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Longtime Charles County government employee Roy E. Hancock will retire as deputy county administrator at the end of the year, prompting county commissioners and workers to gather at a presentation in his honor Tuesday morning in La Plata.

Hancock started his government career as an assistant county engineer in June 1973, soon after graduating from college, he said. In the late 1970s, with the formation of the Department of Public Works, he became chief of facilities, then the department’s deputy director. In 1980, with the departure of future Maryland Del. Murray D. Levy, Hancock became director of public works, then took over the Department of Planning and Growth Management a decade later.

He was promoted to deputy county administrator in 2007 after serving a stint as acting county administrator after the departure of Administrator Eugene T. Lauer in 2005. In all, Hancock served three times as acting administrator, most recently since July, when a majority of the county commissioners fired then-Administrator Rebecca Bridgett. But he never aspired to hold the top post permanently, he said, because he came from a “technical background.”

Hancock’s retirement will come just two weeks after Mark J. Belton starts as the county’s new administrator next Monday. The pair already have begun to work together so that Belton will know the ropes before Hancock’s departure, including holding meetings with department heads, said county spokeswoman Crystal Hunt.

“I know that they’re already in conversation with Roy, talking about things he’ll need to be brought up to speed on. With that process, they’re getting a jump on things,” Hunt said.

Hancock, a Port Tobacco resident, will spend his retirement in Charles County, where he was born and raised, he said. He and his wife, Shirley, do plan to travel, first to Alaska, which he has long wanted to visit. He also plans to pursue some new hobbies, and “other than that, to keep an open agenda,” he said.

“I’ve never been off for more than a week at a time. It will be a nice difference to see what it’s like. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy it,” he said.

Commissioners bathed Hancock in praise at their meeting Tuesday morning, winning two standing ovations from county staffers in the audience.

“I jokingly call him Charles County’s version of Leon Panetta,” said Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D). “If you’re familiar with federal politics, [Defense Secretary] Leon Panetta is the go-to guy whenever there’s a need for a new appointee for the United States, and that’s how Roy has been. … In this very political world that we associate ourselves with in Charles County government, if you were to ask me, ‘What is Roy’s party affiliation?’ I would have no clue. Roy has always maintained a neutrality, which is totally recognizable.”

The board also presented Hancock with a proclamation from the state Senate and one of its own, in honor of his retirement.

emitrano@somdnews.com