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Hogan’s team is all business

Even his choices from legislature have fiscal background

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has been careful not to discuss his plans for governing the state until after he is sworn in, but a pattern is emerging in the more than one dozen Cabinet-level and other senior staff appointments he has made in the last three weeks.

Many of his appointees either have a background in the private sector or have served on one of the General Assembly’s fiscal committees.

“We’ve been looking at that for every single agency,” Hogan said of the private-sector experience in his nominations. “Even the folks that have government experience, you’ll find most of them have private-sector experience. If you go through my Cabinet, almost all of them have private-sector experience. It’s something we’ve been looking for.”

Hogan’s experience and relationships lie mostly outside of government with the “exception of one little stint where I did some work for the Ehrlich administration,” the governor-elect said.

Early on, supporters of Hogan predicted the incoming governor would not be a carbon copy of Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who developed a reputation of drawing on his relationships with legislators and tapping them to fill posts in his administration.

“The background of Gov.-elect Hogan and the background of Gov. Ehrlich are very different,” said Rep. Andy Harris, following Hogan’s first post-election press conference in November. “Governor Ehrlich came from the legislature, knew the talents in the legislature and would naturally draw on some of those talents to fill roles within his administration.

“Gov.-elect Hogan does not come from the legislature,” Harris said. “He comes from a business background. In a time when getting the economy back on track and getting businesses back on track so they can hire and pay good wages in Maryland, he may well look to people with business backgrounds rather than legislative backgrounds.”

Members of Hogan’s Cabinet, plus some other senior officials who have business backgrounds include:

  • Joseph Bartenfelder, secretary designee of the Department of Agriculture: the Democratic former delegate and Baltimore County Councilman is a small-business owner and farmer.
  • Gail Bassette, secretary designee of the Department of General Services: president and chief executive officer of the Laurel, Maryland-based TCE Inc., a management consulting firm.
  • Charles Evans, secretary designee of the Department of Natural Resources: Evans previously held the position and also has decades of experience in real estate development.
  • James Fielder, appointments secretary: Was vice president, director and chief development officer in both the information technology and accounting industries.
  • R. Michael Gill, secretary designee of the Department of Business and Economic Development: chairman and principal of Evergreen Advisors, founded Americom, a technical services company.
  • Kenneth C. Holt, secretary designee of the Department of Housing and Community Development: The Republican former delegate is the former senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and chief financial officer of Woofound. He’s also the owner and operator of a farm that raises thoroughbred horses and Angus cattle.
  • Rona E. Kramer, secretary designee of the Department of Aging: The Democratic former state senator from Montgomery County is a lawyer and senior vice president of Kramer Enterprises, a commercial real estate company
  • Alfred W. Redmer Jr., Maryland Insurance Commissioner designee: The Republican former delegate previously held this position under Ehrlich. Since leaving government service, Redmer has served as chief executive officer of Coventry Health Care and president of Redmer Financial Group and Redmer Insurance Group.
  • Jimmy Rhee, special secretary of Minority affairs: The former assistant Virginia secretary of Commerce and Trade was chief executive officer of Global Technology Services Consortium and Cleverlearn, an internet software company.
  • Kelly R. Schulz, secretary designee for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation: The Republican delegate from Frederick County is the owner of Kelly M. Schulz Consulting in New Market.
  • Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general designee: managing director of Accenture, a management consulting and technical services company.
  • Craig Williams: Hogan’s chief of staff was the director of government affairs for Amgen, a biotech firm. He served as deputy chief of staff under Ehrlich.
  • John C. Wobensmith, Secretary of State designee: Worked for five U.S. presidents and was vice president of Sensys Technologies in London.

Aris Melissaratos, dean of the Brown School of Business and Leadership at Stevenson University and Ehrlich’s secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, said the picks show a strong background in management and could hint at Hogan’s desire to run government more like a business.

“Everybody wishes they could do that,” Melissaratos said. “It’s everybody’s dream when they get elected.”

Melissaratos said the difficulty will be in getting state employees to go along with the program.

“There’s an entrenched bureaucracy, tens of thousands of people, who will still want to do things the way they’ve always done them,” Melissaratos said.

The as-yet-to-be-named secretary of the Department of Transportation could also telegraph Hogan’s intentions when it comes to his preference for road and highway projects and the future of  the Purple and Red Line rail projects.

Insiders say that Pete K. Rahn, a senior vice president for Kansas City, Missouri-based transportation consulting firm HNTB, is the likely pick to run the department. Rahn has a reputation as a frugal project manager who focuses on quick, inexpensive highway projects — a fact that could spell doom for the two rail projects whose combined cost is approaching $6 billion.

Even Hogan’s picks with experience in the legislature come from a budgetary background, including Bartenfelder, Holt, Kramer and Redmer.

Hogan’s early reliance on legislators with budgetary experience on his transition team drew praise even before the governor-elect started to name his Cabinet.

Early on, Hogan named former Sen. Robert R. “Bobby” Neall, who chaired the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee under Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

Miller, in a December interview, praised Hogan for relying on Neall and other Republican senators including David R. Brinkley, George C. Edwards and Joseph M. Getty.

“These are people who are fiscal conservatives but they also really understand how government works, what can be cut and what needs to be protected,” Miller said. “It’s not a matter of picking legislators. It’s a matter of picking people who have been involved in making the legislature and government work.”