Baltimore City Council elects Brandon Scott council president

The Baltimore City Council unanimously voted to elect Brandon Scott its president Monday, elevating a young, second-term councilman who quickly rose to prominence as a voice on crime and policing.

Scott vied with Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton to fill a vacancy created last week with the resignation of Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh. On Friday, it appeared that neither Scott nor Middleton had sufficient votes to prevail, but council members said the picture shifted over the weekend in Scott’s favor. The vote Monday was 14-0.

Scott, 35, will serve as council president until December 2020, controlling committee assignments and the council's legislative agenda. He will receive the president’s salary of $122,000 a year.

Middleton will continue to serve as vice president.

“We have a lot of work to do to get Baltimore moving in the right direction by working to break the chokehold that the disease of gun violence has on our neighborhoods, improving our schools, and bringing accountability and leadership back to City Hall,” Scott said in a statement he read during the council’s meeting.

“To the people of Baltimore, I never expected to be here, but you have helped prepare this kid from Park Heights to be ready for the responsibility of this position,” he said. “I do not take the honor of holding this important office lightly and you can rest assured that I will carry out my duties with the utmost integrity and respect for all.”

Scott has said he is considering a run for mayor next year, and serving as council president would give him a high-profile launchpad for a campaign.

Democratic state Sen. Cory McCray said Scott is someone who has long been clear about his ambitions.

“Anybody that knows Brandon knows that Brandon wanted to be the mayor of the city of Baltimore since he was the young kid,” McCray said.

The presidency needed to be filled because Democrat Bernard C. “Jack” Young moved up to mayor Thursday upon Pugh’s resignation.

Scott has achieved prominence as the chairman of the council’s public safety committee. That post gave him a platform to scrutinize the Baltimore Police Department’s crime-fighting and reform efforts.

He has represented the 2nd District in Northeast Baltimore since 2011.

Scott attended Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, where he ran track and cross country. He earned a degree in political science from St. Mary’s College in Southern Maryland before returning to Baltimore to work in politics, taking a job with then-City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat who later became mayor.

“When I met Brandon I could tell he had a pure passion for service.” Rawlings-Blake said Monday. “We shared a drive to make government work for the people it serves. That drive has been reflected in his work on the council.”

McCray got to know Scott over a decade ago as a neighbor and lives in Scott’s council district. He called Scott “very inspiring.”

“This has never been a person who has had a small vision,” McCray said. “He’s always been a big-idea person that's delivered on that.”

Last year, Scott led the council in passing legislation that would require city agencies to assess whether their policies create racial inequities and secured approval from voters for the creation of an accompanying pot of money to address discrimination.

McCray said that unlike many boys growing up in Baltimore, Scott was not only able to attend college, but returned to take on a role as a leader in his community.

“He held a straight focus,” McCray said. “A lot of times when folks are successful, it’s important to note that they don't come back. Folks will grow up here, they will beat the odds, they will go to school, and you find them in one of the surrounding jurisdictions.”

Scott ran in last year’s Democratic primary as a candidate for lieutenant governor, on a ticket with attorney Jim Shea. Shea recalled driving around Baltimore with Scott one evening as Shea weighed whether to select him as a running mate.

“He knew everything, everything about Baltimore city," Shea said. “I was very taken by that.”

Middleton stepped up to lead the council when Pugh went on leave at the beginning of April. Middleton represents Baltimore’s 6th District, in the northern and northwestern areas of the city.

From the dais, Middleton congratulated Scott and said she would support him in a job she defined as “making Baltimore the gem we all know it has the potential to be.”

Young is mayor for the remainder of Pugh’s term but has said he will seek reelection next year to the job of council president.

Young supported Middleton. But after swearing in Scott, Young said that would not hurt his ability to work with the new council president.

“I’m not going to let you all put that out there that we’re not going to work together,” Young told reporters. “We are going to work together for the betterment of this city. All personal things aside, we’re here to represent the citizens of Baltimore and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Pugh is under investigation by federal and state authorities for her business dealings, including a no-bid contract to sell a self-published children’s book series to the University of Maryland Medical System while she was on its volunteer board. Other organizations, including several with business before the city, also purchased “Healthy Holly” books.

While the city charter specifies that the City Council president becomes mayor when the mayor resigns, the council votes to pick a council president when there is a vacancy in that role between citywide elections. A simple majority is required to win and the council does not have to select one of its own for the position.

The council next must choose a registered voter from Scott’s district to fill his council seat.

Councilman Ed Reisinger said last week that he opposed Scott’s bid for the presidency because, if Scott runs for mayor, that could distract him from the president’s duties. But on Monday, Reisinger said Scott called him several times over the past few days and changed his mind.

“He’s done his homework,” Reisinger said. “He’s been out there. He cares. He’s dedicated to the city.”

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke also backed Middleton previously, but nominated Scott on the council floor and voted for him.

“Sharon’s done a great job getting us through this period, but the votes were there” for Scott, Clarke said in an interview.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

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