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Maryland’s health secretary to retire Dec. 1

Maryland’s health secretary, former state Sen. Robert Neall, will retire in three weeks, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday.

At a meeting earlier in the day, “he gave us notice and announced to the cabinet and us that he is leaving the administration, retiring Dec. 1,” Hogan said at an evening news conference in Annapolis on the coronavirus pandemic.

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The governor said he didn’t have further details, but described Neall as “a longtime friend for decades who has done an incredible job.”

Neall, 72, is the second top state health official to depart during the pandemic. Fran Phillips, a nurse who was deputy secretary for public health, retired at the end of July.

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Neall has led the agency since early 2018, and held other appointed and elected positions in Maryland for decades. He’s been Anne Arundel County executive, a state delegate, a state senator — and switched political parties twice. He’s been a Republican, again, since 2006.

In his years in the private sector, Neall held executive and finance positions at the Johns Hopkins Health System.

Though not a medical professional, his experience with both state budgets and health care finance made Neall an attractive candidate when Hogan needed a health secretary.

Before Neall’s appointment, Hogan went down a bumpy road with nominee Dennis R. Schrader. Maryland’s senators declined to confirm Schrader’s appointment, approval that is required for cabinet secretaries.

But the Senate didn’t formally vote to reject Schrader, and Hogan kept him on the job. That led to a legal battle over whether Schrader could keep getting paid as an acting health secretary.

Ultimately, Hogan moved Schrader to a role as the health department’s chief operating officer and brought Neall in as secretary. Neall easily won Senate confirmation in 2018.

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