Leonard Howie

Leonard Howie will take over as Maryland's labor secretary on Oct. 8.

Maryland's new labor secretary will be Leonard Howie, an official at the state Department of Human Resources, the state said Monday.

Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement that he was "confident in Leonard's ability to connect Marylanders with the jobs and skills they need to compete." Howie steps into his new job Oct. 8.

Former Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez left in May to work for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, with Scott R. Jensen filling in as interim secretary since then. Jensen will remain at the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation as deputy secretary.

Howie has worked as deputy secretary for operations at the Human Resources Department since November, but he spent the previous 41/2 years at the agency he will head — largely as deputy secretary. The state said Howie worked on "critical departmental initiatives" there, including workforce development and adult education.

He left at a time when connecting the unemployed with jobs was no easy matter, and similar challenges face him as he returns. About 215,000 Marylanders are out of work and actively looking, more than twice as many as there were just before the recession.

Howie said Monday that his immediate goal is to help residents increase their skills to be "well-positioned to take advantage of [job] opportunities as they come up."

"There's a lot of work that the agency has done over the years … but I think there's always room to do more," he said.

The College Park resident earned an MBA and a law degree at Georgetown University. His background includes working as an attorney with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, as a senior consultant with a group that trains corporations and government agencies in business ethics, and as a Marine Corps infantry officer.

Jensen, who worked with his incoming boss when Howie was deputy labor secretary, said Howie knows the agency well and how its various arms — such as unemployment insurance and workforce development — can get the job done more effectively by cooperating.

"Leonard completely understands how the department works and is very committed to its mission of helping Marylanders," Jensen said.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

  • Text BUSINESS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Business text alerts