Laurie B. Schwartz, Baltimore's deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development, is leaving her post to take charge of day-to-day operations for the much-heralded east-side revitalization effort centered around a biotechnology park.
Schwartz, who has shepherded the project through a nearly two-year planning stage from her office at City Hall, will become interim chief executive officer Dec. 2 of the nonprofit corporation created to oversee the development of the biotech park. The project is north of the Johns Hopkins medical complex and includes hundreds of new and renovated housing units.
The deputy mayor said she will continue in her new job for at least a year and said she had been "encouraged" to seek the position at East Baltimore Development Inc. on a permanent basis.
The announcement of her new appointment yesterday came hours after the state Board of Public Works approved $2 million toward the project in one of the most decayed areas of the city. It also came two days after preliminary approval by the City Council of legislation giving the city the authority to acquire up to 3,300 properties.
"I'm thrilled," said Schwartz, 50, who has been a deputy mayor since Mayor Martin O'Malley took office nearly three years ago. The project "offers the best opportunity to transform areas of East Baltimore from blighted neighborhoods to healthy and thriving ones."
O'Malley said the appointment was a reflection of the reality that Schwartz in recent months was spending an increasing amount of her time on the project as well as an indication the project was ready to move ahead.
"The ship is getting out of the port," the mayor said. "It's taking off."
"She's done a whole lot to get this off the ground," he added. "No one understands this better than Laurie."
Joseph Haskins Jr., chairman of East Baltimore Development Inc., said the project was at a point where it needed a full-time manager.
"It virtually is impossible to be done on any kind of part-time basis," said Haskins, the chairman and CEO of Harbor Bank of Maryland. "That was abundantly clear to all parties involved, from the mayor to the EBDI board to Laurie."
Haskins said he was "very pleased" that Schwartz had agreed to take the position.
Schwartz will receive the same $140,000 salary as head of the East Baltimore project that she is paid as deputy mayor.
O'Malley praised Schwartz's tenure as deputy mayor. He credited her with developing effective growth strategies, as well as launching the Healthy Neighborhoods initiative and creating an Office of Minority Business Development.
But the mayor said he wasn't sure if he would fill her position, or create a new top-level post that would focus on employment, job training and social services.
Before joining the O'Malley administration as deputy mayor, Schwartz was president of the Downtown Partnership, a business advocacy group that includes the central business district and Inner Harbor.
She also served as co-coordinator of O'Malley's transition team after he was elected mayor in 1999. Schwartz began her government service as a community planner in the administration of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer.