The man who would've been king, or at least county executive, had he defeated Janet S. Owens, is recasting himself as the legislative champion of the state agency that protects wildlife and regulates hunting, fishing and crabbing.

Phil Bissett, the Republican who narrowly lost in his challenge to Owens (D) two years ago, became the legislative liaison for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources last week.

Though Owens had portrayed herself as environmentalist, Bissett questioned those credentials during the campaign.

Now, he may have a chance to stand up for green space, crabs and a host of other natural resources in Anne Arundel -- and other -- counties.

During Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s own campaign, one of the first things that Ehrlich said he would do, if elected, was eliminate "politics" from Natural Resources.

Since then, he has given the top job -- secretary -- to an Eastern Shore dentist who owns a fly-fishing business; fired the state fisheries director, Eric Schwaab, who had a significant role in developing new crabbing regulations that watermen have protested; and hired two men who were fired under the Glendening administration.

Mike Slattery, an Anne Arundel County resident who formerly was the director of the Wildlife Heritage Division, and Pete Jensen, formerly fisheries director, were both fired by former Secretary Sarah Taylor Rogers, presumably because of their differing philosophies with the environmentally friendly Glendening administration.

Bissett, for his part, said he came to the job by the standard process: He applied online.

For the rest of the legislative session, Bissett said, he expects to be spending much of his time talking to lawmakers about enacting emergency regulations that would allow the department to loosen crab restrictions enacted last year.

Be True to Your School -- Forever

Leave it to the movers and shakers in the county government to show the youth of Anne Arundel County some proper school spirit.

Dozens of high school seniors from throughout the county went to Downs Park on Friday for the County Executive and County Council for a Day Model Government Orientation, where they received upbeat descriptions of the joys of public service and the thrills of typical county government fare such as zoning hearings and wastewater management.

But when John Hammond, the county's budget officer, took the stand, he tried to win the audience's confidence by revealing that he was a 1966 graduate of Annapolis High School.

In the back of the room, someone began booing. But it didn't come from rambunctious teenagers or even political opponents. No, the mystery heckler was none other than Walter Chitwood, the county's assistant chief administrative officer. Hammond explained to the befuddled students that Chitwood graduated from Severna Park High School back in '66.

This prompted Chitwood to break into the Severna Park fight song:

Hail our Falcons hats off to thee

To our colors true we will ever be...

"I felt moved," a straight-faced Chitwood said later. Hammond replied to the musical outburst by telling Chitwood to sit down and control himself.

The two never faced each other on the field -- Hammond played lacrosse, and Chitwood ran track and played football -- but Chitwood was quick to brag about his alma mater's athletic achievements. "We beat Annapolis; we beat St. Mary's, where the speaker of the House [Del. Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel)] went to school," he said.

And what about the students? "I think they found it humorous," Chitwood said. "It gives them a chance to see that, A, we're human, and B, we've got roots in the community."