Baker taps Magaw for police chief; names six others to top posts

Correction: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said the Prince George’s Police Department has 900 members. It has 1,500.

May 13, 2011

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III on Friday nominated Acting Police Chief Mark Magaw and six others to head key departments in his fledgling administration, turning to several county government veterans to fill top positions.

Besides Magaw, who grew up in the county and has spent 27 years in the police department, Baker (D) announced that fire department veteran Marc Bashoor is his pick to head the 600-member fire and emergency medical services.

Baker also selected agency heads for budget, environment, housing, finance and procurement departments, including several with deep ties to the county. All would need the approval of the County Council, which must act on the nominations before its summer recess, expected to begin in late July.

Baker nominated Eric C. Brown as director of housing and community development; Gail D. Francis as director of finance and Thomas M. Himler as director of management and budget. Monica J. Johnson is Baker’s pick to lead central services, which handles contracts and procurement. And he selected Samuel E. Wynkoop Jr. as director of environmental resources.

Baker, who is approaching six months in office, had previously made few major, permanent appointments. In a recent interview, he said that he was hoping to complete his cabinet in the next few months but that it has taken longer than expected to vet potential candidates.

Few of the selections came as a surprise; all have been acting agency heads for several months.

- Magaw, 52, has been serving as interim chief since December, when Baker appointed him to replace Roberto Hylton. He makes $163,000.

- Bashoor, 45, who also grew up in Prince George’s, returned in December at Baker’s request to head fire and emergency medical services. He had been head of homeland security in Mineral County, W.Va., since retiring in 2005 as Prince George’s deputy fire chief for operations. Bashoor has said he wants to tweak the fire department’s organizational structure and improve communication within the agency. His salary is $165,000.

- Brown, 58, has worked in housing agencies in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore, as well as in Meridian, Miss., Philadelphia and New Orleans. He has been acting director of the county’s housing agency since March. He is paid $140,000.

- Francis, 58, served as deputy finance director until December, when Baker tapped her to be acting head of the department. A certified public accountant, Francis began her professional career as a staff auditor for Deloitte, Haskins and Sells. She is paid $170,000.

- Himler, 43, previously headed the county’s budget office for former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D). He left to become a consultant before returning in December as acting head of the office for Baker. He makes $175,000.

- Johnson, a lawyer, previously was Maryland’s assistant secretary for mission support at the state’s Department of Natural Resources. She also worked for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. She is paid $151,000.

- Wynkoop, 67, formerly served as chief of staff for House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who represents part of Prince George’s. Wynkoop headed the environment office during the Curry administration. He is paid $175,000.

The nominations of Magaw and Bashoor complete the top tier of Baker’s public safety team. He already has named a public safety director and a director of homeland security.

Sources inside the police department said Magaw’s strongest competition for the job came from two deputy chiefs — Kevin Davis and Gary Cunningham — and Vince Canales, president of the Prince George’s police union. Dwayne Preston, an acting deputy chief, had also thrown his name into the mix, sources said.

Magaw, a former narcotics commander and deputy chief under Hylton, is well liked by police commanders and the rank and file, in part because of what they say is a humble, low-key management approach. Commanders say he is comfortable delegating authority.

Magaw would lead the 1,500-member police force at a time when he says violent crime in the county is down compared with the same period last year. But, at the same time, there is concern about the number of homicides.

Including fatal police shootings and other killings deemed justified, the county has had 42 homicides this year, up from 32 during the same time last year. Much of that increase was driven by an unusually violent January, when 16 people were killed, including 13 in the first 12 days.

Magaw is not without baggage. He was commander of the police department’s narcotics enforcement division when a sheriff’s office SWAT team, serving a county police warrant, broke down the door of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo’s home in 2008 and shot and killed his two dogs.

In the wake of that incident, Magaw incorrectly told public affairs officers that authorities had obtained a “no-knock” warrant, when they had not.

Miranda Spivack writes about government and politics in the suburbs, based in the Post’s bureau in Largo in Prince George’s County.
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