Michael H. Davis, a key adviser to Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger who is known for his keen political instincts, is resigning to seek a higher-paying position in the private sector.
Davis, 40, will leave his $129,000-a-year post as Ruppersberger's chief aide this summer. Initially, he will be U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' campaign manager. After the November election, he wants to again practice law, as a litigator and lobbyist.
Davis, Sarbanes' campaign manager in 1988 and 1994, said he loves working for Ruppersberger but is resigning because of financial considerations. He has three children in private schools and said he needs to begin saving for their college educations.
"If money was no object, I'd stay in this job as long as I could, but the reality is that I have the same financial concerns as everyone else, and I have to deal with them like everyone else," Davis said.
Ruppersberger credited Davis yesterday with helping him secure more state money for schools and neighborhoods, and with creating solid relationships with state legislators, county school officials and the County Council.
Ruppersberger said he has no immediate plans to hire a replacement or to reorganize his executive staff.
County Council members, told of Davis' resignation yesterday, said he has been a key to getting Ruppersberger's budgets approved and his legislative proposals enacted into law.
"Much of Dutch's success to date is because of Mike's abilities," said Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat.
In recent weeks, Davis was instrumental in persuading the seven-member council to enact Ruppersberger's adequate- public-facilities ordinance, which ties approval of residential housing projects to the availability of neighborhood classroom and open space.
At times, the broad scope of Davis' authority has left him open to criticism, such as when fire Chief Allen Thomason resigned after 11 months on the job.
Thomason, who had moved from San Diego to take the job, said he resented having to meet regularly with Davis and that he felt Ruppersberger's views of fire service were being tainted by Davis.
The son of a city police officer, Davis attended Gilman School on a scholarship. He broke into politics at age 16 as a volunteer in Sarbanes' 1976 campaign in Randallstown, where Davis grew up.
After graduating from Gilman and Harvard, Davis worked in William Donald Schaefer's 1983 mayoral campaign. He met Ruppersberger in 1990 when the Schaefer campaign assigned him to help former state Sen. Francis X. Kelly. Kelly was running on a ticket with Ruppersberger, then a County Council member.
In 1995, Davis had been a partner for about a year at Venable, Baetjer and Howard of Baltimore when he took a substantial pay cut to accept a $95,000-a-year position as Ruppersberger's executive officer.
He accepted the job after taking a leave from Venable to work as a lobbyist for the county during the legislative session that ended in April 1995.
"He told me when I hired him that he was only going to stay for about a year," Ruppersberger said. "I feel lucky that we had him this long."