Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist announced the dismissal of the third department head in a week yesterday in a series of high-level personnel changes that Gilchrist says are designed to "bring in new people with new ideas, direction and leadership."

Yesterday Gilchrist said he will replace Alex Wernick as director of the Department of Liquor Control, effective next week.

When he took office in December as the county's first Democratic executive, Gilchrist found that the only way he could fill jobs with his own appointees was to remove some or all of the 22 department heads -- the only political positions in the government. The 6,000 other county employes are protected from dismissal by strict merit system laws.

Last week, Gilchrist notified Fran Abrams, director of the Environmental Protection Department, and Hameed Naz, head of the Health Systems Planning Agency, that he would replace them.

He said he has made "no firm decisions" on their successors.

Gilchrist already has appointed three other department heads, and his staff has said there are no plans "in the near future" to make further personnel changes.

Wernick, 38, was recruited in a $14,000 job search 18 months ago from his position as vice president and general manager of Heidelberg Distributing Co. in Cincinnati. In Montgomery County, he heads the only county-run liquor, wine and beer monopoly in the nation.

The liquor system, under attack by the businessmen whom it supplies for alleged inefficiencies, was one agency that was mildly criticized by Gilchrist during his campaign.

Wernick said yesterday that he was surprised at his dismissal. He said of Gilchrist, "When he came on board he could have said to those he wanted to get rid of that we would have 60 or 90 days to stay around and then he would expect us to go. But I thought as time went on, and not hearing from him, that my job was being performed as he wanted."