Nine members of Gov. Wes Moore’s cabinet received final approval Monday to lead state agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Labor and Health under the new administration.
The secretaries, unanimously approved by the state Senate, had been serving in acting roles since Moore’s inauguration nearly four weeks ago.
Another nine acting secretaries, out of 21 that Moore has named, were considered in a Senate committee and are scheduled for their full confirmation votes later this week.
The officials approved Monday were:
- Secretary of Labor Portia Wu, a former managing director of public policy at Microsoft and former assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Secretary of Aging Carmel Roques, a former member of boards such as the Maryland Commission on Aging and recent former president and CEO of the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Baltimore.
- Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Atticks, a former president of the Maryland Agricultural Resource Council and executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association.
- Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management Helene Grady, a recent vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer for the Johns Hopkins University.
- Secretary of Commerce Kevin Anderson, the founder and CEO of Cardinal Atlantic Holdings.
- Secretary of Health Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, a U.S. Army veteran who previously worked as a deputy secretary in the Department of Health and most recently was an executive vice president at Summit Health.
- Secretary of Information Technology Katie Savage, who led the data scientists, programmers, engineers and scientists under the Defense Digital Service for the U.S. Department of Defense.
- Secretary of Natural Resources Josh Kurtz, who recently served as executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
- Secretary of State Susan Lee, who represented parts of Montgomery County in the state Senate for the past eight years and in the House of Delegates for the previous 13 years.
Appearing before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee last week, those officials received mostly positive responses and light questioning from senators, though some Republicans weighed in with concerns about issues facing the various agencies.
Wu, answering a concern from Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican, said one of her top priorities is addressing what is “still a massive backlog at the agency of claims and issues” related to unemployment compensation stemming from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I will commit to you to making sure we are more responsive,” Wu said.
Scott, questioned by some of the members representing more rural areas, said she hopes to address rural health care issues by focusing on workforce development and recruitment.
Maryland Policy & Politics
And in one of the more pointed moments, Senate Minority Leader Steve Hershey, a Queen Anne’s County Republican, told Kurtz he’s heard from several watermen who are concerned by his past leading the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The watermen have said they were worried Kurtz’s actions in office may lean toward the goals of environmental groups that often call for tighter regulation.
Asked whether he would take into account all stakeholders, Kurtz said he would “really think about the balance” and meet with the watermen to talk through their concerns, including the cause of oyster population declines.
The committee met again Monday evening to consider the next batch of cabinet nominees, scheduled for full votes on the floor Friday. They were:
- Secretary of Environment Serena McIlwain, former undersecretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
- Secretary of General Services Atif Chaudhry, a former deputy secretary in the Maryland Department of Health.
- Secretary of Housing & Community Development Jake Day, the mayor of Salisbury and U.S. Army veteran.
- Secretary of Human Services Rafael López, who had various roles at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the White House.
- Secretary of Juvenile Services Vincent Schiraldi, a former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Correction and recently a senior research scientist at Columbia University.
- Secretary of Planning Rebecca Flora, who led development and sustainability plans in several states.
- Secretary of Public Safety and Corrections Carolyn Scruggs, a more-than 27-year veteran of the department, including as an assistant secretary focused on programs, treatment and reentry services.
- Secretary of the Department of Transportation Paul Wiedefeld, a former top official at BWI Marshall Airport, the Maryland Transit Administration and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Woods, a U.S. Army veteran who recently founded and led the Quad Fellowship.
Moore only needs votes from Democrats, who control a supermajority of the 47-member Senate, to vote for his nominees for them to be confirmed.
Republicans have not said whether they will vote against any of the remaining nominees, but some have expressed concerns about Schiraldi for his past statements and work in juvenile justice.
In Monday’s committee meeting, Ready asked Schiraldi about his past statements regarding an emphasis on “healing and resiliency” rather than “punishment and surveillance.” Schiraldi responded there should be a “balance.”
“Of course we still are providing both secure custody and lock custody of kids as well as supervision on probation. But we also need to help these young people turn their lives around,” said Schiraldi, citing programs intended to connect juveniles with mentors and other members of their community.