ANNAPOLIS, SEPT. 21 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer's chief legislative lobbyist, Alan Rifkin, said today that he has changed his mind about going to work for one of the state's top lobbyists and will keep his job.

Rifkin said on Sept. 10 that he was going to become a partner in a law firm headed by Bruce Bereano, the top-paid lobbyist in Annapolis. Coupled with the resignation of Schaefer's budget secretary, H. Louis Stettler III, the losses would have left Schaefer without two of the people most responsible for his legislative successes last spring.

Schaefer replaced Stettler with Charles L. Benton Jr., Baltimore's finance director when Schaefer was mayor, and the governor said at a news conference last Wednesday that he had found a replacement for Rifkin, but he would not say who.

But Schaefer and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg were hoping that Rifkin would stay, and Steinberg and Rifkin discussed the matter again Friday.

Steinberg said the administration is putting together its legislative agenda for the session that begins in January, and the current period is "very criticial in our ability to be successful in the session."

"It was difficult for me to ask Alan to stay," he said.

Rifkin said he changed his mind "because the lieutenant governor asked me."

Rifkin, 30, is popular with legislators and familiar with the legislative process, which was not the case with the staff that Schaefer brought with him to Annapolis from Baltimore City Hall. Although some legislators have said privately that Rifkin does not get along with some members of that staff -- Schaefer bristled at those reports last week -- Rifkin has said that this is not true and has refused to discuss the issue.

Rifkin is paid $71,000 a year, stood to increase his income substantially by becoming a partner in Bereano's firm. He and Steinberg said a raise was not discussed.

When asked if he will remain on the staff only through the legislative session, Rifkin said only that he had "made a commitment." He said he does not have a standing offer to join the Bereano firm.

Bereano was "enormously gracious and understanding" when informed of his decision, Rifkin said. Bereano could not be reached for comment.