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DLLR head Sanchez to become chief of staff for Rawlings-Blake

The head of the state labor department is leaving his post to become Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s third chief of staff in as many years.

DLLR Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez

Alexander M. Sanchez, who has been secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation since 2009, will join Rawlings-Blake’s administration on May 16.

In a statement Monday, Rawlings-Blake cited Sanchez’s “knowledge of workforce development issues” as a reason for bringing the former United Way of America senior vice president on staff.

The mayor is trying to increase the city’s population by 10,000 families in the next decade.

“Alexander Sanchez brings a wealth of great experience to the mayor’s office and is a proven public servant who is deeply committed to serving the people of Baltimore,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Alex’s expert knowledge of workforce development issues will go a long way to help strengthen our efforts to expand job opportunities and get Baltimore growing again.”

R. Scott Fosler, a visiting professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, said it made sense that Rawlings-Blake would choose someone with a labor background for the job, given her goal of increasing the city’s population.

“One of the things that really draws people to cities is jobs,” Fosler said. “It’s kind of the threshold issue that you have to address.”

Donald F. Norris, chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said moving from the top of a state agency to chief of staff for the mayor of a city the size of Baltimore is nowhere near a step down.

“Chief of staff is one of the most important jobs in the city,” Norris said.

Fosler agreed, saying that both positions were of similar prestige.

“It depends, obviously, on what his own career desires are,” Fosler said. “He had a high-ranking cabinet position that was a political appointment, and being chief of staff of the mayor is a high-level appointment as well. I don’t see where it’s considered a step down.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley praised the outgoing labor secretary, saying in a statement that his work at the state level would serve him well in Baltimore.

“Alexander Sanchez has been a highly-effective member of my cabinet over the past three years, spearheading important initiatives to increase skills training and promote continuing education for Maryland’s workforce to better compete in the global economy,” O’Malley said. “Mayor Rawlings-Blake is getting a very capable, talented and professional leader that will help drive progress in Baltimore City.”

Sanchez is the second member of O’Malley’s cabinet to announce departure plans in the last week. Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley will resign July 1 after 25 years working for the state. She had been secretary since 2009.

Baltimore has seen even more departures recently. Just last week, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III announced his retirement and Sheryl Goldstein, the mayor’s crime adviser, resigned. Sanchez, meanwhile, will become the third chief of staff to serve under Rawlings-Blake in three years. Peter O’Malley, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s brother, was previously the mayor’s chief of staff.

Department of Recreation and Parks Director Gregory Bayor, Baltimore Development Corp. President M.J. “Jay” Brodie and Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty all announced their resignations in March. Finance Director Edward Gallagher also retired this year.

In an e-mail, mayoral spokesman Ryan O’Doherty declined to comment on continuity in Rawlings-Blake’s administration.

“The mayor is focused on reducing crime, improving schools and cutting property taxes to grow the city by 10,000 families over the next decade and she’s pleased to make this important appointment, which has been underway for a period of weeks,” O’Doherty wrote.

Having three chiefs of staff in three years isn’t necessarily a problem, but it is akin to partially raising a red flag, Fosler said.

“Once a year for three years is starting to get to a questionable turnover,” Fosler said. “You normally don’t want that kind of turnover. But it depends an awful lot on what the circumstances are.

“Those are rough jobs, they’re difficult. The kind of people you get for them are often going to be strong leaders, so it’s to be expected that they won’t stay for a long period of time.”