He said this week he'll start Wednesday as the chief administrative officer for Maryland's Department of General Services, reporting to Secretary Alvin C. Collins.
"After the election, I updated my resume and sent it out," said Cohen, who lost to Republican Mike Pantelides by 59 votes out of about 8,000 cast Nov. 5. "Independent of that, Secretary Collins reached out to me. We have known each other and worked together in different capacities."
In his new position, Cohen said, he will use the administrative skills he gained as mayor to manage what he called "the operational backbone of state government," which includes handling office space, procurement and personnel.
"I will not be overseeing engineering or design," he said. "It will be more back office — finance, inventory and personnel."
Cohen, a Democrat, was mayor of Annapolis beginning in 2009. Before that, he was a member of the Anne Arundel County Council and an alderman representing Annapolis' Ward 8 on the city council. During those periods, he also worked in criminal justice at the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center and as a parole and probation officer.
Cohen took heat during the election year for his efforts to press for a new master plan for Annapolis' City Dock, which some saw as promoting too much change in the downtown area. But he also guided the reopening of the city-owned Market House, a popular site for food vendors.
He said he did not plan to seek elected office in the foreseeable future.
"Secretary Collins has a need for leadership and supervisory management on his staff. I understand about delivery of service, and I can also see the big picture because of my time as mayor," he said.
In his new position, Cohen will earn $112,000 a year.
Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.