State labor secretary to be mayor's chief of staff

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has once again looked outside Baltimore government for a chief of staff, tapping Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez for the position.

"I want to build on the strength of her vision," Sanchez, 43, said in an interview Monday after the mayor made the announcement. "She's had great success at reducing crime and building up the public schools."

Sanchez — Rawlings-Blake's third chief of staff in less than three years — will succeed Peter O'Malley, Gov. Martin O'Malley's brother. Peter O'Malley left the City Hall post in March to work for the Venable law firm in Baltimore.

Sanchez confirmed that for his new job, he will be relocating his wife and three children from Ohio, where they have lived for the past seven years while he worked first for the United Way in Virginia and, since 2009, for the state. Sanchez said he plans to have his children enrolled in local schools for the fall.

He has lived in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood since 2009 and traveled to Ohio on the weekends, he said. "I wasn't lucky enough to be born in Maryland, but I got here as quick as I could," he said.

In a statement, Rawlings-Blake said Sanchez will bring "a wealth of great experience" to the job of chief of staff. His knowledge of workforce development will "go a long way" toward bolstering the city's economy, she said.

O'Malley, in a statement, said Sanchez has been a "highly effective" member of his Cabinet. Scott R. Jensen, the deputy secretary, will lead the state department as interim secretary.

Sanchez has headed the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation since October 2009. He was involved with the administration's successful efforts to restart operations at R.G. Steel in Sparrows Point, which employs about 2,200 people and briefly shut down last Christmas.

Before joining the O'Malley administration, Sanchez was a senior vice president at the United Way of America. He earned a bachelor's degree from Boston College, a master's in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Michigan.

His tenure in state government has not always been smooth. During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, it came out that he ordered a staff member to remove a pessimistic report on the economy from the state website. O'Malley, at the time, was presenting a rosier jobs outlook at campaign stops.

Sanchez said the report was an internal document never intended to be made public. When reporters from The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post emailed questions about it, he ordered his communications staff to remove it.

"Is it down?" he wrote in a late-night email to his communications director that became public. "Call me as soon as we know who posted outrageous info on the site."

Asked Monday about the controversy, Sanchez said he did not "care to revisit that issue. ... It was election-year politicking."

He acknowledged that his knowledge of City Hall is limited, but said he would learn quickly once he starts May 16.

Asked what he saw as the mayor's greatest challenge, Sanchez said he "wouldn't comment" now but could better answer once he starts the job.

Since fall, a half-dozen top officials have left the mayor's administration, including Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III. Sanchez said that exodus does not concern him.

"If I had any concerns at all about people leaving the administration, I wouldn't have accepted the job," he said. "I'm excited to start. It's a wonderful opportunity."



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