O'Malley to announce Perez as his secretary of labor pick

Governor also expected to name secretary of higher education today

January 23, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley plans to announce today that Thomas E. Perez, the one-time attorney general candidate, will be his nominee as secretary of labor, licensing and regulation.

Sources close to the selection process also confirmed that the administration will announce that James E. Lyons Sr., a California educator, will be the state secretary of higher education.

Lyons is president of California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Perez, a former Montgomery County Council president and attorney in the federal departments of Justice and Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, said he was drawn to the post in the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation because of the secretary's ability to help working families.

"I'm thrilled and very humbled at the opportunity to work with Martin O'Malley and [Lt. Gov.] Anthony Brown to implement an agenda that will help out Marylanders," Perez said.

The department oversees enforcement of the minimum wage and prevailing wage and a wide variety of business regulations. The office has a diverse purview, including responsibility for professional licensing and standards, work force development, unemployment insurance and regulation of horse racing.

Perez ran in the Democratic primary for attorney general but was forced out when a court ruled that he lacked the 10 years of legal practice in Maryland that the state constitution requires.

Perez has been considered a prime pick for a Cabinet position, both because he is a high-profile public servant who was without a job and because of the diversity he would bring to the cabinet. Perez is Hispanic.

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, a Montgomery County Democrat who has worked with Perez for a decade, said Perez will provide innovative leadership and a voice Hispanics lacked in the state government.

"He is able to function at the highest level, and has done so successfully, and yet has his feet well-grounded in the community," Gutierrez said. "He understands what everyday people are about."

Perez was a favorite candidate of many in the state's organized labor community before being forced out of the attorney general's race. Sue Esty, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said he is a great pick for the labor department.

"Tom Perez is a real supporter of the average working person, so it's a great position for him," Esty said.andy.green@baltsun.com

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