Political veteran Peter O'Malley, the younger brother of Gov. Martin O'Malley, is taking over as chief of staff to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, her office announced Thursday.
The move comes less than four months before Rawlings-Blake faces a competitive primary in her first race for mayor. She ascended to the position last year after Sheila Dixon resigned.
O'Malley resigned Thursday as chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party — a volunteer position he had held for just two months — to return to city government on Friday. He worked for the city a decade ago during his brother's tenure as mayor.
"Peter will help deliver results that benefit the people of Baltimore — that is why he is the best choice to be Chief of Staff in my Administration," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "Peter is an effective and proven manager with great integrity who has proven his ability as a public servant."
O'Malley, 40, who served as chief of staff to former Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., said he was "honored" to have been hired by Rawlings-Blake.
"I think she's a very serious leader," said O'Malley, an attorney who lives in Mount Washington. "She makes a decision and does the hard work."
The position has been vacant since the departure in March of Sophie Dagenais, a former corporate attorney .
O'Malley said his position in the Citistat office while his brother was mayor "was the best job I ever had."
"You go to work in the morning and you see problems, and when you get to work you can fix them," he said.
He said his time in Baltimore County and work with the state party would benefit the city.
"I think it's good to have those relationships with the surrounding jurisdictions because a lot of our issues don't just stop at the border," he said.
City Councilman Robert W. Curran, whose niece is married to Martin O'Malley, said Peter O'Malley would "be a good fit" and wouldn't "need any on-the-job training."
"He knows the city and he has the ability to reach out to the other subdivisions," Curran said.
During the annual Democratic Party gala Monday night, Martin O'Malley thanked his brother for his hard work but gave no hint that Peter would be moving on.
Yvette Lewis of Prince George's County will serve as acting chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. Martin O'Malley urged the party's executive board to grant her the position permanently at its next meeting.
Challengers to Rawlings-Blake said Peter O'Malley's return to the city raises eyebrows.
"It's not a show of strength," said Dan Fee, campaign manager for Otis Rolley, the former city planning director.
"It's clear that she recognizes that she has a real problem, that people are deeply dissatisfied because there are too few jobs and too much crime," he said. "Rather than dealing with this [campaign] with substance, they're looking to do it politically. How does that help the people of Baltimore?"
"It raises questions about her leadership," said former City Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III. "Are we really going to have an independent mayor's office that fights for the needs of the city, or is this just a puppet administration?"