Howard executive-elect picks advisers to lead transition

County Executive-elect Calvin Ball this morning announced a transition team that includes Howard County business, education and political leaders.

One week after the three-term Democratic County Council member’s 5 percentage point win over incumbent Allan Kittleman, Ball has assembled an advisory team that will make a review of county policies and vet candidates for key management positions in his administration.

“Every member of this team is committed to the future of Howard County, and I look forward to hearing their recommendations and working with each of them for years to come,” said Ball during his prepared remarks.

State Sen. Guy Guzzone will be the chairman of the group, which also includes former County Executive Ken Ulman; Steven Snelgrove, president of Howard County General Hospital; Program Director at the Korean American Senior Association Young Smith; and CEO of the nonprofit Horizon Foundation, Nikki Highsmith Vernick.

Guzzone, who served two terms on the County Council and was unopposed in last week’s general election for another term in the state legislature, said the transition team will review policies that Ball might keep or amend and prepare recommendations in a few weeks.

“We are hoping to effectively finish most of our work by early January,” said Guzzone, who also served as the chairman for Ulman’s transition team eight years ago.

The team will have committees to review current education, police and a five-year plan to control flooding in historic Ellicott City.

Ball throughout his campaign dubbed himself an opponent of the $50 million flood mitigation plan that would raze 13 buildings in historic Ellicott City to widen stream beds and create an open space. The demolition proposal has been criticized by Preservation Maryland and others who fear the change will lead to the towns removal from the National Register of Historic Places.

Ball in October voted against bills that partially funded the plan and previously declined to say if he would acquire the buildings slated for demolition— a move that would take place under his administration as the funds will not be available until December.

Ball during a press conference said the committee taking the lead on reviewing the flood mitigation plan is Public Works. Out of the eight members tapped for the role, only two have worked directly on the five-year plan, according to Jim Irvin, director of public works.

Ball during the Wednesday morning presser declined to say which portions of the plan he supports but said he would “soon” make it known. He declined to elaborate on a timeline for that announcement.

Ball has previously said he intends to keep the timeline of upstream projects and wants to explore more closely tunnel boring— an alternative that was explored in 2016, would cost $80 million, take more than 5 years to finish and would only be effective if the Patapasco stays at a certain level, according to Mark Deluca, deputy director of public works.

Ball will have the ability to retain or dismiss 93 people who serve in appointed positions, according to Kittleman spokesman Paul Milton. The positions up for grabs include department heads, executive staff and the chiefs of police and fire department.

Ulman, a Democrat who also served one term on the County Council, in an interview said Ball “has a good sense of the leadership in the department” thanks to his 12 years on the County Council. Ulman yesterday declined to say who Ball plans to bring in or retain for advisers.

Ulman said his experience has found that a mix of “new energy and new ideas and people who have a depth of experience in county government” work well.

The new county executive and council will be sworn in Dec. 3.

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