Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh announce her transition team, one day after being elected the 50th mayor of Baltimore. (Baltimore Sun video)
Baltimore Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh announced a transition team Wednesday that she said would help her refocus the city's housing policy on community development and the Police Department on fostering mutual respect and collaboration with residents.
She said she will pursue an economic development strategy that will duplicate Hampden's success in Pigtown and establish mass transit lines that will connect residents to jobs.
"Baltimore is a city of great opportunities," said Pugh, 66, the third consecutive woman elected to the job. "I am really focused on building communities and making people feel safe in their neighborhoods and great about their city."
She will become Baltimore's 50th mayor on Dec. 6. To help her build her administration, she chose about 20 people with a wide range of backgrounds to lead her transition, including Diane Bell-McKoy, director of Associated Black Charities; Calvin G. Butler Jr., CEO of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.; and Tyrone Powers, a former FBI agent also known as host of "The Powers Report."
Pugh said the group will evaluate agency operations and government services and make recommendations for how they can be better run. The group will be expanded, she said.
She made Wednesday's announcement in the lobby of the family shelter Sarah's Hope in West Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. With money from businesses, government and nonprofits, the shelter was renovated and expanded. A chain link fence surrounds the property, where a playground is being built and a green space is being designed. A block away, the Western District Police Station is also being renovated.
Pugh said she chose the location for symbolic reasons. "This can be the greatest city in America," she said.
The state senator won the mayoral election with 57 percent of the vote. She defeated the Republican and Green Party nominees and former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who ran a spirited write-in campaign.
Pugh said she will build on the city's successes by leaning on relationships with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Democratic Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen, and philanthropic and business leaders.
James T. Smith Jr., a former Baltimore County executive who also is aiding Pugh's transition, said she has reached out to "worker bees and grass-roots people" to explore what best practices the city can adopt, what policies to toss and which agency leaders should be kept.
"She's going to make a fantastic impact on Baltimore," Smith said. "She has the vision, and that vision includes the neighborhoods and communities."
Smith, a former state transportation secretary, acknowledged that he is in talks to join Pugh's administration. He declined to say for what position.
Del. Pete Hammen and former schools interim CEO Tisha Edwards are also helping Pugh's transition. All three attended Wednesday's announcement. Pugh said she has not decided what position she might offer any of them.
Several members of the transition team contributed financially to Pugh's campaign, including Smith. Pugh received a $100,000 loan from Smith's campaign account in the waning days of the primary. She has since repaid that loan.
Another member, financier J.P. Grant, gave her $6,000, the maximum allowed. Bell-McKoy contributed $250 and Butler gave her $1,000, in addition to money the utility company contributed, records show.
Outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she, too, is committed to working with Pugh on the transition. Rawlings-Blake, who has served as mayor since February 2010, did not seek re-election.
"I pledge, as I have from the beginning of this process, a smooth transition from the Rawlings-Blake to the Pugh Administration," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the mayor-elect over the next couple weeks so she can hit the ground running as the city's next chief executive."
Pugh said she wants to continue some of the programs and policies Rawlings-Blake put in place and improve them where she can. For instance, Pugh said, she wants to accelerate Rawlings-Blake's signature Vacants to Value program that redevelops and demolishes abandoned houses.
Pugh said she would also use the Rawlings-Blake administration's financial projections as a foundation for her administration.
"There is a 10-year financial plan in place. We have reduced property taxes," Pugh said. "Now we have to set our goals."
Pugh, who is the outgoing president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, said she will not hesitate to turn to Annapolis and Washington to help pay for upgrades to Baltimore's infrastructure. To start, Pugh said, transit centers in the city need to be fixed.
She is prepared to approach the administration of Republican President-elect Donald J. Trump along with Maryland's congressional delegation.
"It is not just about what the city can do and the state can do, it is about what the federal government can do," Pugh said. "I will be able to, with this delegation, go to Washington, D.C., and make the argument around infrastructure money."
To the public, she said: "We want to hear your ideas. Send us your ideas."