O'Malley brought Maynard to Maryland from Iowa soon after he took office in 2007. The two quickly moved to close the aging House of Correction in Jessup, where a correctional officer had been killed.

The challenge of dealing with a notoriously dangerous prison was attractive to Maynard, who was running Iowa's relatively calm prisons at the time.

"My history has led me into those kind of situations, away from the mundane and into the more challenging," Maynard said.

Maynard, who makes an annual salary of more than $165,000, has spent his entire adult life in corrections. A long-standing interest in prisons was cemented in college when his sociology class toured a prison in Oklahoma. He was particularly impressed with the warden, who had a respectful rapport with inmates and officers.

"I said I want to do that. I want that job some day," he recalled.

Maynard went to work as a prison psychologist in 1970 and moved into prison administration by 1974. He has run prisons and state correctional systems in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Iowa.

His said his toughest test was in the mid-1980s, when he was an assistant state corrections director and had to take over a troubled state penitentiary in Oklahoma.

In an effort to re-establish order, he removed popular inmates from their prison jobs, sparking an uprising. The inmates stabbed several officers and took seven employees hostages for hours before Maynard negotiated an end to the standoff.

"That was the hardest on my family, hardest on me personally. I learned so much," he said, citing "that expression of 'things that don't kill you make you stronger.'"

"I became a better leader for it, I became stronger for it. The institution became stronger for it."

Former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges still holds Maynard in high regard.

"Gary is a top-flight corrections professional," said Hodges, who hired Maynard away from Oklahoma in 2001 to lead his state's troubled prison system.

Before Maynard took over, the South Carolina system had been rocked by a scandal involving corrections officers allegedly having sex with inmates — including Susan Smith, who infamously was convicted of drowning her children. Officers were also accused of having sex with inmates in the governor's mansion.

Hodges said he needed an outsider to reform the system — at time when budgets were tight.

"He came in and managed a difficult situation in our corrections system," Hodges said. "He could manage the budget, he could motivate employees and he could keep the prisons safe."

Hodges ended up recommending Maynard for his next job as director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, as well as his current job in Maryland.

Hodges said he's not surprised that Maynard isn't shying away from responsibility for the Baltimore City Detention Center and what led to the Black Guerrilla Family's activities.

"That's not in his DNA. He's very forthright and straightforward. What you see is what you get with Gary," he said.

When Maynard left Iowa for Maryland in 2007, members of Iowa's Board of Corrections were disappointed, recalled Arthur Neu, a member of the board at the time. Neu, an attorney, said Maynard was diligent in responding to a series of suicides among mentally ill inmates and dealing with the replacement of an aging maximum security prison.

"I never had a feeling that he was hiding anything from us," Neu said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

pwood@baltsun.com

Gary D. Maynard

Position: Secretary of public safety and correctional services

Past jobs: Director, Iowa Department of Corrections, 2003-2007; Director, South Carolina Department of Corrections, 2001-2003; various positions in state and federal institutions in Oklahoma as counselor, warden and administrator, 1970s through 1990s. Retired from Oklahoma Army National Guard with rank of brigadier general.

Education: B.A. in sociology, East Central State College; M.S. in rehabilitation counseling, Oklahoma State University

Age: Turns 70 on Wednesday

Personal: Married with one grown son. Lives in Towson. Enjoys golf, working in the yard and traveling.