December 24, 2014

Private sector experience a key quality of Hogan cabinet picks

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Hogan Bartenfelder Van Mitchell Singh Grumbles Evans

Photo above: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan names six new cabinet secretaries. From left: Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford, Joe Bartenfelder (Agriculture), Van Mitchell (Health), Jimmy Rhee (Minority Affairs), Hogan, Gen. Linda Singh (Military), Ben Grumbles (Environment), Charlie Evans (Natural Resources)

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

If personnel is policy, the incoming Hogan administration is still working on broad themes rather than specific policies. Those will come a month from now after the inauguration.

In introducing his nominees for another six cabinet posts Tuesday, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan Jr. emphasized again that they were “talented, diverse and bipartisan.” But in addition to some government experience relevant to their new jobs — often in the Ehrlich administration that Hogan served as well — the governor-elect would always point out another quality the appointees had in common — private sector experience.

Hogan Singh Grumbles

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, Gen. Linda Singh, Ben Grumbles (Environment Secretary-designate)

This even applied to the new adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, Linda Singh.

Not only did she have 33 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and become the first woman to head the Maryland Army National Guard. She was also a managing director at Accenture, a major management consulting and technology services company. In Fortune magazine last year, she had a chance to explain how she got there from being a homeless teenage high school drop-out.

Real estate, farming, building materials

The newly named secretary of natural resources, Charlie Evans, was not only a former assistant secretary in that department and “grandfather” of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund — one of the shining achievements of the Ehrlich administration. The Hogan press release noted that Evans also had “decades of private sector experience,” including real estate development, the same field Hogan had made his living at for decades except for short stints in government.

Bartenfelder Mitchell Rhee

Secretaries-designate: Joe Bartenfelder (Agriculture), Van Mitchell (Health), Jimmy Rhee (Minority Affairs)

Joe Bartenfelder, named secretary of agriculture, not only had 20 years as a state and local legislator, but that whole time was also running his own farming operation and selling its produce.

Van Mitchell, the new secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — the largest executive department with a $9 billion budget — not only served several years as principal deputy of that department under Gov. Bob Ehrlich but also almost 10 years as a Democratic delegate from Charles County. But he also ran a building supply firm and has been a lobbyist for many private sector companies for the last eight years.

CEOs, consultants, lawyers

Jimmy Rhee, named special secretary for minority affairs and the first Korean American in a Maryland cabinet, not only was assistant secretary of commerce and trade for Maryland’s arch-business rival Virginia. He also served as CEO of a government consulting firm and of an Internet software technology firm that personalized the online language learning experience.

Hogan Williams Getty

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, Chief of Staff Craig Williams, Legislative and Policy Director Joe Getty

Hogan’s chief of staff, Craig Williams, who was deputy chief of staff under Ehrlich, is returning to government after serving as director of policy and U.S. government affairs at biotechnology firm Amgen. Sen. Joe Getty, the legislative director, has run a law practice in addition to service in the legislature and as Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s policy chief.

The new head of the Department of General Services, Gail Bassette, has her own consulting firm, as does Del. Kelly Schulz, the new secretary of labor, licensing and regulation, along with working on a cybersecurity startup.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford has been practicing business law when he didn’t have major jobs with the federal government in the General Services Administration and as assistant secretary of agriculture, in addition to heading the Maryland Department of General Services under Ehrlich.

First governor in 80 years with no elected office

Then of course there is Hogan himself, the first Maryland governor in 80 years to have never served in elected office before. Aside from working as an aide to his father, the lone Republican Prince George’s County executive, and his stint as Ehrlich’s appointments secretary — creating “the most diverse, the most bipartisan, the most inclusive administration in Maryland history” as Hogan boasted again on Tuesday — Hogan has spent most of his career making real estate deals.

Like Republican Gov. Harry Nice — who defeated Democratic Gov. Albert Ritchie, Maryland’s longest serving chief executive, in 1934 — Hogan had run for office before, but even Nice had limited private sector experience, as did Gov. Martin O’Malley and most of his aides.

That clearly won’t be true of the Hogan and his top appointees.

  • MD observer

    I’m disappointed Hogan didn’t find a more suitable pick than his Mitchell appointment at DHMH. I’m skeptical his “business” experience at a mom and pop (and defunct) building supply wholesaler has much to do with DHMH’s circumstances. And I doubt his 3 years’ COO experience at DHMH almost 9 years ago will prove to be helpful when he takes office. Mitchell’s qualifications are incompatible with Hogan’s campaign promise to run a lean government.

    Mitchell will have many fires to extinguish at DHMH. He is a risky choice.