Mary Miller, a former T. Rowe Price executive and U.S. Treasury official, is entering the Baltimore mayor’s race, arguing she has the management experience and financial expertise to grow the local economy and spark a turnaround in a city gripped by crime and poverty.
Miller, 64, who at T. Rowe Price managed a $55 billion investment fund that’s 18 times larger than Baltimore’s budget, said she wants to usher in an era of “inclusive growth” that raises wages throughout the city and increases population.
“I look at Baltimore and think this place has amazing potential. We are not delivering on that promise,” said Miller, a Guilford resident, in an interview Monday with The Baltimore Sun. “There’s a lack of leadership and vision for Baltimore."
She’s starting late in the race with little name recognition, but Miller said she believes she can make up for that by running a robust and aggressive campaign.
“When I talk to people, it resonates," she said. "There’s such a crying need for management in Baltimore.”
Miller will formally kick-off her campaign at 5 p.m. today at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
The entrance of Miller, who was acting deputy secretary of the Treasury Department under President Barack Obama and now is a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins’ 21st Century Cities Initiative, likely sets the field in a crowded race for the April 28 Democratic primary. The contest among Democrats has for decades determined who runs Baltimore government.
In addition to her experience in finance, Miller said she serves on the board of the Urban Institute and has studied what makes some cities successful and others not.
“I bring a lot to the table in terms of understanding what makes cities work,” said Miller, who grew up in Ithaca, New York, but has lived in Baltimore for 33 years.
Miller will be pitted against Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Council President Brandon Scott, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith, all of whom have announced their candidacies ahead of the Jan. 24 filing deadline.
State Sen. Mary Washington already has filed to run, as have businessman Rikki Vaughn, community activist Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady and eight other Democrats.
Young, the former City Council president, was elevated to mayor last year when Catherine Pugh resigned as mayor amid a corruption scandal involving the sale of self-published children’s books.
Young campaign spokesman Myles Handy said the mayor wouldn’t be changing his game plan based on Miller’s candidacy. He will remain focused, Handy said, on reducing crime, investing in youth and cleaning up the city.
“We welcome her to the race,” he said.
In 2003, Miller was dubbed a “muni maven” and featured in a cover story in the financial magazine Barron’s. She holds a degree in government from Cornell University and a master’s in planning from the University of North Carolina.
“I tend toward being fiscally conservative in terms of wanting good financial management that will give us the ability to pay for things that we need to,” she said. “I’m socially liberal in really wanting to advance the agenda on doing things about structural racism and inequality.”
It’s the first time Miller has run for office since elementary school, where she won a race for class president, but she said she’s not worried about the sometimes contentious world of city politics.
“I went through two Senate confirmations,” she said.
She was the assistant secretary for financial markets from 2010 to 2012 and undersecretary for domestic finance from 2012 to 2014.
Over the years, Miller has donated primarily to Democratic candidates, such as Obama and Hillary Clinton. But she has occasionally given to Republicans, including a 2006 donation to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell. Her campaign points out that donation was before McConnell ascended to his current leadership role in Congress and gained a reputation for blocking judges appointed by Democrats.
Looking at the other candidates, Miller said she doesn’t see a person in the field who has a bold vision to improve the city, financial expertise and a strong management record.
Doreen Bolger, former director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, worked closely with Miller when she was on the museum’s board. Miller helped champion the museum’s shift to providing free admission through a six-figure donation to the endowment.
“Her vision for making the museum accessible for everyone in the city came at a pivotal moment,” Bolger said.
She cited Miller’s background in financial and urban planning as reasons she would be the right person to steer the city forward.
Miller said she supports Police Commissioner Michael Harrison’s plan to reduce crime in the city, but said he needs help from the mayor’s office. She said she’s also committed to finding the money to fund the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission to improve public schools.