Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore named Fagan Harris, a longtime friend and associate who leads the service-oriented Baltimore Corps, as his chief of staff — one of five key leadership positions the incoming Democrat announced Monday.
Less than a week after Moore’s landslide victory, the rest of his leadership team came into focus as he named Tisha Edwards, the chief of staff to his gubernatorial campaign, as his appointments secretary; Amanda La Forge, his campaign’s top lawyer, as chief legal counsel; House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke as chief legislative officer; and Helene Grady, the top fiscal officer for the Johns Hopkins University, as his nominee for secretary of the Department of Budget and Management.
“We enlisted leaders who are not only exceedingly competent, but also innovative and hard-charging as we rebuild government to meet the very urgent needs that Maryland families face, and also to ensure that Maryland is set to be more competitive,” Moore said in Annapolis. “And this is going to be an era that Maryland is going to win.”
Harris, who has not worked in state government previously, said he’s spent his career working with political leaders, nonprofits and entrepreneurs to “get big things done” and he will now be alongside “an exceedingly capable and extraordinary set of leaders who bring a wealth of experience in local, state and federal government.”
In an interview earlier this fall, Harris said he and Moore first met in 2011 when Harris became the first Black Baltimorean to win a Rhodes scholarship since Moore had done so a decade earlier.
When Harris returned to Baltimore and wanted to spend his time in public service, Moore promised to help however he could, Harris said. They soon came up with the idea for Baltimore Corps and launched it with Harris as its top executive and Moore as the founding board chairman.
“He connected me to everyone he knew and he understood I was the CEO,” said Harris, who recalled being 26 years old and giving a speech to Moore’s network of high-profile donors at Moore’s home.
The organization, which focuses on recruiting and advancing the careers of public service leaders and entrepreneurs, has grown over the years, including with an initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic to recruit hundreds of health care workers.
Harris also serves on the board of directors of AmeriCorps and on the Accountability and Implementation Board for the state’s massive education initiative, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. He is a trustee at the Johns Hopkins Hospital at Bayview, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund and the Straus Foundation.
“Fagan knows how to get things done and that’s exactly what he will do for the state of Maryland,” Moore said. “He loves this state as much as I do, as much as any of us, and I couldn’t be more excited to work closely with him in this crucial role.”
Edwards, who will help Moore identify candidates to nominate for other positions in his administration, also worked as the director of the Mayor’s Office of Children & Family Success in Baltimore City under Mayors Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Brandon Scott, was chief of staff to former Mayor Catherine Pugh and served as the interim CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.
La Forge, who will be Moore’s top legal officer, served as the Maryland Democratic Party’s voter protection director over several election cycles, was chief counsel to the Democratic National Committee, served as counsel for the Baltimore City Board of Elections and worked in the civil litigation division of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.
Luedtke, 41, is an associate clinical professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a former public schoolteacher. He has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2011, and has helped pass several pieces of landmark legislation, including the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Kirwan Commission legislation. He will resign from his seat in the General Assembly ahead of the 2023 legislative session.
Grady’s position, as Moore’s top state budget official, will need Senate confirmation.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Grady is the vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer for Johns Hopkins, Moore’s alma mater. She also served as the university’s vice president for planning and budget, was Baltimore’s deputy director of finance and worked as the deputy budget director for the city of Philadelphia.
If confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, Grady would be responsible for advising Moore in budgetary matters. The General Assembly, in partnership with the governor, is constitutionally mandated to pass Maryland’s budget each year.
Though Moore had kept quiet in regard to any potential cabinet nominations, he has committed to having a team that is “inclusive” of all views.
Moore, Miller, Comptroller-elect Brooke Lierman and Attorney General-elect Anthony Brown — all Democrats — represent the most diverse group of leaders elected to statewide office in Maryland history, and the transition teams they announced last week reflected the moment.
Moore, who will be Maryland’s first Black governor, and Miller, who will be the first immigrant and woman of color to serve as lieutenant governor, announced a diverse team of statewide leaders late last week to help usher him into the office.
Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready told The Baltimore Sun on Saturday that Republicans in the legislature had yet to discuss Moore’s potential cabinet picks as a group, but he is certain substantive conversations will be had after the elections are formally resolved. Vote counting continues this week.
“Governors — no matter their party — have the right to pick qualified people they want for their cabinets, while oversight and advise/consent is also an important function for the Senate,” said Ready, of Carroll County.