Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday appointed acting state Health Secretary Dennis Schrader to the job on a permanent basis.
Schrader’s nomination is subject to a confirmation vote by the state Senate, which he failed to win in 2017, the first time the Republican governor tried to appoint him to the post. After the Senate failed to confirm Schrader, there was a legal fight over whether Hogan could reappoint him and whether he could be paid.
Hogan said in a statement Wednesday that he expects Schrader to be confirmed quickly this time.
“I have no doubt that the Senate will want to give Dennis a swift confirmation to ensure steady leadership as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Back in 2017, Hogan withdrew Schrader’s nomination after it stalled in the Senate. A top aide to Hogan later alleged that then-Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller held up the confirmation vote on Schrader because he wanted the state to prevent an Anne Arundel County hospital from being approved to perform open-heart surgery, out of concern that could put a Prince George’s County hospital at a disadvantage. Miller called the allegation “spurious” at the time.
Current Senate President Bill Ferguson said senators would “ask some very significant questions,” while working quickly on the nomination.
“There will be a full vetting to make sure Mr. Schrader is the right person at the right time for the public health emergency that we’re facing,” the Baltimore Democrat said.
Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said he doesn’t expect problems for Schrader this time around.
“We obviously don’t expect that kind of Annapolis politics being played during the pandemic,” he said.
Schrader has led the agency since Dec. 1, when Secretary Robert Neall retired. Hogan appointed Neall, a former lawmaker respected by both Democrats and Republicans, to lead the department after his appointment of Schrader failed. Schrader was moved to a position of deputy secretary.
Maryland Policy & Politics
During the pandemic, Schrader’s responsibilities have included a “surge” plan to set up extra hospital beds, including a field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center and reopening parts of a former hospital in Laurel. He also has been leading the state’s vaccination operations.
“Dennis has been an integral part of my executive team since 2015, and he has been working around the clock over the last 11 months to save lives,” Hogan said.
In addition to working at the health department, Schrader has held executive posts as Hogan’s appointments secretary and in the state transportation department.
Cabinet secretaries generally face a hearing before the Senate’s Executive Nominations Committee. If the committee votes in favor of the nominee, the appointment moves to the Senate for a confirmation vote.
In Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s administration, Schrader served as Maryland’s first homeland security director.
Schrader worked at the University of Maryland Medical System from 1987 until 2003 as director of facilities management, director of operations and vice president for project planning and development. He was a deputy administrator for national preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he worked from 2007 to 2009.
He’s a former Republican member of the Howard County Council, where he served from 1994 to 1998.