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Wacks' return pleases officials

The Baltimore Sun

None of them was in office when he last worked in Howard County government, but all five County Council members say they are delighted that Raymond S. Wacks is returning as budget administrator.

"It's a wise move to have a sense of knowledge and stability coming back," said council Chairman Calvin Ball, an east Columbia Democrat who took his seat in April 2006.

"I was really happy to hear that. I worked with Ray on the school board, and I always found him easy to work with. His historical knowledge is invaluable," said Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat and former school board member.

The other three members agreed.

"With everything we have coming up, we can use his experience" said Greg Fox, a western county Republican.

Fox was referring to efforts to remedy a projected $1.5 billion state revenue shortfall next year, more demands for money to repair aging county school buildings, and County Executive Ken Ulman's plan to find a way to build a new county government complex and courthouse.

"I think it's great," said Mary Kay Sigaty, a west Columbia Democrat. "I always thought he did a really good job."

Jen Terrasa, a North Laural/Savage Democrat, said, "Great. Sounds fabulous!"

Wacks, who has been a Baltimore budget official since 2005, said yesterday he knows or has met all the council members over the years, except for Terrasa. However, returning to a job from which he retired will require an adjustment, he said.

"It's going to feel strange. It's a very different place than when I left" as former County Executive James N. Robey's second term was running out, Wacks said.

He said he plans to "keep an open mind" about his new job, as he has done in Baltimore. "I'm not wedded to how things were done before," he said.

Wacks left Howard County in 2005 after 28 years as budget administrator and 31 years as a county employee. He resumes his old post Oct. 1 at the same $143,957 annual salary that the current administrator, Ronald S. Weinstein, is receiving. Weinstein retires officially Sept. 28. Wacks noted, laughing, that both men are 60, and both have the same initials, R.S.W.

Ulman said he worked first to persuade Weinstein, the former County Council auditor, to stay. Then Ulman and Weinstein determined that Wacks would be the best replacement, if he could be persuaded to return from his post as director of Baltimore City's Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

"I want to balance new ideas and new people with institutional knowledge - someone who can say, 'Yes, we tried that in 1982, and here's how it worked out,'" Ulman said. That, he said, is why he wanted Wacks back, and why he especially values other veteran department heads, such as public works Director James M. Irvin, a 32-year county employee.

Weinstein said he wanted to retire earlier last year while still serving as council auditor, a post he held for 21 years, but Ulman talked him into taking the budget administrator's job, which was being filled on an interim basis after one-year administrator Jonathan R. Seeman left to return to a post in Prince George's County.

"I've had 37 years in government. My son lives on the West Coast, and my wife's family is mostly retired now," so Weinstein wants to do more visiting and traveling, he said. He added that he does not plan to move from his Ellicott City home.

Wacks, a Pikesville resident, said he has enjoyed working in Baltimore.

"Working in Baltimore City has expanded my knowledge of how government works and given me a new perspective on the problems and opportunities that local governments face," Wacks said in a statement.

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