Howard County Personnel Administrator Janet P. Haddad last night withdrew a proposal to institute new testing for annual police and fire promotion lists as a way of opening more promotion opportunities for women and minorities.

The plan had drawn stiff opposition from police and firefighters unions as well as a local minority officers association.

Haddad said at a meeting of the county Personnel Board she had been unable to reach a compromise with union officials, police officers and representatives of the Howard County Association of Minority Officers.

In November, Haddad proposed to amend the county's personnel code to scrap the existing two-year eligibility lists and set up new testing for one-year promotion lists. Haddad said the annual eligibility lists would give women and minorities earlier and more frequent opportunities for promotions.

Union officials last night praised the county administration's decision to abandon annual eligibility lists.

"The county took the right approach," said Dave Etheridge, president of the police union. "It was the fair thing to do."

Mark Richards, president of the firefighters union, said he "felt good about the decision. The whole promotion process should be looked at."

Haddad's proposal had angered many police officers and firefighters, who said the county was unfairly changing its promotion policy. The minority association said the proposal would stigmatize black officers promoted under the revamped system.

Etheridge called Haddad's plan a "slap in the face" to the 34 white male police officers who passed a sergeant's exam in July and were told their names would be on the eligibility list for two years. No minority officers and just one female officer scored high enough to be included on the list.

At last night's meeting, Haddad said county officials would try to institute new promotion procedures as part of coming negotiations with the police and firefighters unions. Current contracts with both bargaining units will expire in June.

Despite the setback, Haddad said yesterday that Howard officials remain committed to improving the hiring and promotion of minorities and women in the county police and fire departments.

Cecil G. Christian Jr., chairman of the Personnel Board, said he was disappointed with the administration's decision, but he urged the county to implement a training program to assist all candidates eligible for promotions.