O'Malley Nominates Health and Environment Heads

By JONATHAN N. CRAWFORD, Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS - Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley nominated secretaries for the health and environment departments on Thursday. But with 15 cabinet secretary posts still vacant and his inauguration less than a week away, the pace of O'Malley's appointments has drawn grumbling from at least one key legislative leader.

O'Malley chose John M. Colmers to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene where he will advise the governor on health care policy. Shari T. Wilson was nominated as secretary of the state's Department of the Environment.

Colmers spent 19 years working for the state government, holding various positions in health commissions, according to a press release. Wilson also has experience working for the state. She was director of policy management at the state's Department of the Environment and headed another organization that was focused on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

If approved, Colmers and Wilson would join T. Eloise Foster, budget and management secretary, and John D. Porcari, transportation secretary, in the O'Malley cabinet.

"We're trying to recruit the best people we can possibly find. Every time you hear us announce a new secretary of you fill in the blank there's an amount of relief and anxiety that eases off the back of my shoulders," O'Malley said after the event.

However, as the General Assembly opened on Wednesday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. voiced his frustration about what Miller felt was O'Malley's slow pace in naming cabinet secretaries.

"You know we only have a 90-day legislative session," Miller said.

Miller said he recommended that O'Malley keep several secretaries from the administration of outgoing Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, including the Secretary of Veterans affairs George W. Owings III and the head of the state police Col. Thomas E. Hutchins. Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties, who is a member of the Executive Nominations Committee, also expressed his desire to see Owings and Hutchins keep their posts. As of Wednesday these secretaries had not been contacted by the O'Malley transition team, according to Miller.

"It's hard," Miller said of the appointment process. "Bill Clinton was the same way. You vet things and vet things and vet things. Finally, Al Gore would say, 'Let's get it done.' . . . .I don't know the mayor's makeup. Maybe he just wants to continue to look for the best and brightest."

On the other hand, some political leaders found no fault with O'Malley's pace.

"He's taking some time because there's some agencies that really have had some major problems," said Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., D-Anne Arundel, vice chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee. He named the departments of corrections and juvenile services.

While DeGrange said that most of the governor's cabinet positions are usually named by this time, he is not concerned. The Executive Nominations Committee probably won't start vetting nominees until after O'Malley is sworn in on Wednesday, DeGrange said.

At Albert Einstein High School, O'Malley talked about his eagerness to fill the posts. "You know with every secretary that's announced, I feel more and more optimistic, and more energized and less overwhelmed," he said.

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