Yesterday, Anne Arundel County Executive Elect Steve Schuh made two personnel moves and informed police chief Kevin Davis and fire chief Michael Cox that they would not be part of the new administration. Schuh’s spokesman said that they were “moving in a different direction” which is akin to “it’s not you, it’s me” in a high-school breakup. There are very few in the County (likely including Schuh) who don’t realize the positive strides these two public servants have made and the impact they will leave on their departments. But just as they were appointed by County Executive Laura Neuman when she changed up her administration, this was an expected move from Schuh.
And, it may be the right move to a degree. When the $#!& hits the fan, the public faces of the County are the Executive, the Police Chief, and the Fire Chief. It is wholly reasonable for a County Executive to demand 100% loyalty. Leopold did. Neuman did. And Schuh will as well. Think about it. Going back to high-school for a moment, would you trust your deepest secrets to someone that I suggested would be a good best friend? Or would you prefer to select one your own?
Both of these leaders knew that their appointments could (would?) be temporary. There was no mandate for Neuman to serve beyond the term of her appointment. In fact, I learned that Chief Cox had turned Neuman down for the position because of that scepter.
After a contentious primary election that saw Neuman and Schuh slugging it out about who was the best Republican, it appeared that County Executive Neuman (who was good for the county–more on that later) sorta, kinda, was lending her support to the George Johnson campaign during the general election.
With that said, I can see why Schuh is looking to change out the people that were appointed by Neuman. And undoubtedly there will be many more. But County Executive Elect Schuh does have some very big shoes to fill.
Chief Kevin Davis
Chief Davis probably did more for the department in his short tenure than the past five chiefs combined. You don’t need to look far to see the respect he has earned (yes earned) from the rank and file, citizens, politicians, and the media. He revamped where he needed to revamp. He realigned where he needed to. And he improved where he needed to. He pushed when he needed to. He apologized when he needed to. He pulled on his career in law enforcement to take Anne Arundel County from laughing stock (babysitting an executive who was receiving oral sex in the back of a car in the parking lot of a bowling alley) to a model of law enforcement by equipping officers with Narcan to fight the growing heroin problem. Davis is a top cop and while many want to see him stay, I am confident his next position will provide him with even greater success. Just as there are a few bad cops out there, there are a few great ones. Davis is among them, and now residents of the County will rely on Steve Schuh to find another great one.
Chief Michael Cox
Like Chief Davis, Chief Cox was also told that he would not be a part of the new administration. Cox was a firefighter’s chief. He has lived in the County all his life, graduated from South River High, ascended the ranks of the fire department by working in every station in the County and nearly in every position. If anyone knew the department inside and out, it was Cox. He was an ideal choice for Neuman. He was well liked and was given the leeway to make many positive changes in the department. He reduced call response time in the 911 center, added additional ambulances to the streets of the County, made huge strides in mending the division between volunteer and career firefighters, re-arranged some staffing to better suit the needs of the county, and perhaps most importantly was able to realign the South County response area to realize a decrease in homeowner’s insurance for most residents. Chief Cox was wary of accepting this position because of Neuman’s vulnerability and I have heard that part of his agreement was that he could return to the department should the County Executive lose. Also like Davis, Chief Cox will be a welcome chief to any department.
Both outgoing chiefs are indeed victims of politics which is an unfortunate fact of life. Both Chiefs will be missed for their leadership in Anne Arundel County, but both will leave the office with their heads held high for a job well done–something their predecessors could not do!
County Executive Elect Schuh has indicated that he intends to appoint the next chiefs from within the departments. Cox and Davis are leaving with the departments in the best shape they have been for decades. I am sure there are capable candidates in the senior ranks and promoting from within will alway insure some continuity and maintain morale after the loss of a leader. However, whomever gets the nods from Schuh will have some awfully large shoes to fill.
To Chief Davis and Chief Cox—thank you for what you have done for Anne Arundel County.