Michael Huber, Mayor Brandon Scott’s chief of staff, will leave his influential role as City Hall’s top advisor in early September to lead Johns Hopkins University’s government relations team.
His departure is the most significant in a first term dotted with high-profile exits, including department directors, several deputy mayors and mayor’s office staff. The attorney has served as Scott’s right hand for three years, providing a source of stability for the mayor across different political offices and the tumult of the pandemic.
In an interview, Huber said the move will allow him to spend more time with his family while continuing mission-driven work.
“I believe that this mayor is laying the groundwork to take this city where it needs to go, to take the city in a really exciting and much-needed new direction,” the 39-year-old said. “I intend to continue to support him in whatever way he’ll allow me.”
Huber and Scott spokeswoman Monica Lewis declined to name his replacement, saying there are many names under consideration and the transition will be smooth.
Huber’s departure leaves open an influential position that brokers power and decides policy largely behind the curtain. As chief of staff, he both oversees city agencies, including the law and communication departments, and advises Scott on policy and personnel decisions, from recommending where federal stimulus money goes to hiring and firing cabinet executives. His salary is $180,000.
In a statement, Scott said Huber has been a critical member of his staff who helped the administration implement a solid foundation during the uncertainties of a pandemic.
“His many contributions, counsel and commitment to the city of Baltimore will be missed, but I am confident that we have a strong leadership team that will keep things moving forward for the city,” he said.
Huber is the latest senior Scott administration official to depart City Hall. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Sunny Schnitzer took a job with the Department of Justice in January; two deputy city administrators, Daniel Ramos and Chichi Nyagah-Nash have also left their positions. Communications Director Cal Harris left City Hall after less than a year; during his tenure Communications Deputy Stefanie Mavronis and Press Secretary Sydney Burns moved to the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.
Huber first entered City Hall in 2015 as an aide to then-City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, serving as director of business and economic development, then director of legislative affairs. When Young automatically ascended to the mayor’s office following the resignation of then-Mayor Catherine Pugh, he asked Huber to join him. Instead, Huber became Scott’s chief of staff, after his council peers elected him to Young’s empty seat in spring 2019.
The next day, Baltimore was hit by a ransomware attack that halted digital services, including tax payments and deed recording, causing months of bureaucratic headaches. The pandemic hit less than a year later. Scott eked out a win in a crowded Democratic mayoral primary shortly after and cruised to victory in the general election.
Huber informally advised Scott’s campaign and led his mayoral transition, which included responding to the pandemic and addressing staggering levels of violence, as well as attempting to rebuild trust in City Hall after the political instability that launched Scott to the mayor’s office. He became Baltimore’s first mayoral chief of staff to split power and responsibilities with a city administrator, after Scott led a successful effort as City Council President to create the office. City Administrator Chris Shorter manages the public works and transportation departments, among others.
A recent poll from the Baltimore Banner conducted by Goucher College found that residents are divided over Scott: 47% of respondents said they disapprove of his performance in office, while 43% said they approved.
“The thing that surprised me more than anything else — and I should have known better — was the sheer volume of crises, of emergencies, that a mayoral administration is asked to deal with on a daily, weekly, hourly basis,” Huber said. “Local government means that you are dealing with huge problems, but there’s no remove between where you sit working on the problem and the people who are impacted by the problems you’re working on. That can be hard, but it’s incredibly exciting, and it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Huber has two young children; his son, born February of last year, has undergone three surgeries. “That’s hard for any family. To do that with an incredibly demanding job was harder,” he said, adding that the mayor insisted he take whatever time he needed with his family. “He’s not a boss who will let you miss [doctor’s] appointments, who won’t let you be there when your 11-month-old is going under the knife,” Huber said.
At Hopkins, Huber will work under Vice President Maria Harris Tildon, who leads the Office of State and Local Affairs. As director of Maryland state government affairs, he will lobby for the system’s legislative and regulatory agenda in the city, state and region.
His last day is scheduled to be Sept. 2.