Ferndale Democrat Michael J. Wagner became the fifth-ranking member of the state Senate earlier this week when Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller appointed him majority whip.
Wagner's chief responsibility will be to corral votes for bills backed by the Senate leadership and to lobby Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration.
"He's probably the most congenial of all 47 senators," Miller said.
"He's able to bring together people who otherwise might be shouting at one another. When we're looking for votes on the floor, I can't think of anybody better to turn to."
Wagner's ability to smooth the ruffled feathers of both Schaefer and Miller was a key to his appointment. The two have had a stormy relationship over the past four years.
"Mike (Wagner) has a good quality in that he can have close working ties with the leadership in the Senate, and still have a closeness with the governor," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park. "Already, when they need something from the administration, he's the one they go to."
Miller agreed, "He's not only a favorite of mine, but also (of the governor)."
Beginning his third term, Wagner already was a member of the Senate leadership, presiding over the Executive Nominations Committee. That panel approves gubernatorial appointments to the judiciary and cabinet, including the recent appointment of former County Executive O. James Lighthizer as transportation secretary.
He retains chairmanship of that panel.
Wagner, a Glen Burnie caterer, said he was surprised by the appointment.
He said he was suspicious about what the job might cost him politically.
"It's surprising because (Miller) could have used the job to bring another person into the (leadership) circle," said Wagner, who replaces Sen. Thomas Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, as majority whip. Bromwell was appointed as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.
Wagner is not the only county senator in a leadership post. Republican Sen. John Cade of Severna Park is minority leader.