Commissioners choose acting planning head


K. Marlene Conaway will become acting county planning director July 1, Carroll County Commissioners have decided.

Ms. Conaway, 52, assistant director for the past eight years, will take over for Director Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman, who is retiring after 25 years as director.

Ms. Conaway said the commissioners told her of their decision Wednesday. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown confirmed the choice.

Thirty-seven people, including four county employees, applied for the position, said Bev Billingslea, assistant director of the Department of Human Resources and Personnel Services. Twelve of the applicants are Carroll residents, she said.

Ms. Conaway said she is one of the applicants for the director's job.

The commissioners are reviewing the candidates to narrow the field to 10 to 12 people, she said. No deadline has been set for hiring a new director.

The county advertised the job nationally in a newspaper published by the National Association of Counties, Mrs. Billingslea said. Advertisements also appeared in newspapers in Washington, Baltimore, Westminster, Frederick and Gettysburg and in the Maryland Association of Counties newsletter, she said.

Mr. Cueman earned $69,200 a year in the director's job. He worked closely with the seven-member Planning Commission, which makes decisions about residential and commercial developments, and supervised a staff of planners who studied growth and zoning issues in all parts of the county.

Ms. Conaway said her job description as assistant director says she serves as acting director in the director's absence.

"I feel it's a challenge," she said.

Conaway, a Winfield native, has worked in the county planning office for 10 years, starting in the agricultural preservation program. Previously, she worked for five years as an environmental planner in Anne Arundel County.

"Marlene's very capable," Planning Commission Chairman Dennis P. Bowman said yesterday.

Commission member Zeno M. Fisher Jr. agreed.

"I'd like to see her named as director. She'd do a good job," he said, but added, "A lot of people who are applying would do a good job."

Mr. Fisher said he hoped the commissioners would hire a director from Carroll because a county resident would better understand issues and problems.

Commission member David T. Duree said county officials should look at candidates from Carroll and elsewhere to find "the very best we can get."

"The new director is going to come in at a very significant time," he said.

The Planning Commission is considering a review of the county master plan, which was written about 30 years ago and outlines a growth plan for Carroll.

"The opportunity is there to have Carroll be all it wants to be," Mr. Duree said.

Mr. Bowman said the Planning Commission will be involved in interviewing candidates for the director's job. Asked what he would look for in a candidate, he said, "I'd rather not talk about that. I think Ned's been a super director. That says something, if you can read anything into it."

Mr. Cueman, 55, announced in March that he would retire. He was the third county department head to resign since Jan. 1.

Ms. Conaway will have a larger staff to supervise than Mr. Cueman has had because of a staff reorganization announced May 23.

The commissioners expanded the planning department to include the offices of development review, zoning administration and enforcement, permits and inspections, environmental services and geographic information systems.

Some of those offices had been in the Department of General Services, which was eliminated in the reorganization.

Ms. Conaway said she will supervise about 70 employees, including 22 planning department staff members. She said her salary will not change. She earns $57,408 annually.

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