ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s incoming governor has tapped the co-founder of a Baltimore nonprofit focused on social change as his top adviser.
Fagan Harris, a product of Maryland public schools, will become Gov.-elect Wes Moore’s chief of staff. The pick was one of five named by Moore less than a week after the election.
Moore said the selection of Harris and his choices for other key positions reflects a “hard-charging” administration focused on change.
“The people of this state voted for us to take a new approach to governance, to create new systems where we value new thinking and also to take new approaches to the way we are working in coordination with the legislature and new approaches to the way we are working with local governments,” said Moore.
In describing the Harris and other top appointments, Moore said he “enlisted leaders who are not only exceedingly competent but are also innovated and hard-charging as we rebuild government to meet the very urgent needs that Maryland families face and also to ensure Maryland is set to be more competitive and this is going to be an era that Maryland is going to win.”
Harris, like Moore, has no government experience, but he’s well-known to Moore. The pair founded the social change organization Baltimore Corps in 2013.
“Fagan is one of the country’s leading social entrepreneurs, bringing extraordinary expertise in talent recruitment, retention and also innovation,” said Moore. “He has an absolutely formidable track record of driving innovation and results in our communities and for our communities and is a sector leader on the issue of national service,” said Moore, who has made creation of a service year option for Maryland high school graduates a top priority of his administration.
“In short, Fagan knows how to get things done,” said Moore. “That’s exactly what he will do for the state of Maryland.”
Harris, the son of a public school special education teacher, attended elementary school in Bowie and later graduated from Glen Burnie High School in Anne Arundel County. He attended Stanford University, where he graduated with honors. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Oxford. Like Moore, he is a Rhodes scholar.
“We are bringing a different spirit to this administration,” said Harris. “We need to rethink the role of government. We need to be responsive. We need to be accountable. We need to be transparent. We need to be intensely collaborative.”
Moore also named four other appointments.
Helene Grady, vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer at Johns Hopkins University, will be Moore’s budget secretary. Grady served as deputy director of finance for Baltimore city from 2005-2010, later joining Johns Hopkins as associate dean for finance and administration in the School of Nursing, a position she held until August 2020.
Tisha Edwards, Moore’s campaign chief of staff, will become the new governor’s appointment’s secretary. Edwards served as chief of staff to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh before becoming the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success. She holds a law degree from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland.
Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, will serve as Moore’s chief legislative office. Luedtke, 41 and a teacher and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland College Park, is the current majority leader in the House of Delegates. He was just elected to his fourth term in the House — a position he will eventually have to resign. His wife, Dawn, was elected this year to her first term on the Montgomery County Council.
Moore said he counts on Luedtke to build a spirit of partnership with the Democratic-controlled legislature.
Over the last eight years, legislative leaders have expressed frustration with divided government under two-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. And while Hogan and lawmakers have partnered on some issues, legislative leaders frequently complained about the hands-off approach the Republican and his top aides took to the 90-day legislative sessions.
“We know these past years have been complicated and challenging,” Moore said. “We believe deeply in a sense of partnership. We believe deeply in the idea that we want to make sure we are working in unison with both chambers, both the House and Senate, to ensure that the legislation that is coming up that will eventually make it to our desk is legislation that we’ve already been working on together.”
Amanda LaForge, who served as counsel to Moore’s campaign, will become the new governor’s chief legal counsel. She previously worked as legal counsel to the Democratic National Committee and was director of voter protection for the state party. She also served as director of governmental affairs for the Maryland Secretary of State under then-Gov. Parris Glendening.