Baltimore's liquor board commissioners said Wednesday they've hired an experienced administrator to run the troubled agency.
Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth, the town administrator of Capitol Heights in Prince George's County, will become the first woman to head Baltimore's liquor board in its 80-year history, commissioners said.
Bailey-Hedgepeth is scheduled to start work as the agency's executive secretary, as the position is known, by June 1. She replaces Samuel T. Daniels Jr., the board's longtime executive secretary, who announced his retirement last year.
"This is an exciting day for the liquor board," said departing board chairman Stephan Fogleman, who is becoming an Orphans' Court judge. "Reform has been underway for quite some time at the board, and we are excited to hire a highly credentialed choice for executive secretary in Mrs. Bailey-Hedgepeth."
The commissioners have said they're reforming the way the board does business after a state audit revealed a lax work ethic and spotty enforcement.
Commissioner Elizabeth Smith said Bailey-Hedgepeth was selected based on her qualifications, not political patronage as in the past.
"Historically, selections for administrative positions were as a result of political patronage," Smith said. "As such, it was important for this commission to demonstrate our commitment to reform by selecting a candidate based solely on qualified professional experience."
Fogleman said that while Bailey-Hedgepeth has accepted the position, the salary is still being negotiated. The pay range is $78,000 to $101,000, he said.
Bailey-Hedgepeth has previously served as assistant to the city manager of North Las Vegas and as assistant to the city manager of Champaign, Ill.
Hedgepeth, who lives in North Baltimore, has also served as chief financial officer of Capitol Heights since September 2011. She holds a master's degree in public administration from Florida State University and a bachelor's degree in political science from Purdue University.
State auditors found last year that two workers who were expected to conduct more than 800 inspections of liquor establishments each year instead completed only 41. Auditors also said the board's antiquated paper processing system was so mismanaged that workers resorted to makeshift record-keeping arrangements.
Since the audit came out, the liquor board has laid off four of 14 full-time inspectors and asked the city to help computerize the records. Inspectors have been given heftier workloads and are no longer allowed to work from home, officials said.