Throughout March, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced changes to department heads at the county’s Department of Social Services, Anne Arundel Economic Development Corps and Department of Public Works.
Department of Social Services Director Carnitra White has been tapped to serve as deputy secretary for programs at the Maryland Department of Human Services and will temporarily be replaced by Edith Harrison. Meanwhile, Karen Henry, who served as acting director of the Department of Public Works for the past few months, following the departure of director Chris Phipps, has been permanently given the position. In a third move, Amy Gowan was selected to lead the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corps.
White was appointed director of the Department of Social Services in January 2015. In her time in the role, she expanded the county’s homeless services program and developed an outreach team and housing specialists, which led to nearly 200 people finding permanent homes.
“While I will certainly miss the dedicated and devoted Anne Arundel County DSS staff, I am incredibly proud of the enduring community partnerships we developed, and I am excited about the opportunities ahead for leading similar work across Maryland,” White said in a statement Friday.
In her new position, which she started in late February, White oversees the social services, family investment and child support administration branches of the department at the state level and will be the main point of contact for the state’s 24 local social services departments.
“Anne Arundel County will continue to benefit from her advocacy and expertise in her new role at the state level,” Pittman said.
Harrison, now the department’s acting director, has more than 25 years of experience in human services, according to a news release, and most recently served as deputy director of the Family Investment Division within the social services department.
After Phipps retired from his role as public works director at the end of 2022 with more than 27 years at the department under his belt, Karen Henry was assigned acting director. Pittman announced Henry would remain in role permanently earlier this month.
“[Henry] was [Phipps’] deputy. He recommended her. We put her into the acting role, knew that she had the experience, wanted to see how she adapted to being in that leadership role and have been extremely impressed,” Pittman said at a news conference in early March.
The role includes overseeing more than 750 water and wastewater technicians, engineers, solid waste professionals and road workers.
Next month, Amy Gowan will step into the role of CEO for the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corporation. Gowan was chosen after a monthslong search conducted by a panel of local business representatives, County Council members and organization staff and board members. She replaces Ben Birge, who served as CEO of the quasi-government nonprofit from 2020 until he announced his departure in June 2022.
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Birge helped the organization transition from one that only delivered loans to one that also doled out grants during the pandemic to help local businesses stay afloat. Under his leadership, the organization gave out nearly $33 million in coronavirus and disaster recovery grants to local businesses.
Gowan was selected from three finalists due to her experience, which includes seven years working in Howard County government. Most recently, she served as the county’s director of the Office of Planning and Zoning. There, she created and taught a citizen planning academy and oversaw the implementation of the county’s general development plan.
“I am thrilled to assume this leadership role with the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation and work with the County Executive’s team to strengthen Anne Arundel County businesses, and advance efforts that spur investment within the community,” Gowan said in a statement.
Following the selection, Pittman wrote in his weekly newsletter about his excitement for the organization’s potential under its new leadership.
“Amy Gowan will understand what our businesses understand. It’s not businesses versus government or businesses versus their workers,” Pittman wrote. “We are as interdependent as an ecosystem.”
These personnel changes come following the promotion of Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman to deputy secretary for public health services at the Maryland Department of Health.
The county is currently searching for a replacement for Kalyanaraman and a permanent replacement for White.