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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter9:37 pmApr 15, 20240

D’Andrea Walker assumes job as Baltimore County’s top administrative officer

No suspense here – the County Council had earlier signaled its approval of Johnny Olszewski’s choice of CAO and its disinterest in a whistleblower’s allegations

Above: D’Andrea Walker (second to right) with Councilman Julian Jones, County Executive Johnny Olszewski and outgoing CAO Stacy Rodgers. (X)

Following a standing ovation by the seven members of the Baltimore County Council, D’Andrea Walker took her seat tonight in the chambers as the next chief administrative officer, the top non-elected position in county government.

She replaces Stacy Rodgers, who is leaving as CAO after five years, nominated by County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who is running for the 2nd District Congressional seat in next month’s Democratic Party primary.

If Olszewski wins the primary and prevails in the general election in November, Walker is in line to take over as acting county executive for the two years remaining in Olszewski’s term.

“I think you’re the right person for this job. We’re going to really call on your skill set,” said Council Chair Izzy Patoka, noting that the county’s $5-billion budget for fiscal 2025 is “extremely tight.”

“I do want to say I understand the importance of the budget,” replied Walker, who will become the chief budget officer as CAO, responsible for preparing and submitting the annual budget to the county executive.

“I do believe open communication and collaboration with you helps us make wise decisions because infrastructure continues to get expensive. And not having revenues come in to help us to maintain the infrastructure and other programs that we have in the county could be difficult.”

Accomplishments Cited

Walker’s tenure since late 2020 as director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation has been riven by controversy, an unusual situation for a normally staid organization.

Her lack of engineering credentials (voters were asked to change county law so she could serve as director), the rapid turnover of senior staff, allegations that she improperly overruled staff to support a Olszewski campaign donor, and the recent revelation that she helped launch a police investigation of the retired employee who made those allegations were never mentioned tonight by the councilmen or by Walker.

Instead, she reiterated her many years of experience in state and local government, temporarily choking up when she noted that former colleagues from the Motor Vehicle Administration and the governor’s office had come to the meeting to support her.

“It’s a little bit emotional because they didn’t have to,” she said.

The start-up of the Towson Circulator, resumption of bulk trash collection and equitable customer service were cited as accomplishments during her DPWT tenure.

“Having worked for four governors and three county executives, I’ve done everything from being the director to the Board of Public Works to also doing intergovernmental relations for the governor as well as being associate director for DPWT in Baltimore County as well as being a deputy administrator at MVA, where I had overseen all field operations, 25 branches, as well as being the deputy secretary of the Department of General Services, where I was responsible for day-to-day operations.”

She cited the start-up of the Towson Circulator, resumption of bulk trash collection and equitable customer service as accomplishments during her tenure as DPWT director.

Last week at the Council’s work session, Walker said she had come under attack because she did not fit the mold of a white professional engineer.

“I walked into a situation at DPWT where people didn’t want to work for me. Not because I wasn’t capable, but, frankly, because I don’t look like a lot of other people.”

“A Mock Exercise”

Whitney Dudley, who retired from the agency’s highway division last year because she said she could no longer abide by Walker’s management, was allowed to read a brief statement to the Council at the end of the meeting.

“As pointed out in David Plymer’s article in The Baltimore Brew, you have embarrassed yourselves and this process. Your arrogance did not even try to pretend. This is a mock exercise, as you made the decision to confirm Ms. Walker prior to public input. You went as far as not only to confirm her appointment as county administrative officer, but also as the successor of the county executive.”

She called the $263,000-a-year CAO “a person who has proven to use her power to obstruct justice through means of harassment” and will “use racism as an excuse against anyone who questions her ethics, leadership and conduct in violation of County Code.”

“As representatives of your constituents, this vote should have been a unanimous ‘no.’ But this is politics,” Dudley concluded.

Previous Brew Articles

With rubber-stamp Walker confirmation hearing, Baltimore County Council embarrasses itself (4/12/24)

Laying criticism aside, Baltimore County Council hails D’Andrea Walker as incoming county administrator (4/10/24)

A whistleblower’s story: Baltimore County retiree became the subject of a police investigation after he provided information to The Brew (4/3/24)

Trash haulers’ fundraiser for Olszewski paved the way for a potential major change in county waste hauling (6/9/22)

Baltimore County’s biggest department sees an exodus of senior staff (5/26/22)

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