Joel G. Lee, a longtime aide to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, has left the governor's office to serve with another longtime gubernatorial aide -- Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development.
Mr. Lee, 41, is making a return of sorts by replacing Michael S. Lofton as DEED's deputy secretary. In the early 1980s, Mr. Lee was an assistant secretary to one of DEED's forerunners, the Department of Employment and Training, under then-Gov. Harry Hughes.
That job, as head of DET's unemployment insurance division, was sandwiched by work with the Baltimore City Neighborhood Progress Administration. Before working for Mr. Hughes, Mr. Lee was assistant director for planning and program development in the NPA's Office of Manpower Resources. After his stint in the Hughes administration, he returned to NPA as commissioner for development and finance.
In 1990, Mr. Lee joined Mr. Schaefer's staff as deputy to Mr. Wasserman, who was chief of administration for the governor.
Mr. Lee's combination of employment and development experience drew praise from business leaders. "He has a good broad base of experience in both employment training and economic development," said Baltimore developer Carl W. Struever, president of Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse.
"He's articulate, positive, a good salesman," Mr. Struever said. "He understands what it takes to get a job done."
Mr. Lofton, DEED deputy secretary since 1987, announced last week that he will leave state government to head Anne Arundel County's economic development office.
Mr. Lee, a native of Mahnomen, Minn., and a Colgate University graduate, joined Baltimore city government in 1975 after working for consulting firms in Pittsburgh and Washington. He lives in northwest Baltimore County.
Mr. Lee said that he recognizes the challenges the poor economy brings to his job, which pays in the "upper 70s." But despite the continuing recession, Mr. Lee said his new department is starting to plan for better times.
"One of the priorities that absolutely needs to be reflected in the future is the planning . . . for when the recovery comes," he said.