Donald C. Fry, executive vice president and general counsel of the Greater Baltimore Committee, will become the group's president next month, officials said yesterday.
Fry, 47, who has worked at the GBC for 3 1/2 years, will replace Donald P. Hutchinson when Hutchinson steps down Nov. 1 to become president and chief executive of SunTrust Bank's Maryland division.
"He knows the organization inside and out," GBC Chairman Francis B. Burch Jr. said of Fry. "Over the past three years, he's become increasingly known to the business community. We are just delighted to give Don the opportunity to lead the organization. We don't think we're going to miss a beat."
Since joining the GBC in April 1999, Fry has managed its day-to-day operations and overseen economic development and community revitalization efforts focusing on the development of East Baltimore's BioPark and completion of the west-side revitalization.
He also worked on development of a management structure for the Inner Harbor after a GBC task force determined that about a half-dozen city agencies have jurisdiction, with little communication among them.
"I look forward to continuing those projects, to keeping the momentum going," Fry said. "The GBC is going to move forward as it has in the past. It's the one organization that doesn't just look at things from a naysayer side. It tries to get things done."
Initially, the plan had been to name Fry interim president, then conduct a national search. But GBC board members quickly decided that they need look no further and that a national search would be unnecessary.
"We decided that if we threw the net out, we weren't going to find a better candidate," Burch said. "If we didn't have someone that had been groomed to take over, and if we didn't have someone that had the support that Don had, it might have been a different story."
Fry will become the organization's fifth chief executive in its 47-year history. Founded in 1955, the GBC is the city's largest public policy organization. It played a significant role in the construction of the Jones Fall Expressway and the development of Charles Center and the Inner Harbor
If he had single-handedly chosen his successor, Hutchinson said, Fry would have been his top choice.
"He absolutely is the most tireless worker I've ever known," Hutchinson said. "What sets him apart is the unrestricted access he has. He has access and relationships with the legislators, the people in city hall and the people in county government. ...
"If you come in from out of state, you have to learn the political culture. You have to create artificial relationships. He may not need to learn anything about how to access government officials."
Fry represented Harford County in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1991 to 1997 and served on the House Appropriations Committee from 1993 to 1997. He served in the Maryland Senate in 1997 and 1998, representing Harford and Cecil counties. From 1980 to 1999, he was an attorney in private practice in Harford County.
"He can be and will be remarkably persuasive," Hutchinson said. "He has real relationships that go back many years."
Fry lives with his wife and son in Bel Air. He earned a bachelor of science degree in 1977 from Frostburg State College and is a 1979 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law.
Fry will take the GBC reins as its leadership and those of the Greater Baltimore Alliance, the region's economic development organization, and the Downtown Partnership, a group that promotes downtown, embark on a mission to work more closely.
"We got together to see if we can get a better alignment," said Burch. "Within the next few months, we want to try to come up with ways to get more out of our resources."
Burch said he hopes to have some resolution by May when he leaves his post as chairman.
Whatever form the resulting organization or organizations take, some factors are not negotiable as far as GBC officials are concerned, Burch said.
The group would need to be financially independent so that it could retain an ability to disagree with state, city and county officials, he said, and the agenda would have to remain hard-hitting.
"The business community wants to know what it's getting for every dollar invested," he said. "We're going to look at what the organizations' missions are, at how successful each of the organizations has been. You don't want to create some big amorphous organization. Maybe we could simplify the funding process."
As Fry prepares to become leader of the GBC, he acknowledged that it will take plenty of pushing and prodding of government officials to make sure the organization's plans can advance.
"It requires a lot of work on our part to drive home this agenda, to let them know that this isn't going to fade away," he said.