The County Council this week unanimously approved the appointment of Jacqueline F. Brown as Prince George's chief administrative officer, the county's second-highest-ranking post, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the government.
Brown, 58, who replaces Kenneth Glover, is the first woman to hold the position in Prince George's. The former director of reform for the Howard County public school system, Brown's name was floated last year as a possible successor to schools chief Iris T. Metts.
Brown had no ties to Johnson before meeting him after last fall's election, although she said she supported his campaign. It was her friend, Wilbert Wilson, a businessman who also happens to be Johnson's neighbor and confidante, who suggested that the new county executive speak to Brown about serving in his administration.
Johnson and Brown got together in November, though no particular job was on the agenda. At the time, in fact, Johnson had told aides that he expected to appoint Iris Boswell, a Richmond lawyer whom he had known from his days working for the IRS, as the county's CAO.
Johnson said he decided to offer Brown the post during their meeting. "I knew she was a leader, and that she would bring credibility to the office," Johnson said. "She lived in the county, she knew the people." (He ended up hiring Boswell as his special assistant.)
Brown, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati, earned a master's in counseling psychology from Bowie State University, and a doctorate in human development from the University of Maryland.
As CAO, Brown will have responsibility for administering more than two dozen agencies, 6,000 county employees and a $2 billion budget. While Johnson is the government's principal face and voice, Brown will have the less glamorous task of ensuring that the county runs smoothly.
Brown said her work as a Howard County educator prepared her to deal with a sprawling bureaucracy. "A school system has everything . . . it's like a little city," she said. "There's a domino effect to every decision, it's interconnected."
Asked to list her top priorities, Brown said she would ensure that county employees are courteous and responsive to constituents. She said she plans to carry out Johnson's vision of sprucing up the county's roadways. And she said she hopes to centralize responsibilities pertaining to homeland security under one agency.
"We are often depicted different than who we are," Brown said of Prince George's, adding that she wants to turn that around. A crowd of friends, family and supporters assembled for her confirmation hearing before the County Council, which approved her appointment by a 9 to 0 vote.
Del. Joanne C. Benson was among those who spoke on Brown's behalf at the hearing, praising Johnson for his choice and saying that Brown would become his "right arm." (Benson's embrace of Johnson following her remarks was noteworthy if for no other reason that she lampooned his candidacy last fall when she supported Major F. Riddick for county executive.)
During his remarks to the council, Wilson suggested that Brown's affable smile masks a steely resolve. "If this council thinks you're going to pull something on Dr. Brown, you won't," he said. "You might think you have her pegged, but you don't."
The council members lavished the new chief administrator with praise.
Council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton), a former member of the Board of Education, said he was pleased that Johnson had appointed an educator to the post. But he acknowledged that he was a fan from the moment she introduced herself.
"You had my vote as soon as you called this council honorable," he said.
Johnson Recycles Staff When Johnson left the state's attorney's office, he didn't go alone, taking along 10 aides to work in his new administration.
Johnson has announced several of the hires, including former assistant state's attorney Michael Herman as chief of staff, and David Whitacre, the former head of the civil trial division, as county attorney.
His staff also includes a number of other former assistant prosecutors: Angela Alsobrooks, who is Johnson's liaison to the public school system; Tiffany Hanna, who is working in legislative affairs; Peggy McGee, who is his special assistant; and Mark Spencer and Mary Crawford, who are assisting former New York police commissioner Patrick Murphy with a review of the county police force.
Ralph Moultrie, who served as Johnson's budget adviser in the prosecutor's office, is now his special assistant; Pierre Banda, who was an aide to Johnson in the state's attorney's office, is now working in the county's community affairs office. Debbie Morris, Johnson's secretary when he was prosecutor, has joined him in his new digs on the fifth floor of the County Administration Building.
Curry's Upbeat Encore Former county executive Wayne K. Curry was in a playful mood when he showed up at the Human Relations Commission dinner last week, where he was given the Theresa D. Banks Award for Community Service.
First, Curry couldn't resist reminding the audience at Martin's Crosswinds that he had left behind a $130 million surplus for Johnson.
"That's a whole bunch of money for Jack to make friends with," he said.
Later, Curry, a Democrat, boasted that Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had wanted him to work in his administration.
"Anything I wanted," he said when asked what jobs they had discussed.
Instead, Curry said he wants to make money as a lawyer, although he ruled out working as a lobbyist for the gaming industry, which is seeking to legalize slot machines in Maryland.
But Curry said he believes slots could solve a lot of the county's financial problems. "I'm for slots, we ought to have it, we ought to have the money to invest in our schools," he said.
Noted . . . . . . The Wilson Watch: Police Chief Gerald M. Wilson showed up at Brown's confirmation. "Wonderful," Wilson said, beaming when asked how he was faring. Johnson is mulling whether to keep the chief or find a new commander for the 1,400-member department. The county executive said he expects to make up his mind by the end of February
. . . A new face in Johnson's press office: Nancy C. Lineman, the former executive director of Maryland's chapter of National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, started this week as a Johnson spokesperson. She joins Walter Dozier, a former Gazette reporter, and Jim Keary, a former reporter for the Washington Times.