On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, amid a flurry of snowflakes, Lawrence J. Hogan was sworn in as the 62nd Governor of Maryland. An inaugural ball was held in Baltimore that evening and a “citizen’s celebration” on the Eastern Shore followed on Saturday, but now, Governor Hogan must begin the daunting task of solidifying his cabinet – a vital step that will set the tone for his first four years in office. In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, Hogan released the names of his designees for the various cabinet and top staff positions. Many of the faces are familiar in Maryland politics; pulled from the Ehrlich administration, the current General Assembly, and from local governments. Some are new faces, selected for their background and expertise in a certain subject matter, and there are several Democrats sprinkled into the mix, giving his administration the moderate, bipartisan appearance that Hogan promised throughout his campaign.
There is certainly a sense of nostalgia for the Maryland Republican party, as they welcome back several familiar faces from the Ehrlich era. Jim Fielder, who served as Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation under Ehrlich returns as Appointments Secretary, a position held by Hogan himself in the Ehrlich days. George Owings, III, former Democratic Delegate turned Republican and perennial Gubernatorial hopeful from Southern Maryland, will resume his position as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Finally, Van Mitchell, a top Annapolis lobbyist who served as a Deputy Health Secretary under Ehrlich returns in the top spot as Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The new Governor also looked to the General Assembly, which also took a turn toward the right in the 2014 electionwith several new Republican additions, to fill some key cabinet roles. Former Minority Leader in the Senate, David Brinkley, will bring his experience from the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to his role as Budget Secretary. Kelly Schulz, Delegate from Frederick County and member of the House Economic Matters Committee will now administer business regulation policies as Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. Senator Joseph Getty of Carroll County will ultimately resume his role of Legislative and Policy Director, a position he also held under Ehrlich. Kenneth Holt, the Hogan appointee to head up Housing and Community Development is also a former Republican Delegate, representing Baltimore and Harford Counties. David Craig, former Republican Delegate and Senator, Harford County Executive, and recent Gubernatorial candidate who lost to Hogan in the 2014 Primary Election will head up the Planning Department.
Governor Hogan has not limited his pilfering of former legislators to the G.O.P. – several former Democratic lawmakers have also been tapped to join the administration. Former Democratic Senator from Montgomery County, Rona Kramer will serve as Secretary of the Department of Aging, former Democratic Delegate from Baltimore County, Joe Bartenfelder will bring his real-life farming experience to the role of Secretary of Agriculture, and former Democratic Delegates from Baltimore City and Baltimore County respectively, Keiffer Mitchell and Steve DeBoy will join Getty in the Legislative and Policy Office.
While the new administration is certainly full of retreads, Hogan has also included some new faces that exemplify his pro-business and private sector leanings. Gail Bassette, President and CEO of several innovative companies will bring her private sector experience to the Department of General Services. Bassette also served on the White House’s Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Civil Rights, bringing specific expertise in MBE/DBE policy. Michael Gill, Chairman of Evergreen Investors Investment Bank, has real-world business expertise that will certainly serve him well in the top spot in the Department of Business and Economic Development. Hogan also looked out of state to other governments for the subject-matter know-how and credentials to lead major departments. Ben Grumbles, the new Secretary of the Environment, was Director of Environmental Quality in Arizona and also did a stint with the feds in the Environmental Protection Agency. Peter Rahn, the new Secretary of Transportation, known for his focus of roads, headed up the transportation departments in New Mexico and Missouri before coming to Maryland.
New and old, the faces of the Hogan administration are certainly diverse and will bring a fresh and very different perspective to policy and government organization. Hogan finalized most of the major appointees prior to taking office, and now eyes turn to the majority Democratic Senate, specifically the Executive Nominations Committee, as Hogan seeks confirmation of his team.