By CHRIS YAKAITIS, Capital News Service
BALTIMORE Governor-elect Martin O'Malley on Thursday announced a 41-member transition team which includes recent U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume and represents a diverse cross-section of familiar names from politics, law, business and labor.
At an afternoon press conference in the William Donald Schaefer Tower in downtown Baltimore, O'Malley also announced that a key City Hall aide, deputy mayor Michael R. Enright, would become his chief of staff in the new administration in Annapolis.
The biggest surprise on the list of transition team members was Mfume, who introduced himself as "Kweisi Mfume, United States Senator." After an exaggerated hand clap and a laugh, he added, "Wrong press conference."
Mfume, a former Baltimore congressman and former head of the national NAACP, lost in the Democratic primary to Sen.-elect Benjamin L. Cardin.
Mfume was the most recognizable face in the group, which O'Malley and Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony Brown said reflected their administration's theme of statewide diversity.
Some 25 members of the team were on hand at the press conference. There were six women among them and about one third were African Americans.
The full list of 41 named to the transition steering committee includes former governor Harry R. Hughes and Maryland Democratic Party chair Terry Lierman.
Brown, who was named the chair of the transition team last week, assured reporters that Republicans were in the crowd as well, but wouldn't say who. "That's the kind of hunt you may have to go on," he said. "They're in there." One notable Republican on the list was former U.S. Attorney George Beall.
It included other well known lawyers such as Richard O. Berndt, who has close ties to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Stephen H. Sachs, who, like Beall, is a former U.S. Attorney for Maryland. Also on the team are people from the business world, such as Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, Frank O. Heintz, former president of Baltimore Gas and Electric, and Joseph Haskins, Jr., president and CEO of the Harbor Bank.
Also on the list are Glen Middleton, president of Maryland Council 67 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, and Quincy Gamble of 1199SEIU, the health care workers union.
Brown avoided questions about the further shaping of the O'Malley administration. He said his top three priorities for the next two months are seeking out higher-level appointees, thoroughly reviewing the state budget and assembling his administration's first legislative package for the General Assembly.
"We are going to be deliberate. We are going to be thorough. We're going to establish timelines with which to move forward," he said.
Both O'Malley and Brown declined to comment on the shaping of their executive agenda, particularly in light of a projected structural deficit in the state budget.
"It's going to be a very deliberate process," Brown said. "So for us to stand here today and start guessing at whether it's cuts or revenue increases would really make irrelevant the very thorough process that we're about to undertake."
O'Malley reiterated statements made last week that his transition to Annapolis would not gut Baltimore City government, answering news reports about a feared "brain drain" of talented city officials.
"It's been seven years, and this is the first time that they've ever acknowledged, one, that we have brains, or two, that we might have some of the best and the brightest," O'Malley said. "There's a certain number of people who will come, but one of the great things about these last seven years... is that we've had enough time really to create a very strong bench, and much stronger managers and supervisors throughout city government.". Ralph S. Tyler, executive director of the transition committee, said the team would be setting up an office on the 20th floor of the Schaefer Tower, hopefully by Monday.