Baltimore County public works director Gene L. Neff, whose department was decimated by layoffs and reorganization in February, said yesterday that he will resign, effective Nov. 30.
The decision ends a 30-year public works career for Mr. Neff, who celebrated his 61st birthday Oct. 15. He said he plans to "look for a change in lifestyle."
County government sources said relations between Mr. Neff, public works chief since 1986, and County Executive Roger B. Hayden have not been good for months. Mr. Hayden refused to discuss what he termed "a personnel matter."
However, he did say, "I got Gene's letter . . . and we thank him for [his work]." Mr. Hayden said he is not sure who will run the department after Mr. Neff leaves.
Mr. Neff also refused to discuss his relations with Mr. Hayden.
"We talked about [retirement] at different times. I told him I'm not going to be here forever," he said. "I'm satisfied that we have a mutual understanding. The rest is confidential."
Mr. Neff's resignation comes eight months after Mr. Hayden's budget cutting slashed the public works staff, forcing the layoffs of 159 full-and part-time workers and the elimination of 220 jobs.
Also, several experienced senior supervisors have retired since February.
Mr. Neff said those lossed played no part in his decision, though they have "made the job more difficult."
"We've lost a lot of key people," he said. Still, "I think we've stabilized."
County Council President Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, D-3rd, said he is "very concerned" about Mr. Neff's departure.
"That position is extremely crucial to this county," he said, then complimented Mr. Neff's ability as an engineer. "He was a tremendously competent man."
Mr. Ruppersberger, an unannounced candidate for county executive in 1994, said turmoil in public works could damage business confidence in the county as the county moves forward in key development areas, such as White Marsh and Owings Mills.
Mr. Neff, who was a public works official in Ohio, Annapolis and Baltimore before coming to the county in 1976, can receive a county pension of up to 75 percent of his $73,400 salary. Thomas H. Hamer, 50, is the department's deputy director. A former public works director in Harford County, Mr. Hamer came to the county in 1988 from state government.