Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Gen. Linda Singh, an adjutant general in the Maryland National Guard, was named by Gov.-elect Larry Hogan to lead the Guard. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

Hogan names health chief among six picks

ANNAPOLIS — Gov.-elect Larry Hogan Tuesday announced six Cabinet secretaries for his incoming administration but did not name a state budget secretary as expected.

Included in Hogan’s announcement was the new head of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, three members of what the Republican governor-elect called his “Bay Cabinet” as well as a new adjutant general for the Maryland National Guard who overcame a period of homelessness during her childhood to become the first woman to lead the state Guard.

This is Hogan’s third major announcement of senior-level officials since Dec. 10. The incoming governor, who faces budgetary challenges over the coming 18 months, was expected to announce his selection for state budget secretary, according to an email sent to reporters from a spokeswoman for the Hogan transition team on Sunday.

Hogan told reporters in Annapolis Tuesday that he never planned on making the announcement.

Hogan named Van T. Mitchell as the new secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Mitchell, 59, previously served as deputy secretary of the department under Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. from 2004-2007. Prior to that, the Charles County Democrat served nine years in the House of Delegates.

Mitchell’s appointment was praised by Carmela Coyle, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Hospital Association.

“The secretary-designate’s experience in Annapolis as a regulator and as a delegate, especially his service to DHMH as deputy secretary, will be invaluable to the agency and the state,” Coyle said in a statement. “His leadership will be critical to our shared goal of making Marylanders healthier under the state’s unique all-payer hospital rate-setting system.”

Mitchell will take over a department with a budget of over $11 billion — about 28 percent of the state’s overall spending plan.

Hogan declined to say if Mitchell would oversee a dismantling of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

The incoming governor also named Gen. Linda Singh, 50, as adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard. Singh, 50, has a 33-year career in the National Guard and is the first woman to lead the Maryland National Guard. Singh, who is also a managing director of public safety for Accenture, told Fortune magazine in a 2013 that she overcame a troubled childhood that included being sexually abused by relatives and periods of homelessness where she slept on porches at the homes of friends or in an office of the pretzel shop in a Frederick County mall where she worked.

Hogan also named the secretaries of the Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment — what the incoming governor called his “Bay Cabinet.”

Charles Evans was named secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. Evans, known as the grandfather of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, previously served as assistant secretary of the same department.

Joseph Bartenfelder, 57, was named secretary of the state Department of Agriculture. Bartenfelder, a family farmer, served 16 years on the Baltimore County Council and represented part of the county during his 12 years in the Maryland House of Delegates. The conservative Democrat helped Hogan campaign in Parkville

Ben Grumbles, the former assistant for water at the Environmental Protection Agency, will serve as secretary of the state Department of the Environment. Grumbles also served as director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, where he worked on air quality and climate change issues as well as water efficiency and wastewater recycling.

Finally, Hogan tapped Jimmy Rhee as special secretary of minority affairs. Rhee, a member of Hogan’s transition team, is believed to be the first Korean-American named to a cabinet level position in Maryland, according to Hogan. Rhee previously served as assistant secretary of Commerce and Trade in Virginia.