New governor, familiar faces

O'Malley fills Cabinet with some officials from Glendening years

February 09, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun Reporter

There's a new lead singer, but the band is back together.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's latest round of hires brings to eight the number of officials from Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration who have been brought back to head state departments. He's not done with his nominations yet, but already more than a third of O'Malley's Cabinet has been culled from the ranks of the last Democrat to hold the chief executive's office in Maryland.

Glendening alumni are heading the departments of Budget and Management, Health and Mental Hygiene, Transportation, Planning, Environment, Natural Resources, Housing and Community Development, and General Services.

Appointees of the former governor are also heading O'Malley's policy and legislation office and the Maryland Transportation Authority, while others are rumored as top picks for open seats on the powerful Public Service Commission, which regulates state utilities.

Some Annapolis watchers are scratching their heads at O'Malley's decision to bring back so many from Glendening's administration given that his predecessor left office with a 30 percent approval rating. But those close to O'Malley, a former Baltimore mayor who never served in the legislature, say that his quest to find experienced administrators for state agencies made a Glendening redux inevitable.

"If you excluded Glendening administration appointees, what you would really say is that you wouldn't be able to hire anybody who worked in a modern Democratic administration" in Maryland, said Timothy F. Maloney, a former Democratic delegate from Prince George's County who advised O'Malley on his transition. "Parris Glendening is one person, but his administration consisted of 75,000 people, many of whom were career civil servants who were superb."

During the fall campaign, O'Malley, 44, and Glendening, 64, talked from time to time, but the former governor was not a major presence on the trail. The new governor appeared much closer to former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, who helped lead O'Malley's transition team.

Since O'Malley's election, Glendening, who served two terms, has enjoyed a renaissance in the State House. He got prime seats to the new governor's inauguration and to the State of the State address. But perhaps the ultimate compliment from the new governor to his Democratic predecessor is that a man who campaigned on the slogan, "Let's make government work again" believes the best way to do that is by hiring Glendening's old aides.

"When you are looking for managers with experience running complex government agencies, chances are that they will have served in a prior administration," O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said. "The governor is hiring the best, most effective people he can find."

Glendening said he was pleased to see O'Malley bring back so many who worked in his administration. Their knowledge of Maryland government and politics will enable them to be effective leaders much more quickly than outsiders would, he said.

But Glendening said Marylanders should not expect O'Malley's administration to be a repeat of his. The managers who were brought back are capable of following a governor's lead, within reason, he said.

"It's going to be the priorities and personality of the person at the top," Glendening said. "We're talking about professionals. They all know to follow the direction of the governor, but most of them left when the prior administration changed because they were not professionally or philosophically comfortable in the last administration."

It's not unusual for an executive to hire top managers from previous administrations. President Bill Clinton brought in veterans of the Carter administration, and President George W. Bush hired a number of top advisers from the administrations of his father and Gerald R. Ford.

Ehrlich, Maryland's first Republican governor in 36 years, made more of a clean break with his predecessors. He did not bring in exclusively Republicans - many in his Cabinet were Democrats - but they tended not to have held prominent posts in previous administrations.

Many were old friends of Ehrlich's from his days in the General Assembly, with former legislators filling nine of 21 Cabinet posts.

Glendening kept a few of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's aides, including the budget secretary, but mostly he brought in top associates from the Prince George's County government, where he was executive. Before that, Schaefer took much of City Hall with him to Annapolis.

Given that O'Malley had his own cadre of managers in Baltimore City, some political observers are perplexed that he is bringing in Glendening alumni instead of more of those who have worked for him for years.

"The Glendening administration was publicly discredited," said Carol L. Hirschburg, a Republican consultant from Owings Mills. "It certainly was not popular when he left office, and is O'Malley's assumption that these people who were with Glendening hold no responsibility for that?"

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