Forrest Forced Out of St. Mary's County Government, Says Jarboe

Behind Closed Doors, Commissioners Vote 4-1 Against Keeping County Administrator

George Forrest, county administrator, leaves the St. Mary’s County Commissioner business meeting mere days after the Commissioners voted in executive session not to retain his services for the coming term. Photo by Adam Ross.

By Adam Ross, The County Times. David Noss contributed to this story.

St. Mary’s County Administrator George G. Forrest announced his retirement Monday via an official county government press release. However, Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe (R- Golden Beach) says the real story is that Forrest was ousted by a 4-to-1 vote by the commissioners that was held during an executive session.

Aside from Jarboe's assertion that Forrest was ousted, a reason for the alleged ousting has not yet been ascertained.

“I felt personally, it was important to offer [Forrest] a contract,” Jarboe said Tuesday during a break in the weekly commissioners meeting. “I was prepared, and still am prepared, to offer him a two-year contract, but I’m alone on this one.”

Forrest has served in county government for eight years, the last four as county administrator, but said Tuesday he was ”not at liberty to comment” on Jarboe’s statement and his priority was not to keep his job, but to retire.

“I have accomplished all of he goals I set out to when I came into county government eight years ago,” Forrest said in his office Tuesday, with his fingers locked and a smile across his face. “My vision was to make government more efficient, open and citizen friendly, and I think we are in that position today.”

Commission President Jack Russell (D-Point Lookout) thanked Forrest for his work in St. Mary’s County, but when asked about the vote during executive session to remove him, Russell dodged the question, repeating the mantra “he has done very well for the county.”

A more direct denial came from Commissioner Thomas A. Mattingly, who said the decision for Forrest to retire was left completely up to him, and “the board had no influence that I’m aware of” over it.

Former Commission President Thomas F. McKay commended Forrest for his communication skills and leadership.

“He served the county at a time when morale for county employees was very low,” McKay said. “Many directors were considering leaving county government and George provided the inspirational leadership that really turned the organization around.”

Of the five previous county administrators Jarboe has worked with, he said Forrest was “the best” and he was distraught that he was being removed.

“Things were smooth,” Jarboe added of Forrest’s work. “He is a former war hero and a very fine individual.”

Forrest’s retirement is effective Jan. 31, and John Savich, director of the Department of Economic and Community Development, will serve in his stead until a replacement is found.

“George is the best boss I’ve ever had and it’s been great working with him,” Savich said in a telephone interview following Tuesday’s meeting. “I was sorry to see someone who’s been so great to work with go.”

Savich served as the backup to Forrest over his tenure, and while he did not deny interest in replacing Forrest as county administrator, “that’s a decision I will make at the point a job is advertised,” he said.

According to Savich, the process in finding a replacement should take a few months, but he feels comfortable balancing both positions over that time frame.

“It’s not the first time in my career where I have moved into an acting position,” he added. “I have a great staff and we can easily carry on for a few months.”

Forrest, a saxophonist for over 30 years, joked about joining his brother’s rock band, but said improving his golf game and taking care of his mother and father “who need more attention every day” would be his new challenges.

Forrest was the first African American to hold the position of county administrator in St. Mary’s County; the highest paid, non-elected post in county government.

He served on the board of directors for St. Mary’s Hospital, Tomorrow’s Child, the Sotterly Historical Foundation, and the Governor’s Southern Maryland Higher Education Center during his 30 years experience in organizational management.

Before serving the county, Forrest retired from 21 years of active service in the United States Army where he received two Bronze Stars for valor, three Republic of Vietnam Crosses for gallantry, a Combat Infantry Badge and a Parachute Badge.

Additionally, Forrest has served in St. Mary’s County Public Schools as Director of Students at St. Mary’s Ryken High School and Principal of the St. Mary’s County Technical Center.

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