Ehrlich taps 3 more for his Cabinet

Flanagan faces questions in the Senate, Miller says

January 12, 2003|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced yesterday he will tap two Republican state lawmakers and a businessman to be Cabinet secretaries.

As expected, Ehrlich named Del. Robert L. Flanagan, 57, of Howard County as secretary of transportation.

The governor-elect also named Del. Thomas E. Hutchins, 57, of Charles County to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A third appointment went to James D. Fielder Jr., 54, a businessman who lives in Harford County and previously worked in the state's Department of Business and Economic Development. Ehrlich named Fielder to be secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation,

The Senate must confirm all three nominees. Yesterday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said at least one nominee - Flanagan - would face tough questions in the Senate.

As head of transportation, Flanagan would oversee 10,000 employees and the bulk of the state's government infrastructure, including Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the port of Baltimore and Maryland's network of highways. Miller said he is concerned that Flanagan, a lawyer and member of the House since 1987, is too partisan and not qualified for the post.

Ehrlich "can do better," Miller said. "The Republican Party has a very light bench, but this is a department that controls 10,000 state employees and is the economic engine that drives the entire state."

Miller, who plans to meet with Flanagan next week, said the next transportation secretary has to be willing and able to sell an increase in the gasoline tax to fund transit and highway projects.

In a statement, Flanagan, a conservative and a budget hawk, said he would seek an increase in the gas tax only if he can prove the money is not being wasted.

"We cannot ask the citizens of Maryland to pay more taxes unless we can look them in the eye with the guarantee that our Transportation Department is being efficiently managed," he said.

Ehrlich's nominee to head Veteran Affairs had also been a leading candidate to be superintendent of the Maryland State Police, a post that went to former Baltimore police Commissioner Edward T. Norris. A retired state police commander, Hutchins has been a delegate since 1994. He also spent 33 years in the Maryland National Guard.

Fielder is president of on-campus management for Capstone Properties, which manages apartments for college students. From 1990 to 1999, Fielder worked at the state's economic development department in various positions, including assistant, deputy and acting secretary.

Fielder left the department when Gov. Parris N. Glendening chose not to make him the permanent secretary, and he became a vice president at Towson University.

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