Ruppersberger names woman to post on 'management team' Churchill adds diversity to mostly male group


What Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger calls his "management team" is slated to get younger and more diverse with the promotion of Robin L. Churchill, 42, to the county's top appointed job.

Ruppersberger announced his choice to replace administrative officer Merreen E. Kelly, who will be 62 when he retires June 30, at a Towson news conference yesterday. If the council confirms the appointment, Churchill will be the county's first female administrative officer in the 40 years of charter government.

"I trust her judgment. She can hit the ground running in her first day," Ruppersberger said, adding that she's a "detail" person who will implement his policies.

Although Ruppersberger and Churchill said that the promotion to the $85,000 job was based on her qualifications and his confidence, the change is notable because of her gender.

At a time when women have become scarce in top elected and appointed offices in county government, Sen. Paula C. Hollinger called the move "terrific." The seven-member County Council is all-male, and Ruppersberger's administration has three female department heads out of 18.

"Dutch is always open to everybody," said Hollinger, a Democrat who is the county's first female state senator.

"I was so pleased and honored," Churchill, who lives in Baldwin with her family, said after the news conference. "This is a tremendous professional responsibility. I have a lot to learn in the next few months."

Churchill is a certified public accountant who moved to the area from Ohio in 1980. Her first county government job was in the council auditor's office in 1991, where she developed a working relationship with Ruppersberger during his years as a councilman.

She was hired as part of his executive staff after his 1994 election as the "education watchdog" during budget disputes with former school Superintendent Stuart Berger. But those wars subsided with Berger's firing, and Churchill has become a key behind-the-scenes player in the executive's effort to keep track of spending.

Under Ruppersberger, the administrative officer has operated narrowly as the daily government manager, while others such as spokesman Michael H. Davis handle more policy-making. Davis said the division of duties has helped the Ruppersberger "team" move the government without becoming bogged down in operating details. Churchill's first job in Maryland was working for state government until 1983, when she moved to the first of two private accounting jobs.

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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