Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan announced his first four Cabinet appointments Wednesday — retaining the state’s current head of the juvenile detention system and tapping a Laurel business owner, a state delegate from Frederick County and a town administrator from Harford County for other senior positions.
With a little more than a month until his Jan. 21 inauguration, Hogan (R) is working to complete an initial evaluation of state agencies and pick about 20 more Cabinet-level leaders, including higher-profile positions such as Maryland State Police superintendent and secretaries of health, budget and management and the environment.
The first cabinet-level position Hogan announced Wednesday held symbolic importance for him: James D. Fielder Jr. will serve as appointments secretary — the position held by the governor-elect during the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state’s last Republican governor.
“It goes without saying that the secretary of appointments is a very important position,” Hogan said during a news conference in Annapolis, prompting laughter. “It’s obviously widely regarded as a steppingstone to higher office.”
Fielder, currently town administrator of Bel Air in Harford County, was secretary of labor, licensing and regulation during the Ehrlich administration. Hogan called him a “good friend” and said he will help select the rest of the governor’s team in coming weeks.
Hogan tapped C. Gail Bassette , a Laurel business owner, to become secretary of the Department of General Services; and Del. Kelly M. Schulz (R-Frederick) as secretary of labor, licensing and regulation.
Sam J. Abed , the state’s current secretary of the Department of Juvenile Services, will remain in that post.
Hogan said that as members of his transition team evaluate state agencies, they have been looking for leaders to keep around. They found one in Abed, who has overseen the state’s juvenile services since 2011.
The department has about 2,000 employees and is charged with managing, supervising and treating youths who are involved with the justice system. Although the department has struggled for many years, Hogan commended Abed for “really injecting some passion and energy and change into the agency.”
“This has always been — for many, many years — probably one of the most challenging agencies in state government,” Hogan said. “They’re wrestling with really tough problems, and there’s no miracle solution to the problems, but I believe that the current leadership is doing an excellent job at trying to address the issues.”
As secretary of general services, Bassette will oversee a department that provides professional and technical services for the state government — including the maintenance of 55 state buildings, construction of new facilities and coordinating procurement. The agency also oversees the Maryland Capitol Police, which protects the State House and 18 other state buildings in Annapolis.
Bassette is president and chief executive officer of TCE , a management consulting firm based in Laurel that often contracts with government entities.
Hogan described Bassette as “a self-made businesswoman” who understands the challenges that small businesses face and “the importance of delivering services on time and under budget.” Her firm has been recognized as a top company owned by a minority woman.
Schulz, a member of the House of Delegates since 2011, will oversee the state agency that handles workplace safeguards, consumer protections and cultivating the workforce. She is a former federal appointee to the Environmental Protection Agency and part owner of a cybersecurity firm.
Schulz was reelected to her House seat in November but will have to give up her office to take the executive appointment. In the State House, Schulz sat on the Economic Matters Committee, where Hogan said she became “well-versed in fighting for business-friendly regulations.”
During the latest session, Schulz helped pass legislation to establish teams of experts to review heroin overdose deaths and look for trends.
Bassette, Schulz and Abed must be confirmed by the state Senate. The appointments secretary position does not require Senate approval.
Hogan announced earlier this month that his chief of staff will be Craig Williams, who served as Ehrlich’s deputy chief of staff and was most recently the director of policy and U.S. government affairs at the giant biopharmaceutical company Amgen.
Hogan’s top legislative lobbyist will be Sen. Joseph M. Getty (R-Carroll), who held the same job during Ehrlich’s administration.