Baltimore County Executive-elect Kevin Kamenetz said Thursday that he is looking for ways to cut staff and reduce county spending when he takes office next month, as he braces for a lean budget in his first year.
County Administrative Officer Fred Homan is reviewing all departments to explore potential staff cuts through attrition and projects that can improve productivity, Kamenetz said. Homan's findings will be presented to Kamenetz on Dec. 6, the day of his swearing-in.
Kamenetz has also asked Rob Stradling, the director of information technology, to recommend technology enhancements by February that can be made quickly.
He stressed that furloughs and layoffs are not in his plans.
"I'm not here coming in as a change agent trying to do a wholesale revamping of Baltimore County government," Kamenetz said. "Government in Baltimore County works well. At the same time, I also recognize we've got some budgetary challenges."
Instead of assembling the traditional transition team, Kamenetz has tapped former County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis as his adviser, chief contact person and liaison with County Executive James T. Smith Jr., who has served the maximum two terms. Kamenetz described Venetoulis, who was executive in the 1970s, as a longtime friend and mentor. Kamenetz served as his driver in 1974 while Venetoulis was running for office.
"I was truly in the seat of power — or at least next to that seat of power," Kamenetz said jokingly.
Kamenetz said he considered Baltimore County the "ideas county" in his younger years, home to the sort of innovation and creativity that he said Howard County has more recently displayed. He said he's eager for the county to play that role again.
"I've got a big tent, and I welcome in as many people as possible, Democrat or Republican, who can help us move Baltimore County forward," he said.
Kamenetz said he would try to meld the strengths of Smith and a third former county executive, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, in crafting his leadership style.
"Dutch was a great team leader and had a good ability of bringing a lot of folks together in a room and reach consensus," he said. "Jim had a very thoughtful and deliberate manner of listening first and then taking action. I think if I can absorb the strengths of both of them, this would be a good continuation for the county's future."
Technology will play a greater role in improving government services and operations, he added.
"I think there are opportunities to improve the way that county employees do business but also the way that county residents can obtain services from the county by enhancing technology," Kamenetz said. "The use of technology will allow us to do more with less, deliver services more efficiently and ultimately save taxpayer dollars."
Stradling said he has started looking at upgrades for some departments and services, including code enforcement and public works.
Once he takes office, Kamenetz said, bringing more job-producing businesses to the county and revitalizing key commercial areas, such as downtown Towson, would be among his priorities.
He plans to reach out to the five new County Council members as well. Kamenetz beat back a challenge from Republican Ken C. Holt on Tuesday to become the new county executive. A four-term council veteran from Owings Mills, Kamenetz campaigned on a theme of experienced stewardship, pledging to sustain what he called Smith's wise fiscal management practices that got the county through hard times without employee furloughs or layoffs.