U.S. transit official picked as Md. labor secretary


Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday named as his new labor secretary Eugene A. Conti Jr., a senior federal transportation official and former congressional aide.

Mr. Conti, 48, a self-described friend of labor, will replace Frank W. Stegman, who was forced to resign Aug. 31 after becoming a recurrent source of controversy in Mr. Glendening's young administration.

The new secretary of labor, licensing and regulation is expected to be heavily involved in the governor's efforts to introduce collective-bargaining rights for state employees.

"I would describe myself as someone who is very friendly to labor and who believes that organized labor has a critical role to play in the economic development of the state," Mr. Conti said.

The Chevy Chase resident has a varied academic and work background. He holds a doctorate in anthropology from Duke University and, as a budget examiner at the Office of Management and Budget, he once visited Micronesia to study waste in a U.S. government surplus food program.

"I found there was a three-year supply of peanut butter sitting on the docks," he recalled.

From OMB, he moved to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he ran a management consulting program that looked at how the Internal Revenue Service processed tax returns.

He was chief of staff to former Rep. David E. Price, a North Carolina Democrat, from 1987 to 1993. During that time, he worked with labor unions representing airline pilots, transit workers and communications employees on legislative matters.

"He has worked closely with labor and understands that for Maryland to prosper, business and labor must work closely together," Mr. Glendening said.

Mr. Conti is deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

When he joins the state in mid-October, he will make $94,771, almost $6,000 less than Mr. Stegman's salary.

Edward A. Mohler, president of the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO, called Mr. Conti "an excellent choice" for labor secretary in a press release from the governor's office.

Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Conti does not appear to face a fight in the state Senate, which decides whether to confirm Cabinet appointees.

"The governor assured me he had very fine credentials," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's Democrat. "Based on his experience and background, I told him I didn't anticipate any problem with his confirmation."

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