In his boldest move so far, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced yesterday that he's replaced the county's two top housing officials with his own choices. The firing of 15-year housing director Leonard S. Vaughan, 66, and 10-year deputy director Neil Gaffney, 60, mark Ulman's first moves to replace veteran county officials.
Stacy Spann, 33, of Fulton, an assistant commissioner in Baltimore's housing agency since March 2004, who rose from his teen years as a resident of Howard's Guilford Gardens public housing to live in Maple Lawn, will take over Howard's agency Jan. 15, Ulman said.
Spann is married with a two-year-old son; he and his wife are expecting the i birth of a new baby girl. His last day working for the city is Jan. 4.
Ulman chose Tom Carbo, 47, of Westminster, a 17-year veteran assistant county solicitor, county labor negotiator and Board of Appeals hearing examiner, as deputy director. Carbo began his new job immediately. Spann will earn $124,134, and Carbo's salary will be $110,573, according to Aaron Greenfield, Ulman's chief of staff.
The changes underscore the sensitivity of the housing issue in Howard, where the county government has struggled to promote units limited-income families can afford as home prices escalated beyond the reach of many working people. At the same time, some residents are increasingly opposed to even housing for people earning between $35,000 and $55,000 a year.
"Housing is a tough issue. Folks want affordable housing, but often times they have different thoughts about where it should be located," Ulman said.
Vaughan was philosophical about his removal.
"The bottom line is I work at the pleasure of the executive. He said he wanted to take a new direction," Vaughan said Ulman told him in a brief phone call late Monday.
The new executive has otherwise moved cautiously, hiring a permanent police chief, a new budget director, and a chief administrative officer, all from within county government and without firing anyone. Ulman's predecessor, James N. Robey, a former county police chief who just completed two terms in the top job, didn't fire any appointed department heads when he took office in 1998.
Vaughan was a highly regarded official whom Robey allowed to work on loan for nearly five months in 2000 to help Baltimore's housing agency.
"Leonard served me well," Robey said yesterday. "Leonard had a heart for homeless and low-income people like you wouldn't believe."
Ulman, a Democrat, said politics played no role in his decision. Vaughan and Gaffney are both Republicans who served under former executive Charles I. Ecker, a Republican, and Robey, a Democrat.
Ulman made the change, he said, because he wanted "a new director with a sense of creativity and vision" to work on the Affordable Housing Task Force report completed last month.
"As we work through that report, I thought it was very important to have a new direction, a new team in place with a sense of creativity and vision so that we can try to make sure that the policies we have in place are meeting the goals we have set out," Ulman said.
Spann is a former investment banker who moved to the non-profit housing field, Ulman said, as social investment officer for the F.B. Heron Foundation of New York, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City in Boston and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation.
Spann, who grew up in Alabama before moving to Maryland as a teen, became one of five assistant housing commissioners in Baltimore. City housing commissioner Paul Graziano praised him in a statement yesterday.
"Stacy Spann played a key role in this organization and his acumen, energy and enthusiasm will be sorely missed," Graziano said.
Spann said despite the lure of Wall Street, where he worked as an analyst, he was drawn to non-profit service.
"This is something I really wanted to do," Spann said about his career switch. "I want to use some skills to help revitalize a community."
Ulman said he knew Spann, a 1991 graduate of Hammond High School in Columbia, through mutual friends. Former county councilman C. Vernon Gray, who is on Ulman's transition team, said Spann was a member of his planning and housing committee.
"He was highly recommended," Ulman said about Spann, who said he graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1995, and later got a master's degree in public administration from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, according to Ulman's announcement.
"I was blown away" after interviewing him, the executive said. "He turned down a lucrative career as an investment banker," Ulman said, to do nonprofit housing work.
Ulman said Carbo's experience would benefit the county.
"He really understands the nuts and bolts of the department," Ulman said, noting that Carbo drafted the law that created the Howard County Housing Commission, the county's primary agency for creating lower-priced housing. The Rev. Robert A. Turner, president of the African American Coalition of Howard County, said, "I think it's a positive move. You need someone not wedded to the status quo."
Others were not as pleased.
Michael G. Riemer, a member of both the county Housing and Community Development board and the county Housing Commission, was upset by the removal of Vaughan and Gaffney.
"I've had the highest regard for them and was looking forward to working with them some more. I'm quite surprised and extremely disappointed in the executive's choices," he said.