For the first major appointment to his transition team, Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan tapped Democrat Robert R. Neall, a former lawmaker widely respected by both parties for his keen fiscal sense.
Hogan praised Neall's reputation as a sharp financial mind and joked that he even forgave Neall for switching parties from Republican to Democrat a few decades ago.
Neall, 66, joins Hogan's running mate, Boyd Rutherford, and James T. Brady as what Hogan called the "executive team" to prepare to take over state government from out-going Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Hogan also announced the team launched a website, hogantransition.com, to deal with the thousands of requests that have been pouring in since his upset win over Democrat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
Neall's role appears to be the first step in Hogan's pledge to create a bi-partisan administration.
Neall will be the transition team's point person on crafting the state budget, a herculean task the team must complete in about two months.
Even though the state is likely to face dwindling revenue projections at a meeting of a key state panel later today, Hogan said he planned to fulfill his campaign promise to curb state spending.
He again declined to offer specifics on what he would do. Hogan said that he is in the process of gathering reams of information and that discussing substantive policy goals now would be "putting the cart before the horse."
Rutherford, who served as an Ehrlich administration Cabinet secretary, will be put in charge of what Hogan described as a top-to-bottom review of state departments. Brady, who was a Glendening Cabinet secretary, will review personnel and appointments.
Neall has been tapped by top politicians of both parties to oversee challenging tasks. He is currently chair of two O'Malley commissions, and for four years led the state panel that decided where casinos should be built in the state. Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich put Neall in charge of finding a financial rescue plan for Baltimore City schools, a plan the district ultimately rejected.
Neall spent 19 years in the General Assembly and served one term as the Anne Arundel County executive.