Gov. Martin O'Malley swore in former Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. as the state's transportation secretary and longtime aide Abigail Hopper as director of the Maryland Energy Administration at a State House ceremony Tuesday.
Smith, a longtime O'Malley ally, takes over a department that is suddenly flush with money after years of short rations thanks to a comprehensive transportation revenue bill passed by the General Assembly this year. Motorists saw the first impact of the bill Monday, when the state gas tax rose 3.5 cents to 27 cents a gallon.
Smith alluded to the higher tax, which passed over fierce Republican opposition, and promised that citizens would see results from the increased revenue.
"I look forward to proving to the people of Maryland that your leadership was the way we should go," he told O'Malley. "They'll see the Red Line. They'll see the Purple Line. They'll see the CCT."
The Red Line is a proposed east-west light rail line through downtown Baltimore. The Purple Line is a similar project in the Washington suburbs. The CCT is the Corridor Cities Transitway, a transit project along Interstate 270 in Montgomery County.
Marylanders are expected to see a flurry of projects announced starting in September, when the Maryland Department of Transportation begins it annual "road show" in which its top officials visit each of the state's 23 counties and Baltimore. In recent years, top transportation officials have had little to roll out except maintenance and unavoidable bridge replacement projects. This year there is likely to be money for additional road capacity and expanded transit service.
Hopper, who served in the dual role of O'Malley's energy adviser and acting director of the energy administration, now assumes full-time direction of the agency. She is the first woman to serve in that role. She played in leading role in wining passage of O'Malley's offshore wind energy bill, approved by the legislature this year on the administration's third try.
Playing a central role in the ceremony was Maryland's "governor for a day," Genea Harrison, an 8-year-old student at Rosa L. Parks Elementary School in Prince George's County. Genea was chosen from among more than 200 girls under 13 who submitted essays seeking the role.
Genea was sworn in Tuesday morning and had a full schedule of meetings with through the day.
O'Malley said the program was an effort to contribute to the administration's goal of empowering young women to seek equal opportunities.