With only 360 days to go before his voluntary retirement begins, County Executive Robert R. Neall said yesterday he is beginning to scale back his agenda and wrap up the loose ends of his administration.
What, if anything, Mr. Neall may be abandoning was not apparent from the list of expectations he announced for the coming year during a state-of-the-county address before the Anne Arundel Trade Council.
His list of projects for his last year included a managed health care program that would reduce the taxpayer cost of benefits for county workers, a coalition of county government, public schools and Anne Arundel Community College to hold down purchasing and other administrative costs, and a long-term plan for the county jail and other criminal justice programs.
Mr. Neall, who said he is counting down the days, hours and minutes until his four-year term ends and a self-imposed political hiatus begins, said, "Time could be an ally, a period to plan, reflect on what needs to be done . . . but more often it is a tormentor. It mocks you as you race to finish.
"We have to ask what remains to be done? What has to be abandoned?"
Mr. Neall announced in October that he would not run as expected for the Republican nomination for governor or for a second-term as county executive. Mr. Neall said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Yesterday, Mr. Neall was upbeat about his accomplishments over the past three years in spite of recession, reduced state aid, a property tax cap passed by voters who "every day place new demands on county services" and an "inflexible, uncooperative" work force.
He patted himself on the back for reorganizing a smaller county government with a scaled-down mission, paring the list of major government construction projects and creating public-private partnerships to attract new economic development and foster culture and the arts.
Referring to the overcrowded and deteriorating Detention Center on Jennifer Road, Mr. Neall vowed, "I'm not going to leave my successor with the mess that I inherited."
Mr. Neall has fought for two years to build a new 650-bed jail in either Glen Burnie or at the existing Jennifer Road site in Annapolis.
The County Council nixed the Ordnance Road proposal last spring after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found it contaminated with radioactive wastes.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer scuttled the Annapolis site last month, pledging to deny the county about $40 million in state contributions toward construction.