The head of the Howard County Republican Central Committee will be leaving his post next month to become Maryland's Republican national committeeman.

Louis M. Pope, a longtime GOP activist, will replace Dick Taylor, who resigned recently because of illness.

As the state party's committeeman, Pope will represent Maryland at Republican National Committee meetings and help the party write its platform before the Republican National Convention this summer in New York City. He will join Joyce Lyons Terhes of Calvert County, who is the national committeewoman. One man and one woman represent their respective states on the Republican National Committee.

Pope, who has been chairman of the county GOP for seven years, says he will also focus on helping Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to increase the Republican Party ranks in Maryland.

In recent years, Republicans have won several hard-fought races, including the election of state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader (Howard) in 2002, and they are starting to catch up to Democrats in voter registration numbers. But Democrats have won the past two elections for county executive and have maintained a majority on the County Council. Performing at O's Game

Eighty students in Hammond Middle School's wind ensemble will perform the national anthem at the Orioles' home game against the Anaheim Angels tomorrow night at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

The baseball team chooses different performers for each of its 81 home games during the season, said Monica Pence, a public relations manager for the team. The ensemble will perform shortly before the 7:35 p.m. game, she said.

The students also performed the national anthem at a home game last year, she said. To be selected, they must send in a recording of their performance. The students also receive discounted tickets to the game.

New Halfway House

Howard County officials this week celebrated the opening of a halfway house on the grounds of Sheppard Pratt in Ellicott City. The facility will house up to 15 residents.

Several state and local elected leaders, including Howard County Executive James N. Robey (D) and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R), attended a ribbon cutting Monday for the center, which will provide transitional services to residents who have completed inpatient drug and alcohol services. Patients, who will stay an average of six months, will receive some care and counseling before returning home.

The center, which housed its first residents March 23, was funded with state and local contributions and a grant from the nonprofit Horizon Foundation, the county's largest philanthropy. It will be operated by Vanguard Services Unlimited, a Virginia-based organization that runs similar programs throughout the region.

The center has been heralded as a major step toward addressing the county's need for additional drug treatment options for residents. But there was a small hitch that needed to be worked out before it could open. The center was supposed to be called Howard House, but officials realized late last week there was a Howard House apartment complex nearby.

To avoid confusion, the name of the center was changed to Halfway Home.

County of 'Smart People'

The U.S. Census Bureau reported this week that in 2002, Howard topped 231 counties across the country in the percentage of college-educated residents. The bureau's yearly American Community Survey estimated that 58.2 percent of Howard residents 25 and older had at least a bachelor's degree. Montgomery County ranked second, with 56.3 percent, and Fairfax County was third, with an estimated 55.9 percent of residents 25 and older having at least a bachelor's degree. The District of Columbia was ranked 20th, with college degrees earned by 42.5 percent of the population 25 and older.

The news is yet another selling point for the county, says Richard W. Story, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority, which had the information printed up on cards that are handed out to local companies and corporate visitors.

"Smart companies look for smart people," he said.

Tribute to Ex-Politician

After he left the Maryland Senate 18 years ago, James Clark Jr. stuck a filing cabinet full of papers in the workshop at his Howard County farm and figured he would fade into obscurity.

People "generally forget about politicians about as quick as they step out of office," said Clark, who served 27 years in the General Assembly and was president of the Senate from 1979 to 1983.

But Clark, 85, was surprised recently by Howard Community College officials, who have prominently displayed his name on a vinyl banner hanging from the library building. In the coming weeks, the banner will be replaced by silver metallic letters, and the first structure on the HCC campus officially becomes the James Clark Jr. Building.

"I never dreamed I'd have a building named after me," Clark said. The library also will become the permanent home for Clark's papers.

As they researched the history of the college, HCC officials learned that Clark played a prominent role in securing the Assembly's approval for Howard's only homegrown institution of higher education.

"We just realized he played an important part in our history," HCC President Mary Ellen Duncan said.

New Columbia Council Chief

Columbia Council member Joshua Feldmark, a resident of the Village of Wilde Lake, defeated two fellow board members last week to become chairman of the 10-member board. Barbara Russell, who represents Oakland Mills on the council, was elected vice chairman.

Feldmark succeeds Hickory Ridge council representative Miles Coffman. Before the April elections, the Columbia Council was deeply divided, and some of its members complained of a poor working relationship with the staff of the Columbia Association.

Feldmark, who frequently disagreed with Coffman on tax and governance issues before the massive homeowners association, said, "If everybody believes their voices are being heard and their opinions are being considered, my hope is these skirmishes will be less prevalent."

Staff writer Ylan Q. Mui also contributed to this report