The task ahead for Neall


If you are one of the few who gets caught up in the "inside baseball" of politics, you might be a little concerned about the Neall administration.

It has been more than a month since County Executive Robert R. Neall announced he will be leaving politics when his term ends next fall, and there's a sense that he and his staff are adjusting somewhat painfully to lame duck status. An air of depression hangs in the Arundel Center. Some appointees are openly disappointed that Mr. Neall isn't running for governor. Others are sending out resumes.

Mr. Neall recently fired his right-hand man, Chief Administrative Officer Dennis Parkinson. His budget officer departed for personal reasons. In general, the enthusiasm of working for one of the state's rising political stars has been replaced by resignation. So county government's a mess, right?

Wrong. The fact is, inside baseball doesn't much matter when it comes to the day-to-day business of operating parks and collecting trash. What matters is whether Mr. Neall will work hard enough to compensate for the clout any politician on his way out inevitably loses. The public shouldn't worry; he is not the type to put his feet up for a whole year. A good thing, too, because while he has achieved his main goal -- reducing the size of government -- important business remains unfinished:

* A location for a sorely needed county detention center still hasn't been found.

* Anne Arundel faces short-term and long-term solid waste problems, including where to get the millions needed to clean up the Millersville landfill and what to do after the facility fills up in 2008, as projected.

* Funds for the expansion of the county Circuit Courthouse in Annapolis must be secured.

* School construction needs must be evaluated and priorities set.

* The government should be left running smoothly, with county finances in order.

Mr. Neall's supporters may have been overly optimistic in predicting that he will be more effective as a lame duck than he was before. Nevertheless, a lame duck can tackle tough issues without worrying about political consequences.

Mr. Neall prided himself on doing that when he wasn't a lame duck. As long as he keeps doing it, Anne Arundel County should fare just fine during his final year as executive.

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