In a room lined with empty bookcases, Prince George's County Del. Anthony G. Brown sits at the head of a long wooden table, surrounded by most of the 44 people who have just signed on to Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley's transition team.
He urges members to introduce themselves, to share a bit about their backgrounds. But when the first few are long-winded, Brown, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, politely tells them to shorten it up. He advises a simple change of direction: Name and organization, he says, would do just fine. It's the first of many pieces of advice he expects to give over the course of the transition, and for that matter, the next four years.
Everyone laughs - and then listens to their orders.
"Harry Hughes, former state employee," the onetime governor says to applause.
As the lieutenant governor-elect, Brown is spearheading the effort to craft a new administration in Annapolis - a sign, he says, that O'Malley has full faith in his No. 2 man.
Raised in Huntington, N.Y., the son of a doctor, Brown, 45, is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In between those, he served in the Army to fulfill his undergraduate ROTC scholarship requirements.
He moved to the Washington area to practice law and was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1999. As a member of the Army Reserve, Brown served in Iraq in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He was recently promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Though he clearly brought geographic and racial balance to the Democratic gubernatorial ticket headlined by the Baltimore mayor, Brown is also a force in his own right, a strong personality with a big, booming voice who is expected to use the lieutenant governor's post to further his own political career.
Ever the competitor, Brown notes that though he is a twin, it is his brother, Andrew, who has the distinction of the being the youngest in the family of five children.
"I'm a few minutes older than him," Brown said, during an interview in the O'Malley/Brown transition office on the 20th floor of the William Donald Schaefer Tower in Baltimore. Growing up on Long Island, what did you think you would do for a living?
I did believe I would be in public service, one way or the other. Because when I was young some of my teachers thought that I would be a lawyer when I grew up - but they said attorney, and I didn't really know what an attorney was.
So I went to the encyclopedia to get more information. And right next to "attorney" was "attorney general" - so I read about the attorney general of the United States, not just a lawyer but a public servant who basically is the seeker of justice, of truth and justice. And I thought that's something that I'd like to do.
I was in sixth grade, and you're real impressionable, and that got me on the course to thinking that one day I'd grow up to be a government official who seeks truth and justice on behalf of society. All because my sixth-grade teacher said I would be an attorney when I grew up. Why did she say that?
Because I talked a lot in class. And I was one of those kids who always had an opinion and wasn't afraid to offer it. Who were your role models as a child?
I admired Muhammad Ali, because of his skills and talents. And his confidence also. And also his belief that people have to serve one another. He did believe that, he does believe that. [He's] a man who stood up for his convictions in the face of losing a very promising career that he was in the middle of - his boxing career. He was willing to go to jail for something that he believed in. I admired him growing up. Your mother is Swiss, your father was born in Cuba but raised in Jamaica. How did race play a role in your upbringing?
I had experiences where race could have been an impediment but my parents did everything they could to help their children succeed and thrive, notwithstanding those challenges. ...
I was placed in a math class in junior high school - I was probably the highest-achieving math student in my sixth-grade class, yet going into seventh grade I was placed in a low-level math course. In the highest-level course, there were no blacks that were placed in that course.
And I went to my mother and I said, "Mom, I'm thoroughly bored with the level of math that they're teaching." It was her thinking and mine as well that it was probably a race-based decision made by somebody somewhere that there are not going to be so many blacks in that program. Well, my mother went marching down to school and demanded that her son be placed in that course. Much was made during the 2006 election of whether state Democrats fielded a diverse ticket. As the only African-American candidate running statewide, do you think the party's nominees were adequately representative?
African-Americans play prominent roles in state government, and all of us are members of the Democratic Party. So I think as a party we have a lot to be proud of in terms of our diversity. You know that the lieutenant governor job in Maryland doesn't have any constitutionally mandated responsibilities -
What? (Laughs.) I'm curious what you view as your role in the administration and which issues you'd like to have a hand in.
The governor-elect and I have had conversations over the course of the last year about what my duties and responsibilities will include. And we discussed my taking the lead on health policy, on economic development, higher education under the umbrella of economic development, the challenges that arise with BRAC, Base Realignment and Closure, and what we as a state need to do to facilitate that. We also talked about my taking a leadership role in promoting the legislative agenda of an O'Malley/Brown administration, which is kind of a natural given my eight years in the legislature. Do you mind playing the No. 2 role?
I'm very comfortable being the lieutenant governor to a governor such as Martin O'Malley, with the passion, the commitment, the vision for the state of Maryland.
I was asked once by - I think it was my first radio interview - about being No. 2, and I mentioned that the job that best prepared me for this is ... I was the executive officer in [an Army] company. And the executive officer is the No. 2 to the commander. It was my role as the executive officer to help the commander manage the unit, lead the unit, and we spent a lot of time together talking about the training program, the maintenance program, the morale and welfare of the troops. And generally agreed in principle on what we ought to do. From time to time [we] came at it differently. Had an opportunity behind closed doors to express my opinions. But at the end of the day, when we emerged from the commander's office, it was the commander's decisions that prevailed. How do you think the tenor of this administration might differ from that of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele?
I think that we will actively seek out a consensus on a broad range of issues. And that we will welcome working in collaboration with the legislature, with county executives, in advancing an agenda for Maryland. That's the difference. The Ehrlich administration basically had more answers than not - or at least they thought. While we have a vision and some goals that we are trying to achieve, we realize that finding the solutions and the answers is a collaborative effort. What did you think of the job that your predecessor, Steele, did?
I think that Michael's heart and his head were often in the right place, but he never really got the full support of his governor. Nor his party.
He was asked to do a lot of things that never came to fruition - to study the death penalty. Nothing ever came of it.