O'Malley taps Berndt and Haskins to head his transition team

Tufaro says selections show downtown emphasis

October 30, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Filling his most prominent transition team posts, Democratic mayoral nominee Martin O'Malley has appointed a politically connected lawyer and a prominent banker as chairmen of his support staff.

Richard O. Berndt, 56, a managing partner with Gallagher, Evelius and Jones, and Joseph J. Haskins Jr., 51, president of Harbor Bank of Maryland, will lead the O'Malley transition team if he wins Tuesday's general election against Republican David F. Tufaro, O'Malley said yesterday.

While Tufaro criticized the appointments because he said they placed too much of "an emphasis on downtown," he continued building his transition team, largely from the staffs of Democratic mayoral candidates who lost in September's primary. Those on his staff include the Rev. Melvin Tuggle, a close friend of former mayoral candidate Carl Stokes.

Berndt's selection came as little surprise to many political observers because he and O'Malley are longtime friends. Berndt has long played a role in city and state politics as an ally of Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and adviser to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Haskins, who was part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's transition team in 1995, brings the diversity that African-American political leaders have been calling for since they decided to back O'Malley's campaign.

"I think that there will be no question that he's going to be an inclusive mayor," Haskins said.

The mayor's transition team will help pick the personnel who will run city government and develop policy.

"We're hoping, if we're lucky enough to win on Tuesday, we'll have a very inclusive process," O'Malley said.

But Tufaro said the Democratic nominee chose people who will maintain the status quo. "These are two people who have been involved in past administrations. This city needs new blood."

Tufaro has tapped former mayoral candidate Stokes to serve his administration as housing commissioner.

Others joining Tufaro's transition team include: Aaron Wilkes, former Democratic mayoral candidate Mary W. Conaway's spokesman and Darley Park Neighborhood Improvement Association president; Julius Eldridge, Evergreen Community Association president; and Edward Rutkowski, Patterson Park Community Development Corp. president and co-author of "The Urban Transition Zone," a book on neighborhood revitalization.

O'Malley, however, appears to have won the battle of influential political support.

In addition to O'Malley's political alliances with Schaefer and Mikulski, Berndt was appointed by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to the board of directors of the Baltimore Development Corp.

Berndt's law firm represents the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co. and Mercy Medical Center Inc.

As president of Harbor Bank, which has assets of $171 million, Haskins is one of the area's most influential businessmen.

The selection of Berndt and Haskins drew praise from business and community leaders, who have urged O'Malley to have an inclusive administration.

"Rick has a lot of talent and a lot of know-how," said Raymond V. Haysbert, former owner of Parks Sausage Co.

"Joe Haskins is a respected and impartial leader in the black business community. I think the inclusion of Joe, for example, shows that Martin realizes that to get everybody included in the process is critical."

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