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Former Maryland labor secretary nominated as Baltimore County’s economic development director

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. has nominated Leonard J. Howie III to serve as the county’s next director of economic and workforce development.

Howie, who formerly served as secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, will lead efforts to expand the county’s economy, according to Thursday news release from the county. Howie will be replacing Will Anderson, who served in that role since 2013 until he stepped down in July.

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Howie will lead the county’s efforts to attract and retain businesses, and he will be tasked with leading the county’s efforts to assist workers and businesses recovering during the pandemic. He will be paid a salary of $190,000, according to county spokesman Sean Naron.

In a statement, Howie said he’s “grateful” for the opportunity to serve Baltimore County, and he looks forward to working with the county to help businesses and to support families.

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As Maryland labor secretary, Howie oversaw an agency with more than 1,600 employees and an operating budget of $360 million, according to the county. He previously served as the deputy secretary of operations for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. He also served as deputy secretary for the state Department of Labor from 2007-2011.

In 2015, Howie joined the Obama Administration and was appointed to serve as director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. He later served as an administrative appeals judge for the U.S. Department of Labor, worked in private practice focusing on labor and education issues, and most recently was the acting CEO of WorkSource Montgomery.

Howie has also served as an attorney adviser with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. He began his career in service as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, a master’s in business administration from Georgetown University, a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center, and has been a member of the Maryland Bar since 1994.

Olszewski, a Democrat, said in a statement that Howie brings an “impressive track record and the passion we need to support our families and businesses.”

“Leonard’s vast experience in government and expertise in supporting our workforce will be critical as we recover from the pandemic and continue to build a better Baltimore County, and we’re thrilled to welcome him to our team," Olszewski said in a statement.

County Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said he wants to hear Howie’s ideas for improving the county’s economy and its workforce. The next director needs to have experience tracking jobs and training a workforce, and Marks acknowledged Howie’s “strong background for workforce development.”

However, Marks also said Howie served during Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, which “was not exactly known for its pro-business policies.”

“The county executive has the right to appoint the people around him, and I’ve almost always supported that right, but on the other hand, he’s coming from a state administration that was viewed very unfavorably by many business owners,” Marks said.

But Donald Fry, president & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said Howie is “well suited” to address workforce changes due to his state, federal and private sector experience in economic development.

“From what I understand, the county executive went through a very thorough process with a large number of applicants. His team did extensive evaluation and vetting of individuals, so I’m pretty confident Leonard Howie is the right person for Baltimore County,” Fry said.

Democratic County Council Chair Cathy Bevins said Olszewski has nominated “what appears to be an excellent candidate for an important post.” She lauded the county executive for “his continual desire to seek out excellent candidates for the important work that must be done in these difficult times.”

Howie’s nomination is currently pending approval by the County Council.

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