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Wayne Clark, executive director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, was told this week that his services were no longer needed after Wednesday.

The nine members of the executive board made the unanimous decision before Christmas, but didn’t tell Clark until Wednesday.

The executive board made the decision for a change in direction, said Todd Morgan (R), a St. Mary’s County commissioner and co-chairman of the council. “It’s probably best for the organization to have a change in leadership,” he said. “We wish Wayne the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

Clark held the job for about six years.

“Wayne’s given us good service, but we want to go in a new direction and now is the time to make a change,” said Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s), a member of the executive board.

The renewed focus of the council will be directed toward three things, Bohanan said — education, economic development and infrastructure for the region, such as transportation.

Wayne Clark said Wednesday he could not comment, but suggested then he might on Thursday. He could not be reached by deadline Thursday.

Gerald Clark, a Calvert County commissioner and member of the council’s executive board, said, “I worked for Wayne for a couple years as chair and at that time, my first year there I was pretty new to the position as chair because we just rotated county to county, so I learned a lot and I have no complaints about working with Wayne … Wayne is a very professional person and very cognizant of some of the issues in Southern Maryland.

“There’s no smoking gun there or any one big hiccup or anything that precipitated this move,” Gerald Clark said. “It’s just things are getting different, budgets are getting tighter and the executive committee decided to move in a different direction and look for new leadership.

“Wayne should be very proud of his tenure at the tri-county council. He moved the tri-county council along quite a distance and he kept it moving in some very tough times,” he said.

Elaine Lancaster is filling in as the interim director, while a search is under way for a new executive director.

The Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland was established on Dec. 6, 1964, to foster the economic and social development of Southern Maryland, according to the Maryland Manual. The slot machine economies of the region were on their way out, as the state voted in 1963 to eliminate the 5,000 machines by 1968.

In return for banning slot machines in Southern Maryland, the state promised to build the bridge to connect Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, to convert St. Mary’s College into a four-year school and formed the tri-county council, Bohanan said.

The council pools local, state and federal resources to address regional issues such as transportation, utilities, urban growth and development, housing and public facilities and services, according to the Maryland Manual.

For example, the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland repeatedly informs the Maryland Department of Transportation that a top regional highway priority is the replacement project for the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge, which opened in 1977 connecting Calvert and St. Mary’s.

State planning for the replacement project, which includes improving the intersection of Route 235 and Route 4, should be completed in fiscal 2014. An additional span or an entirely new and wider bridge are under evaluation. Estimates for the work start at $750 million, and there is no money programmed for engineering at this point.

Staff writer Jeff Newman contributed to this report.