With state budget cuts and declining revenues looming, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has switched lobbyists.
Ulman recently announced the hiring of Edward M. "Ned" Cheston, a staff lawyer for the General Assembly's Senate Budget and Tax Committee, to replace Joan Lewis Kennedy.
Cheston, 31, of Annapolis, will start Monday at a salary of $92,394. His responsibility will be to serve as the administration's chief liaison and advocate to the General Assembly and the County Council.
"He is somebody who has incredible knowledge of the legislative process and most importantly the budget," Ulman said. "With the budget right on top of the radar screen, that would be a real asset."
Cheston will be an advocate for the county in Annapolis, and his duties with the County Council will plunge him into the complex world of land-use decisions as the council takes up delicate issues such as central Columbia's redevelopment and extending public utilities to a portion of Doughoregan Manor for a proposed retirement community.
A native of Easton, Cheston earned a law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in May 2004 and was managing editor of the university's Journal of Environmental Law.
State Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, the Senate majority leader and one of two Howard senators on the budget and tax committee, applauded the selection of Cheston.
"He's a young, personable guy," Kasemeyer said. "Smart, really a good personality. I think he's going to do a really good job for the county."
Cheston said he was looking for a new challenge after four years as staff counsel for the committee, and a friend suggested he speak with Ulman's chief of staff, Aaron Greenfield.
"I was very impressed with them," Cheston said about Ulman and his top aides. "I get energized off other people's ideas. He's got a lot of them."
Cheston is most familiar with state capital budget and public safety issues, he said, but he worked on a range of issues for the committee.
Kennedy served as director of governmental affairs since January 2007 and earned $107,286. Her last day in the job was Tuesday. Kennedy said she was given no specific reason for her removal.
"The executive decided it was not a good fit," she said. "I was disappointed."
The Clarksville resident came to the county from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she was director of community and governmental relations. She had earlier worked as a legislative aide for state Sen. George R. Della and as an Assembly committee staff member.
"I think the world of her," Ulman said of Kennedy. "I wish her luck and best wishes."