With his third appointment in a week, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. yesterday filled what will likely be the most prominent post in his administration by nominating Beverley Swaim-Staley, the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, to be the county's administrative officer.
If confirmed by the County Council, Swaim-Staley would be the second woman to hold the post, which has duties similar to a city manager. She would directly supervise all county department heads and prepare Smith's budget.
Administrative officers have often been powerful figures in the county government, but most political observers agree that the post was given relatively little authority in the C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger administration. Once elected, Smith said he would revamp the position.
"I'm thrilled that Beverley has chosen to continue her distinguished career of leadership and public service in Baltimore County," Smith said. "She will be the point person on all government operations. She has the fiscal expertise and leadership skills to run an organization of this size. I'm going to rely on her, not only to make sure government runs efficiently, but to look for innovative, creative solutions to government issues."
"It's a pretty exciting opportunity," Swaim-Staley said. "I like the combination of developing public policy as well as actually providing services to the taxpayer."
Swaim-Staley is the chief operating officer of the Department of Transportation, making her responsible for the port of Baltimore, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the Maryland Transit Administration, the State Highway Administration and the Motor Vehicle Administration.
She has previously served as a budget and policy analyst for the Maryland General Assembly. And she was executive director of BWI from July 2001 to May of last year, the time when the airport was responding to new security concerns in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said Baltimore County residents are lucky to be getting Swaim-Staley.
Porcari said Swaim-Staley is "incredibly dedicated, and blessed with a range of talent that makes her ideally suited to her new role with the Smith administration."
Swaim-Staley, 46, was not involved in Smith's campaign -- she didn't know him until she was contacted about the job, which has a salary of $140,000 annually.
On Tuesday, Smith named George A. Shoenberger, assistant vice president at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, as his top aide for policy issues and his liaison to the County Council, and Gregory Pecoraro, also a top official at the Department of Transportation, as his chief of staff.
Swaim-Staley doesn't live in Baltimore County, though the charter requires her to move there.
Swaim-Staley was born in West Virginia and grew up in Washington County. She graduated from Hagerstown High School and has bachelor's and master's degrees from Hood College in Frederick.
The current administrative officer, John Wasilisin, will stay in office until his term expires in May. Until then, Swaim-Staley will work as a senior adviser to Smith.