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by Mark Reutter5:44 pmMar 12, 20240

Despite earlier staff exodus, D’Andrea Walker is named by Olszewski as Baltimore County’s next chief administrator

Once confirmed by the Council, the controversial director of public works and transportation will assume the No. 2 spot in county government

Above: D’Andrea Walker speaks at the opening of the Towson Loop bus service in October 2021, flanked by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and (next to the balloons) Councilman Julian Jones and Administrator Stacy Rodgers. (Brew file photo)

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski has promoted a controversial figure as manager of the county’s day-to-day operations.

D’Andrea L. Walker, director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation, was named county administrative officer today by Olszewski, replacing Stacy Rodgers, who plans to retire next month.

As CAO, Walker will hold the top leadership position below the county executive, overseeing a $4.9 billion annual budget, more than 6,500 full-time employees and dozens of county departments.

Her current yearly salary of $216,548 will advance to $263,000 when she starts as CAO, press secretary Erica Palmisano said.

Hailed in a press release as “a forward-thinking leader whose innovative efforts have consistently improved county operations,” Walker’s tenure at DPWT has been dogged by staff turnover and a bundle of ethics complaints to County Inspector General Kelly Madigan.

Hired as the county’s first transportation officer in February 2020, Walker was elevated by Olszewski to acting director of public works nine months later after director Steve Walsh resigned and his successor, Tom Keifer, retired.

Over the next 18 months, the agency underwent a mass exodus.

Fully two-third of the senior staff retired or resigned, including five bureau chiefs, four division chiefs and five section chiefs.

Former staffers who spoke to The Brew said they left because Walker, who had worked at the Maryland Transit Administration and the office of former Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening, had no background in public works and covered up her lack of knowledge with an erratic management style.

As the onetime girlfriend of U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume, she was criticized by some for making decisions based on politics and picking hires based more on loyalty than competence.

Support from Above

Olszewski fully backed Walker during the staff uprising, even though she was not a licensed professional engineer, as required by the county charter.

To get around the charter language, Walker was kept on as “acting director” of DPWT until voters approved a charter amendment in 2022 that changed the job description to include 10 years of experience as a transportation and infrastructure manager.

During the same time period, Walker advanced Olszewski’s political ambitions.

The day after a fundraiser was held for Olszewski in June 2021, for example, Walker reversed a decision by the solid waste division chief to reject a waste transfer station proposed by Jack Haden, the chief sponsor of the fundraiser.

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

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

In an email reviewed by The Brew, Walker said she was asked by “the CE” (county executive) to reexamine Haden’s request for the waste station, even though it could cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lost “tipping fees.”

Walker’s efforts were aided by Rodgers and Lauren Buckler, Walker’s deputy, according to DPWT correspondence.

The Eagle Transfer Station proposal was tabled by the County Council a month after The Brew story was published and the plan underwent scrutiny from County Inspector General Madigan.

In November 2022, Madigan wrote a report that faulted Walker for overruling a subordinate and ordering private alleyway repaved in downtown Towson, at a cost of $70,000, at the behest of then-Council Chairman Julian Jones.

The report drew an angry response from Stacy Rodgers. “The Administration unequivocally does not concur with many of the conclusions in your report,” she wrote.

Flyer for the 2021 fundraiser held by Jack Haden while he was seeking the first private transfer station permit issued by the county.

Flyer for the 2021 fundraiser held by Jack Haden while he was seeking a private transfer station permit by the county.

In a statement today, Walker said she is “excited to build on the incredible legacy of Stacy L. Rodgers, who I am proud to call a friend and mentor.” Her appointment needs to be confirmed by the County Council, which is expected to act next month.

Buckler was named acting director of DPWT, succeeding Walker.

Future Scenarios

The biggest development affecting Walker – and county residents – involves Olszewski.

Last week, he officially launched a campaign to become U.S. congressman for Maryland’s 2nd District, succeeding retiring C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. “I’m running because I think it’s time that we showed D.C. how to get things done,” he said.

Under the county charter, the CAO becomes acting county executive in the event of a “temporary vacancy.”

The biggest development impacting Walker will involve Olszewski’s political future.

In 2018, following the sudden death of Kevin Kamenetz, CAO Fred Homan served as acting county executive until Donald Mohler was appointed the permanent replacement by the County Council.

A similar scenario could occur if Olszewski wins the congressional race.

The Council could theoretically appoint a replacement as soon as November to continue until Olszewski’s term ends in December 2026.

In the meantime, the CAO has a four-year term in office.

Or as Walker announced today, “I look forward to continuing to serve the residents of Baltimore County in this new role for years to come.”

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