Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has tapped his longtime adviser and campaign manager Marvin James to serve as interim chief of staff, a quietly powerful position that is generally tasked with managing the mayor’s relationships with the City Council and state lawmakers, according to an internal memo reviewed by The Baltimore Banner.

The memo, written by City Administrator Faith Leach, also announced Thursday afternoon that Bryan Doherty will serve as the mayor’s director of communications. Both James and Doherty will fill roles that opened on Monday, when the first term Democrat asked former Chief of Staff Chezia Cager and former communications head Cirilo Manego to resign from their positions.

James is among the mayor’s most trusted advisers. He led a campaign that saw Scott eke out a narrow win in 2020′s crowded Democratic mayoral primary and officially joined City Hall as a senior advisor in the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods.

Marvin James, an aide to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, coordinates final preparations before the mayor gives the annual State of the City address on Monday, April 17. The event was held at the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center in South Baltimore. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

His appointment stands in contrast to those of Cager and Manego, who were comparatively less connected to City Hall politics than James. Though Cager was a member of the city’s 41st District Democratic Central Committee, Manego is a newcomer to Baltimore, having moved to the city from Washington, D.C., last year. Prior to joining City Hall, he ran his own consulting firm, which is still in operation, and worked at the progressive nonprofit The Hub Project.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Doherty most recently served as the national press secretary of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. He served as a communications adviser to Scott’s 2020 campaign and is also known to Maryland’s political class as a communications head for Ben Jealous’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign. According to the memo, he is a Baltimore County native. He also worked as communications director for New Jersey Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Leach’s memo also named Blair Adams as the mayor’s deputy communications director. She has served several stints as a spokeswoman in different city agencies, most recently the Department of Public Works and the fire department.

Caron Watkins will join Leach’s office as as director of policy and strategy. Watkins is no stranger to City Hall: She most recently served as deputy chief equity officer in the Mayor’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights, and also worked for former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake as communications director. Watkins has also served as an assistant state’s attorney and the chief of staff to the former Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby from 2015 to 2018.

The mayor’s office announced the personnel changes in a news release after The Banner reported this story. In a statement, Scott said he looks forward to working with the new roster of officials.

“My administration has made record progress including increasing investment in our schools, reducing unemployment, and expanding partnerships between community and police to reduce violent crime,” Scott said. “Our success is due in part to the talented professionals who are willing and able to serve the citizens of Baltimore.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Monday’s departures were the latest — and among the most significant — in a pattern of turnover that has come to define the Scott administration and led council members to lament that they learn of personnel changes from the media.

The communications department in particular has served as a revolving door: Doherty will be the mayor’s fourth communications director. Manego joined City Hall in February and held the role for only three months. He was preceded by Monica Lewis, who held the job for about 10 months before leaving for City Council President Nick Mosby’s office. Cal Harris held the role for under a year before the mayor asked him to resign. Two acting directors, Stefanie Mavronis and James Bentley, now work for the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, respectively.

Cager joined City Hall in November and departed after half a year on the job. She replaced Michael Huber, who left his position as Scott’s first chief of staff last September after joining Johns Hopkins University’s lobbying team.

Their departures came after the administration hired Beth Blauer, the current associate vice provost for public sector innovation at Johns Hopkins University, and Travis Tazelaar, a political consultant and former executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, to consult on operations and staff performance. In his recent State of the City address, Scott noted that Blauer will work in close partnership with Leach.

Baltimore City Administrator Faith Leach, left, and Inspector General Isabel Cumming listen as Mayor Brandon Scott gives the annual State of the City address on Monday, April 17. The event was held at the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center in South Baltimore. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Leach is the second ever city administrator. She was handpicked by Scott for the role after a stint as deputy mayor of equity, health and human services, where she was the face of the mayor’s squeegee task force, an initiative that connected young people squeegeeing for tips at busy intersections to jobs and social services and led to a 73% reduction in squeegee-related calls.

emily.sullivan@thebaltimorebanner.com

Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news. 

More From The Banner