Baltimore County's administrative officer to retire 'at the request' of Olszewski

The Baltimore County government’s top administrative official is being pushed into retirement by County Executive-elect Johnny Olszewski Jr.

County administrative officer Fred Homan, who has overseen day-to-day government operations for more than a decade, will retire on Dec. 3, the day that Olszewski is sworn in.

Homan’s retirement comes “at the request” of Olszewski, according to the county’s announcement Thursday.

“Mr. Homan has been the chief steward of Baltimore County’s fiscal management for decades,” Olszewski said in a statement. “I thank him for his years of exemplary service.”

Through a spokeswoman, Homan declined to comment.

Olszewski, a Democrat, said he will conduct a national search for Homan’s replacement, who will be named before Dec. 3.

County department directors and the police and fire chiefs reported to Homan, while he reported to the county executive.

Homan has worked for Baltimore County for 40 years. He became the county’s budget chief in 1989. Former county executive Jim Smith promoted him to county administrative officer in 2006.

He continued in that job through county executives Kevin Kamenetz and Don Mohler.

Homan represented the county administration at Baltimore County Council meetings, regularly defending the county executive’s decisions in response to questions from council members or criticism from residents during the public comment period.

When Kamenetz died from cardiac arrest in May, Homan was thrust into the position of acting county executive for nearly three weeks, until Mohler was selected by the Baltimore County Council as Kamenetz’s permanent replacement.

During that time, Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by burglary suspects. Never a terribly public person, Homan chose not to speak during a hospital news conference when Caprio’s death was announced.

While Homan is regarded as one of the most knowledgeable people about county government operations and finances, some of his decisions have been controversial.

County residents and community activists who have been frustrated with the government have often pointed to Homan as the source of their problems.

At times, Homan has gotten deeply involved in issues that normally would be the purview of department heads or other lower-level employees.

For example, he’s played a key role in controversial decisions about the county’s animal shelter in Baldwin and the agricultural center in Cockeysville. He was a chief proponent of building indoor and outdoor equestrian facilities at the agricultural center, and installing equine therapy programs there.

Homan also ordered the cutting down of trees at a county property in Towson that was being sold to a private developer — in violation of legislation approved by the county council that governed development of the site. The tree-cutting became known in Towson as “tree-gate.”

Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said Olszewski made the right choice in asking Homan to retire.

“Mr. Homan has made many decisions that held the line on tax increases, but there is an overwhelming sense that the county needs a more imaginative and inclusive management style,” said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican. “The county executive-elect made the right decision, not just with Mr. Homan’s retirement but also conducting a nationwide search.”

Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, said the county will miss Homan’s “wealth of knowledge, experience and relationships that he built with bond holders in New York.”

Jones said he’d often see Homan working on weekends or late at night.

“Fred was 150 percent committed to this county,” he said.

Mohler, the outgoing county executive, praised Homan’s long tenure serving Baltimore County.

In a letter sent to all county employees, Mohler wrote: “Through good times and bad, Fred has been the chief architect of a fiscal policy that has allowed us to invest in education, public safety and our aging infrastructure, while maintaining the county’s triple AAA bond rating.”

Mohler also wrote that Homan’s work ethic “is not likely to ever be matched again in our lifetime.”

Donna Morrison, the deputy administrative officer who worked alongside Homan and sometimes filled in for him at council meetings, retired this fall.

pwood@baltsun.com

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