Former Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall has been hired to lead an effort to reorganize Maryland's "unwieldy and unmanageable" state government, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday.
Neall, who also has served as a senator and a delegate in the General Assembly, is being tasked with a broad mission to review the state government and recommend ways to make it more efficient. He's also expected to focus on increasing accountability, setting performance benchmarks and improving customer service.
A Republican who has also held office as a Democrat, Neall is respected on both sides of the aisle as one of the state's sharpest minds on fiscal matters.
Neall, 67, starts July 1. His salary has not been determined. He will fill an open position as a senior policy adviser in the governor's office and will continue to serve as a member of the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents.
A self-described "nerd," Neall said the position is a dream job.
"My assignment, as I understand it, is to look at the future, and what would a future government look like? A 21st Century government," Neall said.
Neall was a member of Hogan's transition team, and the governor said he spent 15 months trying to persuade Neall to join the administration.
Both Hogan and Neall noted that the last major reorganization of state government was undertaken by Gov. Marvin Mandel in the early 1970s.
"Unfortunately, over the past 40 years, our state government has again gotten off track, becoming increasingly more cumbersome, unwieldy and out of control — with more than 20 executive-branch cabinet departments, 70 independent agencies, over 550 commissions and boards and a workforce of state employees that has skyrocketed," Hogan said.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, has known Neall for decades and said he's well suited for the job. "He understands state government," Busch said.
But Busch also is skeptical that Hogan and Neall can find significant ways to change government to make it more efficient. The state workforce already is "overworked and under-reimbursed," he said.
Hogan said Neall's work could complement other efforts to improve government, such as the Regulatory Reform Commission and procurement commission that he created.
The first report of the reform commission, released this past December, concluded that state government is "convoluted and lacks continuity."
"There is still a great deal of work to do to rein in, right-size and reorganize a sprawling bureaucracy, which has not been performing at peak efficiency for far too long," Hogan said.
Hogan did not say how Neall would gather input for his review of state government, or how long it would take.
"He's going to give me options and we're going to make decisions that are the best for the state," Hogan said.
Neall spent 19 years in the General Assembly, rising to the position of minority leader in the House of Delegates in 1983. He was a member of the House from 1975 until 1987, and served one term as Anne Arundel County executive, from 1990 to 1994. He was a state senator from 1996 to 2003.