New governor, familiar faces

The Baltimore Sun

There's a new lead singer, but the band is back together.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's latest round of hires brings to eight the number of officials from Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration who have been brought back to head state departments. He's not done with his nominations yet, but already more than a third of O'Malley's Cabinet has been culled from the ranks of the last Democrat to hold the chief executive's office in Maryland.

Glendening alumni are heading the departments of Budget and Management, Health and Mental Hygiene, Transportation, Planning, Environment, Natural Resources, Housing and Community Development, and General Services.

Appointees of the former governor are also heading O'Malley's policy and legislation office and the Maryland Transportation Authority, while others are rumored as top picks for open seats on the powerful Public Service Commission, which regulates state utilities.

Some Annapolis watchers are scratching their heads at O'Malley's decision to bring back so many from Glendening's administration given that his predecessor left office with a 30 percent approval rating. But those close to O'Malley, a former Baltimore mayor who never served in the legislature, say that his quest to find experienced administrators for state agencies made a Glendening redux inevitable.

"If you excluded Glendening administration appointees, what you would really say is that you wouldn't be able to hire anybody who worked in a modern Democratic administration" in Maryland, said Timothy F. Maloney, a former Democratic delegate from Prince George's County who advised O'Malley on his transition. "Parris Glendening is one person, but his administration consisted of 75,000 people, many of whom were career civil servants who were superb."

During the fall campaign, O'Malley, 44, and Glendening, 64, talked from time to time, but the former governor was not a major presence on the trail. The new governor appeared much closer to former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, who helped lead O'Malley's transition team.

Since O'Malley's election, Glendening, who served two terms, has enjoyed a renaissance in the State House. He got prime seats to the new governor's inauguration and to the State of the State address. But perhaps the ultimate compliment from the new governor to his Democratic predecessor is that a man who campaigned on the slogan, "Let's make government work again" believes the best way to do that is by hiring Glendening's old aides.

"When you are looking for managers with experience running complex government agencies, chances are that they will have served in a prior administration," O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said. "The governor is hiring the best, most effective people he can find."

Glendening said he was pleased to see O'Malley bring back so many who worked in his administration. Their knowledge of Maryland government and politics will enable them to be effective leaders much more quickly than outsiders would, he said.

But Glendening said Marylanders should not expect O'Malley's administration to be a repeat of his. The managers who were brought back are capable of following a governor's lead, within reason, he said.

"It's going to be the priorities and personality of the person at the top," Glendening said. "We're talking about professionals. They all know to follow the direction of the governor, but most of them left when the prior administration changed because they were not professionally or philosophically comfortable in the last administration."

It's not unusual for an executive to hire top managers from previous administrations. President Bill Clinton brought in veterans of the Carter administration, and President George W. Bush hired a number of top advisers from the administrations of his father and Gerald R. Ford.

Ehrlich, Maryland's first Republican governor in 36 years, made more of a clean break with his predecessors. He did not bring in exclusively Republicans - many in his Cabinet were Democrats - but they tended not to have held prominent posts in previous administrations.

Many were old friends of Ehrlich's from his days in the General Assembly, with former legislators filling nine of 21 Cabinet posts.

Glendening kept a few of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's aides, including the budget secretary, but mostly he brought in top associates from the Prince George's County government, where he was executive. Before that, Schaefer took much of City Hall with him to Annapolis.

Given that O'Malley had his own cadre of managers in Baltimore City, some political observers are perplexed that he is bringing in Glendening alumni instead of more of those who have worked for him for years.

"The Glendening administration was publicly discredited," said Carol L. Hirschburg, a Republican consultant from Owings Mills. "It certainly was not popular when he left office, and is O'Malley's assumption that these people who were with Glendening hold no responsibility for that?"

But a number of elected leaders in Annapolis, including some Republicans, believe exactly that.

"His lack of popularity reflected on him more than his secretaries," said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican. "The ones [O'Malley hired] that I've seen so far, they're good people."

Stoltzfus said Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, who held the same job under Glendening, was "an exceptional" administrator. The same goes for Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin and for Joseph C. Bryce, who was the top legislative aide for Glendening and is now doing the same job for O'Malley, Stoltzfus said.

At a news conference this week, O'Malley said he didn't have preconceived ideas about whether to look in-state or out-of-state for the people he chose to lead key departments. In some cases, he said he looked to candidates with track records in state government before deciding to go outside for a hire, and sometimes he did the opposite.

"We always begin with the premise that we want to find the best person we possibly can to do these very tough jobs where the pay is not what people can make in the private sector," O'Malley said.

For agencies that have historically had the most problems, though, O'Malley picked managers from out of state. The new heads of Corrections and Public Safety, Juvenile Services and Human Resources are all new to Maryland government.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, the House minority whip from Western Maryland, said he's been impressed so far by the managers O'Malley has brought on board, both the veterans and the new blood.

Shank, who worked extensively on problems with the corrections system because of the prisons in his district, said O'Malley's pick for corrections secretary, the former head of Iowa's prison system, Gary D. Maynard, brings strong credentials.

"He's not a political guy," Shank said. "He's a corrections professional, and I commend Governor O'Malley for taking that into account."

Maloney, who is not close to Glendening, said the proof that O'Malley was interested in competence over politics is that few of the Cabinet members were heavily involved in his campaign. Some, including the nominee for Business and Economic Development, David W. Edgerley, were close to O'Malley's Democratic primary opponent, former Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Maloney said.

But after four years of Ehrlich, many Democrats think being associated with Glendening makes better political sense than it once did.

When Glendening was preparing in 2002 to leave office, many moderate and conservative Democrats ran away from the governor, finding his name to be political poison among the electorate.

But the contrast with Ehrlich, who saw many of his Cabinet secretaries suffer criticism for their management abilities, has reminded people of how many good administrators Glendening had, said Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Said DeGrange: "[Ehrlich] had some agencies that were really in trouble, and you didn't have that under the leadership before."

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