Business community welcomes Gary, expecting he'll follow Neall's path


It's no secret the business community loves Robert R. Neall. They love the Anne Arundel county executive for his fiscal conservatism, privatization of government and pro-business attitude.

So, it comes as no surprise that business leaders are rejoicing over the election of John G. Gary, whom many believe will continue Mr. Neall's policies.

"Everything Bobby wanted to do couldn't be accomplished in four years," said George C. Shenk Jr., president of Whitmore Printing in Annapolis. "This will give John Gary the opportunity to continue with that same game plan."

Mr. Gary named Mr. Shenk to head his transition team yesterday.

During the election, both Mr. Gary, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Theodore J. Sophocleus, touted their qualifications to manage the county's $711 million budget.

Though both cited their business backgrounds and pro-business records in the legislature, business leaders yesterday said they had more confidence in Mr. Gary.

"He had Bob Neall's endorsement. That made the difference," said Cynthia McBride, the incoming president of the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.

"I don't think John Gary will make a lot of changes from Bobby Neall," she added. "I don't imagine big great programs, which is great."

Mr. Neall and Mr. Gary have been political allies for 20 years. Mr. Gary helped Mr. Neall win his first run for the state House of Delegates in 1974.

Eight years later they ran for House seats and were elected on the same ticket. In 1986, Mr. Gary succeeded Mr. Neall on the House Appropriations Committee, where he earned a reputation a fiscal conservative.

A major strike against Mr. Sophocleus in the business community was his 1989 vote to lower the retirement age for elected and appointed officials from 60 to 50. This allowed Mr. Sophocleus to begin drawing benefits when he left the County Council a year later.

"That completely offended the business community," said Richard Morgan, president and chief executive officer of Annapolis National Bank and chairman of the Anne Arundel Trade Council's economic development committee. "Where in the private industry do you get a pension at 50 years old?"

Jeanette D. Wessel, executive vice president of the Trade Council, said, "These cumulative issues made people feel that it was just not the right time for Ted."

With the election over, business leaders say they're already drawing up a wish list. They want a Redskins stadium in Laurel, a conference center in Annapolis, implementation of the Odenton and Parole town plans, privatization of government and minority business development.

"He will expand the Minority Business Enterprise Program," said George Phelps of Phelps Protection Systems and a founding member of the county program. "I think he understands the plight of the African-American businessman. . . . He'll be good because he's a small-businessman."

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