Frederick County Strong

New State Administration Features Familiar Faces in Powerful Positions

By Katherine Heerbrandt | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 09.22.15 – Feature, People & Places

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wants Frederick County to know that he’s got “a strong personal connection” here. His brother, Patrick Hogan, is a former state delegate who lives here, as does his father, former U.S. Rep. Larry Hogan Sr., who represented the 5th Congressional District in the state from 1969 to 1975. His stepmother, Ilona Hogan, was a Frederick County Commissioner from 1994 to 2001.

Frederick County is also well-represented in the Hogan circle of trusted confidantes, with two former state legislators, David Brinkley and Kelly Schulz, leading the pack as Secretary of Budget and Management and Secretary of the

Department of Labor and Licensing, respectively. Patrick Hogan now works as a legislative liaison in the governor’s office, a position that has him advising and promoting his brother’s agenda on a number of issues.

Also on this list is former Mount Airy Councilwoman Wendi Peters, who had a strong showing in her unsuccessful campaign for state delegate in District 4 last year, and is now in the position of Deputy Secretary of Planning. Another former elected official, Vickie Wilkins of Frederick, is now Commissioner of Occupational and Professional Licensing. (Wilkins’ husband, Stuart Wilkins, was recently appointed deputy director at the Maryland Transit Administration.) Wilkins is a former delegate from Anne Arundel County who was unsuccessful in her bid to win a delegate seat in District 3A.

“I deeply respect each and every one of my appointees from Frederick County and know they will serve the people of the entire state well,” Larry Hogan says in an email. But it wasn’t family loyalty or love for Frederick County that guided the new Republican governor’s choices when it came time to appoint his cabinet and administration this year.

“He looked across the entire state to choose his appointees. The previous administration had narrowed its pool to the state’s urban areas.”  – David Brinkley

As part of his agenda and campaign platform, the former businessman and developer made it clear that Maryland’s urban centers are not alone in bearing the burden of success for the entire state. His cabinet includes people from both parties and from both urban and rural counties. “It’s fair to say that he is governor to the state as a whole, who has the interests of people as a whole in mind,” says Brinkley. “He looked across the entire state to choose his appointees. The previous administration had narrowed its pool to the state’s urban areas.”

According to Brinkley, Hogan chose candidates from all corners of the state, including Frederick County, who had demonstrated success. Schulz agrees.

“I can’t say he chose people because of geographic areas we live in, but it was important to him to have representation outside of heavily populated centers,” she says. A question posed by the Republican caucus during the campaign, she adds, was, “What are we going to do for rural areas?”

Brinkley served two terms as delegate in District 4 from 1995 to 2003, before serving two consecutive terms as senator and then losing his bid for reelection last year. As a member of the legislature, Brinkley, who also served as minority whip, distinguished himself in fiscal and government affairs, offering alternative budget proposals and solutions to the state’s financial difficulties. But now, instead of approaching the budget from a legislator’s perspective, Brinkley is helping to craft it. This summer, he’s working to close out the 2015 budget, while also balancing the 2016 budget and interviewing department heads to make recommendations to the governor this fall about the 2017 budget.

The state passed its fiscal 2016 operating budget of $40.4 billion, with no new taxes, and a 69 percent reduction of the structural deficit, with a capital budget program totaling $4.213 billion. Brinkley’s agency employs between 430 and 450 people and he also serves as the trustee to the state pension board, a job he calls “a tremendous challenge.”

The ultimate goal is to navigate the governor’s policies through the budget process. “This is where his policies get to be implemented, and those are focused on making the state economically friendly for families and employers,” Brinkley says.

“Our message now is one of partnership and collaboration, and not an us-versus-them mentality.” – Kelly Schulz

Schulz gave up her delegate seat shortly after her reelection in November 2014 to take a place in Hogan’s cabinet. The decision, she says, was a difficult one. “I loved that job, but the possibility of this job was very intriguing to me.” Her department’s budget is roughly $359 million, and she oversees about 1,800 employees.

“The agency I represent has such a super focus on economic growth and creating partnerships with and within industries,” she says. In the past, she struggled with a regulatory environment that seemed adversarial with the business community. “Our message now is one of partnership and collaboration, and not an us-versus-them mentality.”

In that spirit, Schulz says she reached out to Wilkins to join her team. Wilkins, who served as a legislative liaison with the Maryland Department of the Environment under former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, has spent many years in government. Her recent professional life is in the insurance industry.  That job and her current role are “paper intensive,” she says.

Focusing on 26 professions, from architects to locksmiths, and the boards and commissions that govern them, Wilkins says her office is always looking for ways to be creative with budgets. “We want to do more with less and streamline our processes, as well as provide a better customer service experience,” Wilkins says.

Improving customer service, and making Maryland’s taxes and regulations less burdensome for families and employers is as much a part of Hogan’s strategic plan as his goal to be more inclusive of the less populous regions of the state, according to his staff. Part of that involves being sensitive to the varying needs of each jurisdiction, and to unclench what critics saw as the iron fist of Annapolis when it came to taxes, planning and other edicts.

“While these appointees may pay more attention to their home county and be more available to those folks, they have to implement the governor’s policies, and not go off freelancing,” – Len Lazarick

Hogan repealed the controversial “rain tax” that imposed taxes on storm water runoff, leaving it up to individual jurisdictions to tax or not tax. Although environmentalists and others who advocate for a clean Chesapeake Bay were disappointed, Patrick Hogan defends the choice. “The state no longer forces counties to tax citizens,” he says. “There is still accountability on achieving [federal] mandates.

Deputy Director of Planning Wendi Peters says her agency’s mission includes respecting local authorities that invest time and resources to create the vision for their own communities. “It’s our belief that local residents are in the best position to work to achieve that local vision,” she says. “With that being the backdrop, both the Secretary [David Craig] and I have tried hard to meet with the leadership of municipalities and counties around the state.”

But What About Frederick?

“While these appointees may pay more attention to their home county and be more available to those folks, they have to implement the governor’s policies, and not go off freelancing,” says Len Lazarick, editor and publisher of Maryland Reporter.com.

Maryland Reporter.com covers state government, as well as issues across the state, including a weekly roundup of aggregated state news stories and an “Annapolitics” blog. “Brinkley and Schulz will certainly have the governor’s ear, and can bring things directly to him, but they must also work through staff people in the governor’s office. If they hadn’t been elected officials or run for office, I don’t think people would much care where they lived,” he says.

Although Hogan’s newly minted appointees are quick to say that they serve the state and its governor first and foremost, local legislators are pleased to see familiar faces in Annapolis and Baltimore. Republican Del. David Vogt is in his first term as delegate, representing District 4. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, he says he bent Brinkley’s ear a number of occasions about Frederick budget priorities, including a new conference center. “I felt I had more in-depth conversations with him because of our existing relationship in the community here,” Vogt says. “There is a lot of benefit to having good connections out of the county with those in the governor’s administration.”

That camaraderie also crosses party lines as Democratic Del. Carol Krimm, District 3A, notes. Despite not getting money for a Downtown hotel-conference center, Krimm says she appreciated that she could talk easily with Brinkley. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I saw David Brinkley a lot. He’s understanding. He’s been here and he knows what I am talking about,” she says.

Although she has not had any experience with Schulz yet, Krimm says the secretary is “very open and tells me to call. It’s nice to have that first-name basis if you need help with a constituent,” she says. “We may not agree on all things politically, but there are a lot of constituent issues that are not politically driven, but are about getting a job done.”

Despite her new position, Schulz says that her former constituents still call on her for help navigating either her agency or other state agencies, and she’s happy to assist. “No one’s shy about asking where to go and I can help steer them in the right direction,” she says.

Although no state contributions were forthcoming for a hotel-conference center, the Frederick County delegation was able to bring some dollars back, Vogt says, including money for the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, Carroll Creek Linear Park, Baker Park, and the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

As the first-ever Frederick County Executive (and also a Democrat) Jan Gardner says she has spent “considerable time building relationships with the new administration’s secretaries,” including Department of Economic and Business Development Secretary Mike Gill, Secretary of Housing and Community Development Ken Holt and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn. Rahn took a bus tour around Frederick County to learn more about transportation priorities. “It was a very productive meeting and he is very knowledgeable and experienced in transportation solutions,” Gardner says.

She also highlighted that she has good working relationships with Brinkley and Schulz. “It has been helpful to already know a few of them and certainly they will be good advocates for Frederick County and already know our needs well,” Gardner says. “Good working relationships are the foundation of getting things done for our community.”

Sen. Michael Hough, who beat Brinkley in his bid for reelection last November, called Hogan’s victory “a solid mandate” for job creation, low taxes and efficient government.” Putting the election behind him, he went on to say that he was “delighted” that Frederick County is represented in the governor’s circle. “Too often people who have served long terms in the legislature aren’t rewarded for their service. And as a conservative who is fully supportive of Gov. Hogan and the Republican platform, I look forward to advancing that agenda in the legislature with them,” Hough says in an email.