Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore announced key hires Monday, picking Baltimore nonprofit leader Fagan Harris as his chief of staff.
Harris, who like Moore is a Rhodes scholar, will lead a team of employees who will be bold and innovative, Moore said during a press conference in Annapolis.
Voters “expect us to go fast,” Moore told reporters.
“They expect us to build a government that meets people where they are,” Moore said. “And to do that, we enlisted leaders who are not only exceedingly competent, but also innovative and hard-charging as we rebuild government to meet the very urgent needs that Maryland families face and also to ensure that Maryland is set to be more competitive.”
In addition to Harris, Moore also announced the following hires:
- Tisha Edwards as appointments secretary. Edwards was chief of staff for the campaign, previously worked for Moore’s education company BridgeEdU, and was head of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Families in Baltimore. The appointments secretary oversees all top hiring decisions and names people to boards and commissions.
- Helene Grady as budget secretary. Grady most recently was vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer for Johns Hopkins University. She also was a deputy director of finance for Baltimore City and deputy budget director for the city of Philadelphia.
- Eric Luedtke as chief legislative officer. Leudtke will resign his position as a state delegate representing Montgomery County to join the Moore administration. He’s been the House of Delegates majority leader, responsible for shepherding Democratic priorities through the legislature.
- Amanda La Forge as chief legal counsel. La Forge was a lawyer for the Moore campaign and was with the Sandler, Reiff, Lamb, Rosenstein & Birkenstock law firm. She also was chief counsel to the Democratic National Committee.
Only Harris and Moore spoke to reporters about the new hires. Harris founded Baltimore Corps, which issues grants and places fellows with nonprofit organizations.
The chief of staff is usually responsible for carrying out the vision of the governor, generally with cabinet secretaries reporting to them.
Though Harris has never worked in government, he said he’ll use his experience in other forms of public service to inform his work in the State House.
“I’ve spent my career working with government, working with our communities, working with our nonprofits, our philanthropies, our entrepreneurs, our business owners to get big things done for our communities,” Harris said.
He added: “I intend to learn and grow in this role and seek out advice and consultation.”
Moore will be sworn in as governor on Jan. 18.
“I could not be more honored to stand with this first initial grouping of members of the Moore-Miller administration,” Moore said. “Because I know that these are leaders who understand what it means to get things done.”
Cabinet secretaries will be subject to confirmation in the Maryland Senate once the General Assembly is back in session in January.
Democrats hold a significant majority in the Senate and the chamber is led by President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat who endorsed Moore before the primary election. Even in divided government, the Senate only occasionally rejects the governor’s appointments
Moore soundly defeated Republican nominee Dan Cox in the governor’s election, even as ballots are still being counted. As of Monday morning, Moore had secured 62% of the 1.724 million votes cast to nearly 37% for Cox.
Moore’s team quickly moved forward with their transition, with the governor-elect and outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan holding a private meeting and joint press conference just two days after Election Day.
The incoming administration faces a long list of tasks before the inauguration, including filling key staff roles, developing an agenda to submit to lawmakers and understanding the state budget, which is due two days after the inauguration.
Moore appointed his running mate, Aruna Miller, to head up a “transition and transformation team,” along with the following co-chairs: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks; Shelonda Stokes of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore; campaign Treasurer Mary Tydings; and Ken Ulman, former Howard County executive. Cleo Hirsch, who formerly worked for the city school system, is the executive director of the transition team.
There’s also a transition “steering committee” with more than two dozen members (including at least one Republican, state Sen. Addie Eckardt of the Eastern Shore), and “policy committees” will also be set up.
The transition team launched a website at mooremillermd.com for Marylanders to offer their ideas and submit their resumes for consideration.