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Baltimore County voters to decide qualifications for Public Works director

Baltimore County voters will decide whether to end a requirement that the leader of the county’s public works department be a licensed professional engineer.

Baltimore County Council unanimously voted Monday night to add the charter amendment to next year’s ballot.

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Sponsored by Republican Councilman David Marks and Democratic Councilman Izzy Patoka, the charter change would add alternative qualifications for the Public Works director. Under the proposal, if they don’t have the required engineering experience, they may have at least 10 years of supervisory experience in infrastructure planning and construction or transportation engineering and management.

The charter currently prevents the county from permanently hiring its acting director of Public Works, D’Andrea Walker, who’s worked for more than a decade in managerial roles in state and local transportation and infrastructure departments but isn’t a professional engineer.

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Walker was appointed as acting director in October. She had been hired as the county first deputy director of transportation in February last year.

County law precludes an acting department head from serving longer than 60 days without County Council approval, but there is no deadline for when a vacancy must be filled.

During Monday’s meeting, council members lauded Walker for her leadership.

“We need people in this position that can get things done,” Councilman Tom Quirk said. “If there’s one department we really need help on, it’s this department. We’ve got a great person in there right now.”

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Walker oversees an operating budget of $4.5 billion and around 1,000 employees. The department has a federal obligation under a 2005 consent decree to finish more than $800 million in sewer improvements to mitigate sewer overflows.

Her annual pay is $188,698, according to the county.

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