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Baltimore mayor names head of general services agency to take over troubled city transportation department

Baltimore mayor names head of general services agency to take over troubled city transportation department
Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young on Monday nominated the head of Baltimore’s general services agency, Steve Sharkey, left, to take over the city transportation department. Chichi Nyagah-Nash, right, is the mayor's nominee as DGS director. (Handout)

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young on Monday nominated the head of Baltimore’s general services agency to take over the city transportation department, where the previous head resigned amid an investigation into her leadership and the department’s morale.

Steve Sharkey, a 14-year city employee, will shift to the top job at the Department of Transportation. The post became vacant in April when Michelle Pourciau resigned after The Baltimore Sun reported the city inspector general’s office was conducting a wide-ranging review of her department.

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In a news release, Young credited Sharkey with achieving savings “in excess of $500,000 annually for the city through smarter leasing practices and better utilization of existing space.”

Sharkey implemented a biweekly accountability review with top Department of General Services managers, oversaw a 60% reduction in building maintenance backlog and cut turnaround time for capital projects, according to an online biography on the department’s website.

He will be paid $186,308 a year as transportation director, a roughly 10% raise from his salary as DGS director, according to city spokesman James Bentley. It’s also an increase from Pourciau’s $180,030 salary.

The mayor nominated Chichi Nyagah-Nash, a seven-year city employee and former general services deputy director, to succeed Sharkey as DGS director. She previously served as a deputy division chief and worked in the private sector as senior program administrator for U.S. Foods, according to a news release.

Nyagah-Nash’s promotion to director also comes with a 10% raise, putting her annual salary at $175,450, Bentley said.

“Both of my nominees have excelled at using data-driven approaches to achieve greater operational efficiencies,” Young, a Democrat, said in the release.

Young’s nominations need confirmation by the City Council. Council President Brandon Scott, a Democrat, said confirmation hearings have not yet been scheduled.

“I look forward to being part of that process, and we’ll see what happens from there,” Scott said. The Department of Transportation, in particular, is a critical agency that needs “transformative leadership not just capable of managing such an agency, but being forward-thinking about how that agency works.”

City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, who chairs the council’s transportation committee and was one of the former director’s top critics, said Sharkey has demonstrated leadership ability, “particularly in allowing others to lead with their own expertise.”

“I look forward to DOT benefiting from the same, as well as Steve’s data-driven approach to outcomes and strong systems of accountability,” Dorsey, also a Democrat, said in a statement.

The status of the inspector general’s investigation into Pourciau’s leadership at the Department of Transportation is unknown. Pourciau resigned just days after five former and current employees of the department told The Sun that investigators asked them about DOT’s working environment and morale. Frank Murphy, a past director of the agency, has been filling in as its acting leader.

The Department of Transportation, with a $201 million budget and 1,200 employees, is responsible for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of thousands of miles of roads, highways, sidewalks, alleys, street lights and traffic signals, among other tasks.

The Department of General Services manages 200 city-owned buildings and facilities, oversees a fleet of more than 5,600 vehicles used by 29 agencies and entities, and supports agencies in various other ways. The department has a $105 million budget and 391 employees.

Young’s choice of Sharkey marked his first cabinet-level nomination since becoming mayor after Catherine Pugh resigned in May amid a scandal over sales of a self-published children’s book to entities with business before the city.

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Sharkey started his city career in the CitiStat office, which analyzes city operations using statistics, and then oversaw the Department of Public Works’ right-of-way section, which deals with street permitting, for more than three years as chief of special services and property management. He then joined the Baltimore Police Department as director of special projects, according to the release.

Nyagah-Nash administered U.S. Food’s company-wide ethics hotline, investigating internal allegations of theft, fraud and other related issues for the $20 billion, 26,000-employee company based in Rosemont, Illinois. She has also worked in previous roles for the city as director of special projects at the Department of Housing & Community Development and assistant deputy director at the Department of Human Resources.

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