Ralph S. Tyler III, Maryland's insurance commissioner and a former Baltimore city solicitor, announced Wednesday he is leaving state government for a federal post as chief counsel at the Food and Drug Administration.

"It was not an easy decision, but the opportunity at the FDA is certainly exciting," said Tyler, who said he brought a sharper focus to consumer protection during his tenure as insurance commissioner. "It includes the opportunity to go back to being principally a lawyer, which is how I spent my professional life, and it is what I enjoy."

Before being appointed insurance commissioner in 2007, Tyler, 62, worked as Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief counsel. He served before that as city solicitor and for a time was in private practice as a partner in the law firm Hogan & Hartson. He also served in the Maryland attorney general's office, holding several posts from 1982 to 1996.

Tyler gained prominence in the O'Malley administration in 2006 when he represented the governor in his lawsuit against the Public Service Commission over its failure to hold hearings on a 72 percent electricity rate increase by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Tyler won the case.

"He is a terrific public lawyer," said O'Malley. "I'm really going to miss him, but I can't be anything but happy for him."

Tyler's last day as insurance commissioner will be Jan. 8; he starts at the FDA, where he will oversee a staff of about 80 attorneys, on Jan. 19.

Tyler's announcement comes nine months after Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, former Baltimore health commissioner, left his post with the city to become the FDA's deputy commissioner.

Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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