Secretary Christian S. Johansson sent pulses racing this week with the announcement that he plans to leave his cabinet post come January, but any anxiety was short-lived. Within hours, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced that Deputy Secretary Dominick E. Murray would be taking charge of the Department of Business and Economic Development upon Johansson’s departure.
The governor’s quick action stands in welcome contrast to affairs at the Department of Transportation, where former Secretary Beverly K. Swaim-Staley’s chair has been gathering dust for several months. Ms. Swaim-Staley gave notice in April and left in July. Now, with the General Assembly session looming and the candidate pool reportedly whittled to eight, the governor continues to look for the right fit for her replacement.
In May, then-Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez left the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to become chief of staff for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. It took the governor six months to fill Sanchez’s spot, even though his eventual choice, Secretary Leonard Howie III, was already in place as deputy secretary. More recently, the governor lost public affairs director Rick Abbruzzese as well as Joseph C. Bryce, the administration’s top lobbyist in the General Assembly.
With the O’Malley administration in the fourth quarter of its eight-year run, the departures are not surprising; in fact, it’s a safe bet there are several more to come. We earnestly hope that future transitions will look less like the ones at Transportation and DLLR and more like the one at DBED. The governor should anticipate the turnover and have people in mind to fill the vacancies.
This is not cronyism; it is succession planning.
No doubt it helped that Mr. Murray is intimately familiar with DBED and that his working relationship with Gov. O’Malley dates back to the governor’s days as Mayor O’Malley. History and mutual trust are no small things in a cabinet member.
After Mr. Murray’s nomination, some in the business community said they would have preferred a nationwide search; others, in the political arena, said they would have preferred a different choice altogether. But, of course, the choice was not theirs to make.
The choice was the governor’s, and he did the right thing in making it quickly.