George A. Shoenberger, chief adviser to Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., has resigned his post to return to the University of Maryland.
Shoenberger, the last of Smith's original inner circle of advisers, will begin Feb. 2 as vice president for administration at the University of Maryland University College, which provides adult education and online learning. Before coming to the county, he served as assistant vice president for business and procurement services with the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
In addition to lobbying the County Council on the executive's behalf -- a difficult job in a year when the two branches of government were frequently at loggerheads -- Shoenberger was charged with working on major policy issues and special projects. He was paid $124,500 a year as senior executive assistant. He will earn $140,000 in his new job.
Shoenberger, who submitted his resignation Friday, said he enjoyed his year in county government and learned a great deal. But he said he has long been interested in obtaining a post like his new one.
"This is an incredible opportunity for me," he said.
Smith praised Shoenberger as a hard-working consensus-builder.
"He has given fully of himself by leading the county recovery effort after Hurricane Isabel, building relations with the council and easing a new administration through its first year," Smith said.
Council members also said they are sad to see him go.
"It's a shame that he's leaving," said Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat. "I feel like if there's anything positive you can say about the Smith administration, it's that George has done a good job."
Unlike most county executives, Smith, who had been a judge for 16 years before he was elected, came into office without a tight-knit group of advisers. Shoenberger did volunteer work on Smith's campaign but was largely unknown to the executive-elect until he was recommended by Smith's transition team. He, along with L. Gregory Pecoraro and Beverley Swaim-Staley, made up the executive's inner circle.
None of them had previous experience in Baltimore County politics or government, and they faced criticism from council members over their lack of local knowledge.
With Shoenberger's departure, all three are gone less than a year after they were hired. Swaim-Staley withdrew her name from consideration as county administrative officer in the spring after it became clear that the council would not confirm her. Pecoraro was replaced as chief of staff a few months later and was moved out of the executive's office.
Despite the testy relationship between the council and executive, council members were complimentary of Shoenberger yesterday.
"With the staff being new, and the executive being new to the council, I think that George adapted very well and made it a point to have a line of communication with the council and attempted to keep us advised on what was going on," said council Chairman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley. "I will truly miss him as a person and in his position."
Smith spokesman Damian O'Doherty said the executive has not decided whether to split up Shoenberger's responsibilities or to name someone new to the post. He said the executive will likely not be looking outside county government for a replacement.