Howard County Executive Ken Ulman

County Executive Ken Ulman (File photo / October 8, 2012)

Political campaigns have countless volunteers, people who push the candidates' agenda simply because they support them and believe in it. But in return for their time and support, the campaign managers and heavy lifters often get some of the candidates' cash — and a full-time job after the election.

In 2010, when Howard County Executive Ken Ulman was running for re-election, he paid salaries to five campaign staff: Colin O'Dea, his campaign manager, Susan Smith-Bauk, his chief fundraiser, and Samantha O'Neil, Luis Valdivieso and Molly Jackson.

If you know Howard County government, those names may sound familiar. That's because after Ulman was elected, all of those people were hired to work in his administration.

In addition, two of the people Ulman paid campaign salaries to in 2006, during his first run for county executive, also were hired to work in the administration: Arthur McGreevy and Josh Feldmark.


Sign up to receive our free daily email newsletter: Columbia Today

Ulman said he stands behind the qualifications and abilities of all the employees that he has hired.

"There are well over 100 people who work directly for the county executive in at-will positions," he said. "The vast majority of them I never knew before I got elected. A few of them absolutely worked on my campaign. I think you'd find that to be very common in elections of executive positions."

The positions for at-will employees do not have to be publicly posted like those for classified employees, the employment category most county government workers fall under.

"The executive needs to be able to hire folks that he or she trusts or counts on," explained Ulman. "Sometimes we do a search, sometimes we've already identified a candidate."

Of Ulman's seven campaign staff hires, only O'Neil and Feldmark still work in the administration.

O'Neil, who started in January of 2011 as a technical services support technician, now works as an executive assistant, earning roughly $75,000 a year.

When Ulman formed the Office of Environmental Sustainability shortly after he started his executive career in 2007, he tapped Feldmark to serve as its administrator. Feldmark currently earns $101,000 a year.

Two of the employees who have left the administration are now working for Ulman's campaign again. Ulman has not officially announced his plans for 2014, when term limit restrictions prevent him from running for re-election, but he has acknowledged he is considering a run for governor.

O'Dea, who resigned after one year and one month from his position of executive assistant on July 6, and Smith-Bauk, who resigned after slightly less than two years from her position as deputy chief administrative officer on Aug. 31, are both back on the Friends of Ken Ulman payroll.

"I made the decisions to have them go work for the campaign," Ulman said.

While in the administration, O'Dea earned just under $85,000 a year and Smith-Bauk earned just under $103,000.

Valdivieso worked in the administration from December 2006 to Sept. 21 of this year as a technical services support specialist, earning about $60,000 a year. He had resigned on Aug. 6, 2010 to work on Ulman's re-election campaign and the was rehired in the administration Nov. 8, 2010.

Jackson, a contingent, non-benefit employee, worked on special projects from December 2010 to Aug. 31 of this year for $35 per hour.

McGreevy was hired as a county attorney in December 2006 and resigned in March 2008. He had earned just under $103,000.

If Ulman decides to run for governor and is elected, don't be surprised to see some familiar faces working for him at the state level.

"Whatever position I'm in next, I will hire the best people that I can to do that job," Ulman said. "And some of those folks may be folks who worked on my campaign, some may be folks who work in county government."