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County spokeswoman rejects transfer, retires


The Carroll County government's longtime public information officer said yesterday that she retired last week, in part because the County Commissioners wanted to transfer her to another job.

Marlene D. "Micki" Smith, 58, said the commissioners offered her a job as the county's tourism administrator, but that she decided to retire instead.

She is the fourth high-level county administrator to resign or retire since February. Her retirement became effective July 12.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the commissioners, to save money, do not intend to hire another public

information officer soon. But they did not abolish the position, he said.

Ms. Smith earned $59,105 a year. Her salary would have remained the same if she had taken the tourism job. She said it was unclear what the job duties would have been.

Mr. Dell would not comment on whether Ms. Smith was offered the tourism job.

"She's been contemplating this retirement for some time," he said.

The tourism post has been vacant since January, when Joan Meekins, who had held the job for five years, became marketing director for the county's Department of Economic Development.

Ms. Smith, a New Windsor resident, said she plans to remain active in the community. She is a past president of the New Windsor Heritage Committee and is a member of the Lehigh Portland Cement Co.


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Community Relations Council in New Windsor.

Her husband, Paul Darnauer, retired in June, and that played a part in her decision to retire, Ms. Smith said. Her mother, Helen Deason, died July 7, which also brought change to her life, she said.

"Life kind of moves along," Ms. Smith said. "It just seemed an appropriate time" to retire.

Ms. Smith was hired 10 years ago as the county's public information and tourism director. One of her first jobs was to organize a yearlong celebration to mark Carroll County's 150th anniversary in 1987.

In recent years, she helped disseminate information to the public from disaster scenes, such as fires and hazardous-waste spills. She was at the scene of the Route 31 sinkhole in March 1994 after a Taneytown man died when his van plunged into the 18-foot-deep hole.

Ms. Smith said there were many highlights during her career with the county. "One thing I'm proudest of with government is being part of a team with very committed people. We worked hard on behalf of the county," she said.

She supervised about a dozen employees, and her title changed to deputy director of the Department of Administrative Services in a reorganization in 1991. In another reorganization last December, her title was changed to public information officer.

The commissioners issued a four-paragraph news release yesterday announcing her retirement.

"Micki's skills and dedication to Carroll County have been appreciated. We will miss her input," it said.

Mr. Dell said yesterday that the employees she supervised will temporarily report to Robert A. "Max" Bair Jr., the commissioners' chief of staff.

Ms. Smith has operated a business from her home for nine years. Called Smith, Beggs and Belnap, it sells handmade clothes and personal accessories. She said she and her husband would like to open a country inn. They plan to look for a location on the East Coast between Canada and South Carolina.

Asked to comment about the departure of four administrators in six months, Mr. Dell, said, "When you have an election, sometimes things change."

Mr. Dell is the only commissioner on the current board who served a previous term. All three are Republicans. Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The commissioners have not hired new employees to replace any of the four administrators who left. They have been searching for ways to save money since budget officials projected a $4 million deficit for fiscal 1996, which began July 1.

In May, the commissioners voted to raise Carroll's piggyback tax to 58 percent from 50 percent to erase most of the deficit.

The other administrators who left this year were:

* Planning Director Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman, 55, who retired in June after 24 years with the county. Assistant Director K. Marlene Conaway was named acting director.

The commissioners, with help from a committee, interviewed 13 candidates for the job last week. They narrowed the field to five, three of whom work for the county, and will interview them again in early August, Mr. Dell said.

* Public Works Director Keith R. Kirschnick, 42, who resigned in June after seven years with the county. At the time, he did not have another job.

The commissioners named J. Michael Evans public works director July 1 after an internal reorganization. Mr. Evans had been director of the Department of General Services, which was abolished.

* County Attorney Charles W. Thompson Jr., 46, who resigned in March after 16 years to become the Montgomery County attorney.

The commissioners named Deputy County Attorney George A. Lahey acting county attorney while they study whether they could save money by hiring private attorneys.

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