Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Van T. Mitchell has resigned, to be replaced by Dennis Schrader, who has served as the governor’s appointments secretary and as deputy transportation secretary.
Mitchell on Thursday emailed his staff saying he would resign effective immediately. A department spokesman confirmed the resignation to The Daily Record, and Gov. Larry Hogan’s office announced it later in the day.
The email did not specify a reason for the departure, and a spokesman for the agency said no additional details were immediately available.
Douglass Mayer, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said that while Mitchell’s departure was effective Thursday the secretary informed the governor of his intent earlier.
Hogan, in a separate email statement, said Mitchell was “leaving his position in the administration to pursue opportunities in the private sector after two years of service to the state.”
Mitchell, a former Democratic lawmaker from La Plata, was a lobbyist prior to joining the Hogan administration. Prior to that he served as a deputy health secretary under Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich.
The resignation comes less than a month before the start of the 2017 General Assembly session. It also comes amid pressure for the department to more promptly care for criminal defendants waiting for court-ordered psychological evaluations for possible commitment or to determine their competency to stand trial.
Two state legislators said in September they would introduce bills that would make it clear the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene must move quickly and obey court orders to accept mentally incompetent defendants who are awaiting trial.
While Mitchell has a background in health care policy, Schrader’s strengths appear to lie in the managerial side.s most people know, running an agency that’s large and complex has much more to do with being able to delegate through complex systems,” Mayer said. “Dennis has decades of that kind of experience.”
Schrader is a retired U.S. Navy captain and a professional engineer who has held senior positions in the public and private sectors. He served in executive positions at the University of Maryland Medical System Corporation from 1987 to 2003 and as Maryland’s homeland security director and as a Howard County elected official.
“I wouldn’t read anything into it about the direction of the agency,” Mayer said, when asked if Schrader’s resume signaled a change in direction for the department.
Schrader’s time at the university system was mostly focused on construction and facilities and not policy. On his Linkedin page, Schrader describes his time at the system as a position where he “managed a $500 million dollar healthcare construction program over 16 years that redeveloped depreciated 1 million square foot facility into over 2 million square feet, multi-hospital system.”
“I want to offer my deepest gratitude to Van Mitchell for his steadfast service to the citizens of Maryland, and for all he has done to make our state a better place to live, work, and raise a family,” Hogan said in a statement. “I know that the department is in good hands with Dennis Schrader, one of the most qualified and intelligent individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Hogan appointed Chris Cavey, currently deputy appointments secretary, to replace Schrader as secretary.
The governor also announced the appointment of Sean Powell as deputy chief of staff following the departure of Roy McGrath for a soon-to-be-announced position. Powell, who now heads the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, previously served as St. Mary’s County Supervisor of Assessments for nearly 12 years.