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County lobbyist leaves for state position

Frank Principe, who served as the county’s lobbyist in Annapolis for the last seven years, has left the county to take a position with the state Department of Transportation.

Principe’s last day was on Oct. 15. He leaves to become the special assistant to Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley, according to Don Mohler, a county spokesman.

Principe, a Towson resident, was not available for comment.

Principe’s departure comes two weeks before a new county executive will be elected and ultimately sworn in on Dec. 6.

Principe’s move to the Department of Transportation is not as unlikely as it might sound.

Principe was County Executive Jim Smith’s representative on the Baltimore Metropolitan Council where he worked on transportation issues. Prior to joining the county, Principe was the lobbyist for Towson University. He also worked for 10 years as a special assistant to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

Swaim-Staley also has a history with Baltimore County. She was Smith’s choice to serve as his first county administrative officer. Swaim-Staley’s had a falling out with the council before Smith could nominate her and she ultimately withdrew her name from consideration.

Mohler said the county does not currently plan to advertise the position and will wait for the new administration — either Republican Ken Holt or Democrat Kevin Kamenetz — to take office and begin a search. In the interim, Mohler said he will take over Principe’s responsibilities. Mohler also serves as the County Executive Jim Smith’s liaison, or lobbyist, to the County Council.

The delay means the county will have about one month to interview and hire a candidate who will be the face of the county in Annapolis during a session many expect will include discussions about transferring the costs of state teacher pensions to local jurisdictions.

The transfer could mean as much as $90 million in costs could be passed on to Baltimore County alone.

Principe is the third top aide to Smith to leave in the last year.

Earlier this spring Peter O’Malley, Smith’s chief of staff, left to join the campaign to re-elect his brother, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Erin Roberts, the county’s liaison to the county school system, also left just prior to the birth of her second child.

UPDATE: This post was updated to correct the spelling of Beverley Swaim-Staley’s name.

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