison for a corporation or travel overseas to help cities in the Baltic states establish local governments -- a topic on which he frequently lectures.

Board members and employees interviewed yesterday said they were surprised by the announcement, which Mr. Harding said he had thought about for several months. "I think this was inevitable, but I didn't think it would happen this soon," said Barbara Swann, the community comptroller who has worked in Crofton for 23 years. "Jordan came in with an armful of credentials and a tremendous background in local government."

Some of his critics credited him with solving long-standing problems and getting the community of 10,000 noticed by state and county officials.

"I think this town has lost a very good technical town manager," said board member Ed Ganning. "He did things for this town that I don't think anyone else could get done."

But Mr. Ganning said that Mr. Harding, former seven-term mayor of New Carrollton, sometimes played the role of an executive. "Anyone would have a transitional problem from setting policy to following it," Mr. Ganning said. "Jordan tripped over that line."

Mr. Harding was hired mainly because of his political contacts and because he was recognized as an expert in municipal government. He lobbied state and county officials to get work crews to clean up parks, roads and buildings.

"I helped bring Crofton out of its doldrums," he said. "The board wanted someone who would run this town on a professional basis. This is where I think I've been effective."

Mr. Harding's style, especially his openness with reporters, differed from other town managers'. He believed isolationist views would hurt the community's influence. Development was encroaching from all sides, he said, Route 3 was slowly becoming a highway and some members felt that basic county services were not being delivered.

He also implemented a plan that changed the way Crofton's five-member police force patrols the streets, and along with the civic association president, Ed Dosek, explored the idea of incorporating into a city or town.

"Ed Dosek and I made a formidable management team," Mr. Harding said. "I think the two of us have brought this town forward by leaps and bounds."

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