New PenMar chief chosen

The Washington County Commissioners appointed Richard D. Rook as executive director.

The Washington County Commissioners appointed Richard D. Rook as executive director.

October 03, 2002|by TARA REILLY

A Waynesboro, Pa., man and former U.S. Air Force officer has been appointed executive director of PenMar Development Corp., the organization charged with developing the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base in Cascade for business, PenMar board chairman Brett Wilson said Wednesday.

The Washington County Commissioners approved the hiring of Richard D. Rook late Tuesday afternoon after meeting in a closed session, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

The commissioners voted 3-1 to appoint Rook, with John Schnebly voting against the move.

Commissioner William J. Wivell was not present at the time of the vote, he said.

Rook could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Schnebly said he opposed the appointment because Rook runs a business, and he thought it would be a tough task to handle both jobs.


Commissioners Vice President Paul L. Swartz said Wednesday that if he voted again, he would vote against Rook's appointment.

Rook owns the franchise rights for Fazoli's restaurants in the Hagerstown area and is involved in several other business ventures, according to a release from PenMar.

"I just find it difficult to serve two masters," Schnebly said. "It's kind of why John Schnebly isn't running for county commissioner."

Schnebly said he decided not to run to retain his commissioner seat because, as president of an insurance company, his time is limited.

Otherwise, Schnebly said he thought Rook was a good candidate for the PenMar position.

Swartz said he voted for Rook because "professionals" researched Rook's background and he received phone calls from PenMar board members about the job candidate.

"I didn't want to..." Swartz said. "The gentleman is really tied up in a number of businesses. In my mind I didn't know if he had the time to do this."

"But I went with the professionals," Swartz said. "We need someone in there."

Swartz said he was would have liked former Economic Development Commission Director John Howard to get the job.

Wivell said he had the same reservation as Schnebly and Swartz, but he didn't know if that was enough to vote against the appointment.

Wilson said the PenMar board knew about Rook's other obligations.

"We're all comfortable with everything," Wilson said.

Rook is president and managing partner of The Barjas Co., a former vice president of sales for B. Foster & Co. Inc., and vice president for operations at Hess Manufacturing Co.

He was an officer in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years, retiring in 1997 as a group commander responsible for operational test and evaluation of B-52 and B-1B system upgrades.

He is a committee chairman for the Waynesboro YMCA Board of Directors and a member of the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce Planning and Business Development Committee.

PenMar was created in 1996 by the Maryland General Assembly to redevelop the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base for business.

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