County Opts To Skip National Search, Names Mason’s Successor

SNOW HILL — Worcester County has decided to skip a lengthy search process and will promote current Finance Officer Harold Higgins to serve as Chief Administrative Officer when Gerald Mason retires this June.

“For me it’s kind of like playing third base for the Baltimore Orioles after Brookes Robinson retired,” said Higgins. “Gerry was so well liked and he does such a great job and following him has its anxiety levels. He’s such a great manager; it’s a privilege to follow him and try to continue on with what he’s done for the county in the past.”

The County Commission was quick to get behind Higgins, naming him Mason’s successor within three days of the latter’s retirement announcement.

“Higgins is the right person for the job,” said Commission President Bud Church. “He has experience and tenure with the county. We’ve worked with him for a number of years and feel that he is more than qualified to take on this role.”

A graduate of the University of Baltimore, Higgins holds a degree in accounting and spent 15 years in the banking industry before joining Worcester as finance officer in 1996. He also serves as chair for the Maryland Government Finance Officers Association Tax Affinity Group.

Since coming to Worcester, the county has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association for its comprehensive annual financial report for four consecutive years. The award is the “highest form of recognition awarded to local governments for accounting and financial reporting,” according to county officials.

“I would like to thank the commissioners for this opportunity to serve as the next county Chief Administrative Officer,” Higgins said. “I look forward to the challenge and am thankful for the management team that we currently have in place. Based on the pool of talent that is here, I am confident we will continue to make a difference. Citizens and government working together is the torch that Jerry passes on to me that I intend to carry and light our way as we continue to go forward.”

In the coming years, Higgins said that he is excited to help plot the course for the county. How smooth that course will be is dependent on how revenue projections for the next few years hold up as well as property value reassessments, he added.

“I believe we’re at the bottom of the trough but the big question mark will be fiscal year 2016 when Ocean City gets reassessed,” said Higgins. “Will that market improve? If it does, I think we’ll be okay. If it doesn’t, then it’ll be tough times ahead trying to figure out where we can curtail expenditures and appropriations to meet our needs.”

Another concern that has always been present but has been tragically underscored by recent events is basic safety.

“You’ve got to wonder how to make sure that we provide a safe environment for our constituents,” Higgins said, promising that things like school security and general welfare will continue to be priorities.

The final decision for Higgins’ replacement will be in the hands of the County Commission, but Higgins recommends going internal.

“My recommendation to the commissioners at their next meeting is to promote from within,” he said.