Less than two years into his tenure in Baltimore, City Administrator Chris Shorter was officially confirmed as county executive by the County Board of Supervisors in Prince William County, Virginia.
The Baltimore Banner first reported his plans to depart on Saturday. His last day will be Dec. 30, according to a news release from Mayor Brandon Scott’s office.
His exit is the most significant in an administration dotted with high-profile cabinet departures. As Baltimore’s first city administrator, Shorter oversees nearly every aspect of city operations, from recycling services to payroll.
In addition to Shorter’s departure, Natasha Mehu, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Government Relations, will leave City Hall for the private sector, according to multiple officials with direct knowledge of the situation who are unauthorized to comment on personnel matters.
Mehu did not respond to multiple requests for comment. She is Scott’s chief liaison to lobby for his agenda in Annapolis; her departure months ahead of the General Assembly’s next session leaves a significant vacancy.
Scott created the position of city administrator while in the council president’s office after winning the 2020 Democratic mayoral primary, which in deep-blue Baltimore is tantamount to winning the general election.
He said the role would bring Baltimore into the 21st century, as most Maryland counties have non-elected county administrators, arguing that the presence of a stable, politically neutral official makes city services more efficient and reliable.
Scott hired Shorter in December 2020; he previously served as an assistant city manager in Austin, Texas. In late March, Prince William County, Virginia officials awarded a $70,000 contract to headhunting firm POLIHIRE Strategy Corp. to find the next county executive.
“It speaks volumes of the transformational work that is happening in Baltimore when people like Chris are tapped from other municipalities or organizations to serve in key roles,” Scott said in a statement.
Shorter said he is immensely grateful for the vision Scott had to create this role and for the confidence the mayor had in him to fill it.
“I am truly fortunate to have served as Baltimore’s first City Administrator and honored to have played a part in creating a healthier, stronger and more equitable Baltimore,” he said in a statement.
Shorter is the second-highest-paid city employee behind Police Commissioner Michael Harrison; he earned $255,000 last year. He is set to earn $350,000 as Prince William County executive.
A news release from the mayor’s office touted the work he led or was involved with during his tenure, including leading a workforce vaccination and testing task force; 88% of city employees were vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the release.
He also oversaw a vacant properties review process, established the mayor’s strategic action plan, led the city’s transition away from paper records by implementing the software Workday throughout city agencies, created an employee recognition program and managed a comprehensive procurement reform process.
Shorter will not see many of his projects through to completion. Most of the goals in the strategic action plan tracker he created remain in the planning or in-process stages.
Procurement remains a perennial issue for the city; snafus in the newly reconfigured procurement system Shorter helped to implement left BPD unable to secure an important chemical component required for DNA tests, leaving the agency scrambling to find it elsewhere. Within a month on the job, Shorter’s efforts allowed the city to resume weekly recycling pickups after a period of partial service. But this January, Baltimore once again shifted pickups to every other week, citing low-staffed crews. The administration has yet to say when regular service will resume.
Scott took office in December 2020. His administration has been plagued with departures, including those of former Communications Director Cal Harris and former Chief of Staff Michael Huber, who reported directly to the mayor. Both left City Hall for new jobs.
Former Deputy City Administrators Daniel Ramos and Chichi Nyagah-Nash also left for new positions. Other top officials who reported to Shorter and left Baltimore include former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Ted Carter, former Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Sunny Schnitzer and former Broadband and Digital Equity Director Jason Hardebeck.