2 key aides to Smith chosen

Shoenberger, Pecoraro to serve on staff of Balto. County executive

New jobs begin Jan. 13

Both were members of transition team

January 01, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A top manager in the University System of Maryland and a high-ranking state transportation official were named yesterday to serve as senior staff members for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.

George A. Shoenberger, assistant vice president for business and procurement services at University of Maryland, Baltimore, will be Smith's top aide on major policy and governmental issues and his conduit to the County Council.

Gregory Pecoraro, assistant secretary for the Maryland Department of Transportation, will take over as the executive's chief of staff. He will be the administration's link to county residents with constituent services and will have administrative oversight of Smith's daily schedule and staff. He will resign as a member of the Westminster Common Council, on which he has served since 1994.

The two appointees will provide an abundance of experience in government, budgets, policy initiatives and advancing new programs. Both served on Smith's transition team.

Shoenberger will carry the title of senior executive assistant to the county executive and will earn $124,500 annually.

One of Shoenberger's duties will be advising Smith on how to approach diverse county communities with new ideas. An oversight by Smith's predecessor, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, caused a running controversy over proposed government property condemnation, particularly on the east side, observers said.

That political gaffe, many observers in Towson and Annapolis said, cost Ruppersberger a serious chance to be governor.

"One of the appealing aspects of Baltimore County is that it is a place so diverse, so interesting," said Shoenberger.

"For me, there will be a learning curve with my new responsibilities, but I feel confident that we will help the executive successfully push his blueprint for the county," Shoenberger said.

Among Smith's initial concerns is building an agenda for the 2003 General Assembly session and preparing a budget in a time of financial belt-tightening. Smith also wants to follow Ruppersberger's lead to revitalize older neighborhoods, improve schools and fight crime.

Smith also wants to conduct community discussions as a way of receiving feedback from neighborhoods and local improvement associations in a jurisdiction with 754,000 residents.

County Council members have been lukewarm in their reception of the new executive, and that could be one of Shoenberger's first challenges.

"George has been an outstanding representative for the university, especially handling complex procurement matters before the state Board of Public Works," said Barbara Klein, vice president for government and community affairs at UM's Baltimore campus.

Klein, a colleague of Shoenberger's for seven years, said Shoenberger will "bring excellent judgment to the county executive. ... He has built a solid reputation with the university."

Shoenberger, 45, lives in Ellicott City with his wife, a nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and their 3-year-old son. He grew up in Edmondson Heights and holds a master's degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore.

He worked in higher education for the past 18 years and was the UM system's representative before the public works panel.

Pecoraro, 43, has been a DOT assistant secretary since 1998, appointed to that post by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"The new job is exciting because Jim Smith has such a terrific reputation and you can do a lot of things for your constituency on the local level," Pecoraro said.

He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1981. Pecoraro said that he first met Smith while working as an aide to U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

"Smith is getting himself a great utility infielder in Pecoraro," said John D. Porcari, Maryland's secretary of transportation. "He can handle any situation and do it with great responsibility. ... He's a great addition to public service in Baltimore County."

Shoenberger and Porcari, who will earn $100,000 annually, will resign from their jobs in about two weeks. They will start with the county Jan. 13.

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