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Schulz and Slater depart as Hogan’s Cabinet undergoes changes

Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who is seeking the Republican nomination as governor to succeed Gov. Larry Hogan, is leaving her job. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced changes to his Cabinet Thursday morning as he heads into his final year as governor. 

Kelly Schulz, a fellow Republican who announced last spring that she would run for governor in 2022, is stepping down as secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce and will be replaced by Mike Gill, the previous secretary. 

Hogan also announced shakeups in the Maryland Department of Transportation. Secretary Greg Slater is leaving, to be replaced by Maryland Transportation Authority Executive Director James Ports.

Schulz assumed the commerce post in January of 2019 after having served as the state’s labor secretary since 2015. Schulz, seen as one of the leading candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in next year’s election, led initiatives throughout the pandemic to distribute federal relief funds to Maryland’s businesses and otherwise support the state’s struggling businesses. 

“I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to serve the Hogan administration over these last seven years — working daily to improve the lives of Marylanders has been an honor of a lifetime,” Schulz said in a press release. “While working with Governor Hogan, as the secretary of labor and secretary of commerce, we’ve accomplished a lot, from leading nationally recognized job training and apprenticeship programs to becoming the most improved state for business in the entire nation. I thank Governor Hogan for entrusting me with such great responsibilities and for allowing me to have the privilege to work with so many wonderful people throughout state government.” 

Leaving the Cabinet will insulate Schulz from attacks by other candidates over how she could hold down a full-time state government post while seeking office. It will also presumably make it easier for her to raise campaign funds.

Schulz was Gill’s replacement when the incoming commerce secretary left the post in early 2019 to return to the private sector. Since then, he has been chairman of Evergreen Advisors, an investment bank and corporate advisory firm, a position he also held prior to becoming commerce secretary in 2015. According to Hogan’s announcement, Gill has worked in business for four decades, beginning his career at IBM and starting a number of his own ventures. 

During Hogan’s first term, Gill worked to attract businesses to Maryland, develop job growth and economic development strategies, and partner more closely with local economic development organizations. 

When asked to return to his previous post, Gill “jumped at the opportunity,” he said in the press release. 

The other major shakeup occurs in the state’s Department of Transportation, which oversees projects and proposals that have often produced friction between Hogan and state Democratic leaders. The administration’s decision to abandon the Red Line transit project in Baltimore and its full-throated support of toll-lane expansions on the Capital Beltway have been among the most heated clashes.

As MDTA’s executive director, a position he has held since 2019, incoming secretary Ports oversees Maryland’s toll and E-ZPass systems. Before his current role, he served as MDOT’s deputy secretary for operations. William Pines, MDTA’s chief engineer since 2019, will step into the position of executive director.  

Slater has been transportation secretary since February 2020, a position he took over from Pete K. Rahn. Prior to his appointment as transportation secretary, Slater served as the head of the State Highway Administration. He has been with the state government since 2008 and is leaving for a position in the transportation industry out of state, according to Hogan’s announcement. 

“Greg Slater and Kelly Schulz have made countless contributions to change Maryland for the better,” Hogan said in his announcement. “We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude for their service, and we wish them well in their future pursuits.”