Chief of Mayor's Office of Employment Development to retire

The longtime head of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development plans to retire in January.

Karen Sitnick, 64, who has worked for the city for more than 30 years, was appointed director of the $24.9 million, 191-person agency in 2000.

During her tenure, the department worked with the city school system and the Johns Hopkins University to establish schools with a focus on careers and equipping students with work experience. She launched Baltimore's Youth Opportunity program in 2000, focused on connecting at-risk youth with a suite of services, from academic support and job training to health care.

The agency also runs youth employment programs, such as YouthWorks, which placed more than 5,000 youth with jobs — many of them at public agencies — last summer. In 2012, the agency started HireOne Youth to connect teens to the private sector.

"Karen has a lot to be proud of," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "She has really put Baltimore on the map for what we're doing around youth."

Sitnick, who has degrees in sociology and counseling, started as a job counselor with the city in the 1970s. She left the public sector to run a linens business, but returned after about 10 years, joining the Mayor's Office of Employment Development in 1984.

Her planned departure follows seven other high-level resignations, including Brenda McKenzie, who headed the Baltimore Development Corp., and former Finance Director Harry Black.

Sitnick, who took home about $136,000 in the last fiscal year, said she is leaving for "totally personal" reasons. She told her staff last week of the retirement. She is hoping to see more of her family outside the area, help her husband in animal rescue work and perhaps take a photography class, she said.

"It's been a dream job … and I've loved every minute of it, or almost every minute of it," she said. "You sort of get a sense when it's time to move on, to allow somebody to come in with a different perspective."

Colin Tarbert, deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development, praised Sitnick's involvement with training for jobs at the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, where 51 percent of the new jobs were filled by city residents. Tarbert said the city hopes to see similar success in other developments that have city involvement, such as Harbor Point.

The administration plans to conduct a search to fill Sitnick's position, Tarbert said.

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