An article Tuesday about Charles I. Ecker's transition to county executive of Howard County incorrectly reported how long transition team member Alan M. Rifkin served as Gov. William Donald Schaefer's chief legislative aide. It was 1 1/2 years. (Published 11/15/ 90)

Saying he wants to quickly heal a divided Howard County, Republican Charles I. Ecker announced the formation yesterday of a "unity team" of various political stripes to help with his transition to county executive.

Ecker said his narrow, 450-vote victory over incumbent Elizabeth Bobo (D) shows that "there's two sides out there . . . . I see my mandate as trying to heal the county."

Howard, Maryland's fastest-growing county in the 1980s, has been deeply split over how to deal with the development boom that has produced congested roads and crowded schools.

As an activist county executive, Bobo tried to stake out a middle ground on development and to lead through strength rather than consensus. In the process, she alienated both developers and slow-growth advocates.

Ecker's eight-member transition team has at least two Democrats, including Alan M. Rifkin, a Columbia resident who served on Gov. William Donald Schaefer's original transition team and later was the governor's chief legislative aide for about 2 1/2 years.

"I'm a proud Democrat, but I'm even prouder of {Ecker} for asking me to be part of his transition team," Rifkin said.

The team's first task will be to assess the strengths and weaknesses of county government operations and recommend personnel changes. About 50 county employees, including all department heads, serve at the pleasure of the county executive and are not protected by the county merit system.

However, Ecker said he does not plan wholesale changes. The only announced change is the removal of Uri P. Avin, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning and author of the county's 20-year General Plan. Ecker said any other changes probably will occur gradually, after he takes office Dec. 3.

"We really don't have much time," said Michael W. Davis, a lawyer and Ecker campaign adviser who is a co-chairman of the transition team. "Usually in this county, the county executive's race is decided in the primary and the winner has a couple of months to prepare. We have only a couple of weeks."

Davis said Rifkin was tapped to head up a government operations subcommittee of the transition team in part because of his experience in transition work.

Most recently, Rifkin has been general counsel to the Howard County Economic Forum, a broad-based civic coalition that often has been at odds with Bobo. Forum members include minority and farm groups and the county's chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland.

Two forum members head Ecker's transition team. They are Davis, who was elected to lead the forum for a year beginning in July, and Beverly Wilhide, a past forum chairman and owner of several florist shops.

Ecker appointed Harry "Chip" Lundy, president of Williamsburg Homes, to head a land use-management subcommittee; Dana Caro, a retired FBI field administrator, to lead a subcommittee to review police and fire operations; Columbia activist Louise Riemer to head a subcommittee overseeing social service programs; teacher Jan Chastant to lead a parks and recreation subcommittee, and Roger Caplan, a Democrat and president of a local public affairs firm, to head a public relations subcommittee.

Lundy said he was charged by Ecker to include a wide range of interests on his subcommittee, including environmentalists and residents of rural western Howard County.

Caro said his subcommittee will talk to people who have been critical of police operations, including the NAACP and a group of activists upset over the handling of the hanging death of an Oakland Mills youth.

Caro said it is not strange for Ecker to appoint Democrats to his transition team: "Up until a year ago, Dr. Ecker was a Democrat, too," he pointed out.

Before last week, Howard County had never elected a Republican county executive. However, it briefly had a Republican in its highest office when J. Hugh Nicols switched parties after being reelected in 1982 as a Democrat.