Gov. Parris N. Glendening appointed Amy J. Bragunier as Charles County's newest Circuit Court judge last week, making her the first woman and first Hispanic to serve on the county bench.

Bragunier, 40, is just the third woman ever appointed to a Southern Maryland Circuit judgeship, joining Marjorie L. Clagett in Calvert County and Karen Abrams, who recently became the first female judge in St. Mary's County.

Glendening (D), who called Bragunier "a knowledgeable, hard-working and conscientious lawyer," said he was trying to make the court "more reflective of the people it serves."

Bragunier replaces Judge Richard J. Clark, who retired last summer after 22 years. Bragunier served for six years as a master of domestic relations and juvenile causes, handling child abuse and neglect cases. She has also worked in private practice and as an assistant attorney for Charles County government.

In interviews, local lawyers have said Bragunier is fair-minded and qualified, but she was not the first choice of the county's Judicial Nominating Commission, which sends recommendations to the governor.

In June, the commission said District Court Judge Gary S. Gasparovic and Master Helen Ina Harrington were the most qualified candidates. Citing an executive order that three names should be submitted, Glendening asked the commission to give him another choice, and it forwarded Bragunier's name.

Calvert to Add, Upgrade Ballfields

Calvert County will spend more than $1 million to improve recreational facilities under a plan that will add 40 new ballfields by next year.

The project, approved unanimously by the Board of Commissioners, includes upgrading existing fields at schools for recreational use, as well as acquiring new property at two locations. Addressing the county's shortage of recreational fields has become a priority over the last decade of rapid growth in Calvert.

"This government made a difference," Commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings) said when the project was approved at the end of last month.

On Oct. 29, the commissioners adjusted the fiscal 2003 budget to allocate $1,054,504 for the plan, with $981,854 coming from reserve funds and $72,650 from money raised by recreational fees. They also authorized county staffers to allocate bond funding for land acquisition in the fiscal 2004 budget.

In the short term, the county will upgrade and take over upkeep at 22 fields at local public schools in return for the right to schedule all activities at those sites, officials have reported.

The 34 ballfields now maintained in county parks serve more than 500 sports teams and almost 8,000 youngsters enrolled in sports activities, according to Doug Meadows, chief of Calvert County Parks and Recreation.

In addition to the school sites, 10 fields will be developed at other locations. There will be two fields at county-owned Kings Landing Park, four at the Calvert County Fairgrounds and four at Dunkirk Gateway Park.

The plan also calls for leasing and developing 20 acres next to Hallowing Point Park, which will be used for six more fields dedicated to soccer.

The long-range plan involves acquiring two tracts that would add more than 130 acres to the county's inventory of recreational land. The first location -- near a county school off Ball Road in the St. Leonard area -- encompasses a 110-acre tract and may ultimately contain eight ballfields.

"It may also be a future school site," said Sherrod Sturrock, the county's capital projects coordinator.

The second site is within the Solomons Town Center near Annmarie Garden and will provide waterfront access in addition to at least two ballfields.

According to county staff reports, the plan would satisfy the need for playing fields for 20 to 25 years.

Hejl Is Calvert Assistant Sheriff

Calvert County Sheriff-elect Mike Evans on Tuesday appointed Tom Hejl as assistant sheriff, responsible for the department's day-to-day operations.

Hejl, a retired Maryland State Police trooper who attained the rank of lieutenant, has administrative experience that Evans (R) does not. Hejl retired from the state police in 1996 after taking over a supervisory position in the agency's narcotics division.

In 1998, Hejl became the first in-house investigator for the Calvert State's Attorney's Office. In that position, he helped to assemble evidence for trial, track down witnesses and investigate allegations of police misconduct. Hejl has been especially helpful in several white-collar crime cases, said his current boss, State's Attorney Robert B. Riddle.

"I think he's an excellent choice. He has a wealth of investigative and administrative experience," Riddle said.

The appointment will give Hejl the rank of captain and an $85,712 annual salary, more than $25,000 above Evans's pay.

Hejl and Evans, also a retired trooper, worked together for several years in the state police Prince Frederick Barrack.

Evans passed over the current assistant sheriff, Capt. Tilden Garner, who will retire Jan. 1. Garner had supported Evans's opponent in last week's election, incumbent Sheriff John A. "Rodney" Bartlett Jr. (D), while Hejl was a familiar face on the campaign trail with Evans.

Evans said politics played a small role in his choice.

"Mostly it was his abilities, his qualification and his re{acute}sume{acute} that were the biggest part," Evans said.

Forums on Student Performance

St. Mary's County public schools tonight begins a series of community forums on student performance that will focus on eliminating the achievement gap in the 16,000-student district. Research has shown that poor students lag behind their middle-class peers in school, and black and Hispanic students are outperformed by Asian and white students.

The first session will begin at 7 p.m. at Spring Ridge Middle School in Lexington Park and will feature a presentation by school officials, a question-and-answer session and small group discussion.

Future sessions are scheduled Nov. 25 at Oakville Elementary School and Dec. 4 at Great Mills High School. For more information, call Deanna Nored, director of academic support, at 301-475-5511, Ext. 136.

Shellfish Harvesting Restricted

Based on a recent evaluation showing unacceptable bacteria levels in shellfish harvesting areas in tributaries to the St. Mary's and Patuxent rivers, the Maryland Department of the Environment has closed portions of the St. Inigoes Creek and Carthegena Creek (tributaries to St. Mary's River) and Cuckhold Creek (a tributary to Patuxent River). The closure, which took effect Nov. 4, affects the harvesting of oysters and clams only and does not apply to swimming, fishing or crabbing in those areas.

An evaluation of pollution sources along the affected waterways did not identify a specific source of the bacteria. Potential sources include runoff after rain, the proximity of marinas and boat docks, and communities that are served by individual on-site septic systems.

Meet Your State Legislators

Individuals and organizations in Calvert County will have a chance Tuesday to meet with members of their state legislative delegation to voice opinions and make suggestions for issues to be considered in the 2003 General Assembly.

The annual Legislative Evening with the Annapolis Delegation is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Calvert County and other community organizations. It is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Calvert Pines Senior Center, West Dares Beach Road, Prince Frederick.

'Sleep-Out' for Homeless Shelter

A "Sleep-Out" tomorrow at St. Mary's College will raise funds for the Three Oaks Homeless Shelter in Lexington Park and mark National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

The event, co-sponsored by For Goodness' Sake of St. Mary's College and Progressive Southern Maryland, will begin at 4 p.m. at the St. Mary's College Admissions Field. The program includes speakers, a candlelight ceremony, dinner, a cardboard house-building contest with prizes, live music, a bonfire and hot cocoa. Organizers said many people plan to stay overnight after the scheduled program ends about 10 p.m.

Checks from those sponsoring sleep-over participants or for direct donations may be made to St. Mary's College Foundation, with proceeds benefiting the Three Oaks Homeless Shelter.

Staff writer Theola Labbe{acute} contributed to this report.