As he leaves Crofton after two years as town manager, Jordan Harding should be judged on his accomplishments, not the feathers he ruffled.
Like many high-profile leaders, Mr. Harding often found his work overshadowed by personality conflicts. Despite a jovial nature, his strong opinions and activism led to run-ins with the Crofton Civic Association's board of directors. Some board members felt he acted too much like the mayor he once was (in Prince George's County) instead of as a town manager. "Who's running this town?" was a theme repeated throughout his tenure.
In the end, Mr. Harding realized the conflict was hurting Crofton. "I think they need somebody less aggressive than me," he said. And so, though no one asked him to leave, he resigned.
At times, Mr. Harding would have been wise to temper his tendency to make decisions without asking the board. Confident and experienced, he liked to jump in and get things done. Sometimes that landed him in trouble. Once, he canceled discounted trash bag distribution to residents. His decision made sense. Is it a town's job to supply trash bags? But people loudly protested, and the board reinstituted the service. Mr. Harding made a more serious mistake when he swung a deal with Halle Cos. for a drug-prevention grant, while, at the same time, the board was fighting a Halle landfill.
Nonetheless, Mr. Harding always acted with Crofton's best interests at heart. And usually, his efforts worked for the community's good. He cleaned up streets, got rid of sign clutter and drummed up donations to spruce up Town Hall. And, he forged relationships with state and county leaders, refusing to let them ignore the special taxing district. Though this yielded perks for Crofton, some resented his attempts to lead them out of isolationism. They balked when Mr. Harding, realizing that Crofton wasn't getting its share of county police protection, backed a new system of county patrols that forced Crofton's officers into a supporting role. Yet residents now enjoy faster emergency response.
Crofton had wanted a manager to give it clout and run the town professionally. Jordan Harding did both. What some people forgot was that, as former Greater Crofton leader Tom Hasbrouck once said, "If you want someone with his skills, you have to realize what comes with the territory."