Ehrlich nominates Democrat Saar for top correctional job

Ex-Schaefer safety aide lauds prison-building idea

January 23, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Mary Ann Saar, a longtime state employee who has worked for some of the state's most prominent Democrats, was tapped yesterday by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to run the state's prisons and parole and probation services.

If her nomination is approved by the state Senate, Saar, 62, will become secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, replacing Stuart O. Simms.

A former Baltimore prosecutor, Saar was a longtime public safety aide to former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and served as secretary of Juvenile Services from 1990 to 1994.

Most recently, she directed the district offices of U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

"I haven't had enough of challenges," said Saar, speaking of her return to Maryland government. She said the state must tackle a prison crowding problem, as well as how to handle growing female and young offender populations.

Ehrlich's capital spending proposal, to be released today, is expected to contain more money for prison construction.

"The one thing I like about this governor is he is looking at the bottom line of how do we make our communities safer," Saar said. "He's not looking at the same old same old, and that is exciting."

Saar would become the third Democratic member of Ehrlich's Cabinet, joining Juvenile Services nominee Kenneth C. Montague Jr. and Victor L. Hoskins, who heads the Housing and Community Development Department.

"The job she's got is where she should be," said Schaefer in an interview yesterday. "He could not have found anybody better in the United States."

Saar takes over an agency that previously reported to former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. She said she would re-examine one of Townsend's pet projects - a program of drug testing and discipline for probationers called Break the Cycle. Townsend had said she feared the program would be cut in a GOP administration.

In Annapolis

Today's highlights

10 a.m.Senate meets, Senate chamber.

10 a.m.House of Delegates meets, House chamber.

11 a.m.House Appropriations Committee, briefing on Mental Hygiene Administration's budget shortfall, Room 130, Lowe House Office Building.

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