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Government & Politics

Elrich Taps Madaleno to be Montgomery County Budget Chief

State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D) at a recent meeting of the District 18 Democratic Club. Photo by Josh Kurtz

Montgomery County Executive-elect Marc B. Elrich (D) has chosen a high-profile political leader to become his budget director.

Elrich confirmed late Thursday that he will nominate state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) to join his administration. The pick was first reported by Bethesda Beat.

Madaleno, whose Senate term ends next month, is the outgoing vice chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee and is a leading fiscal expert in Annapolis.

“I have a lot of respect for the work he’s done, and I feel really lucky that he was available,” Elrich told Maryland Matters. “…The challenge for me and for us is we want to continue to do things that matter and you want government to continue to be compassionate. And you’re facing economically stressful times.”

Assuming he is confirmed by the County Council, which seems like a foregone conclusion, Madaleno will join another budgetary expert, incoming Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine, at the top echelons of Elrich’s administration. Kleine spent almost a decade as Baltimore City’s budget czar.

Elrich said Madaleno would be valuable for his numbers-crunching ability and policy chops, and for his contacts in the State House, where the incoming county executive is largely an unknown quantity.

“If I go to Annapolis and I need to bring somebody with me to talk about the financial impacts of what the state may be thinking about doing, about [the] Kirwan [Commission on school funding] or anything else, I couldn’t think of going there with a better person, because he’s respected, and he’s no-nonsense,” Elrich said. “So it sends a great message to people.”

Madaleno was a vocal critic of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) – meaning Elrich may have to use him strategically during his visits to the State House.

Madaleno has been job-hunting since losing a Democratic primary bid for governor in June. He spent a dozen years in the state Senate and four years in the House of Delegates, but his experience in Annapolis stretches back even further.

He spent seven years working in the Montgomery County government relations shop under then-county executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), where he focused on budgetary numbers, and he worked for six years as a budget analyst for the House Appropriations Committee.

“I have a reputation for being able to explain the budget in layman’s terms, because I’ve had to do it, in town hall meetings or as a staff person having to brief elected officials,” Madaleno said in an interview.

Madaleno was the first gay person to campaign openly for and win a seat in the state legislature and was the first openly gay state senator. His husband, Mark Madaleno Hodge, is assistant chief operating officer in the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. The couple has two teenage children.

Madaleno, 53, sacrificed a promising career in the Senate to run for governor in this year’s eight-way Democratic primary. He was seen as being in line to become chairman of the budget committee whenever there was next a vacancy, but the current chairman, Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Howard), did not announce his intention to retire until after Madaleno had been campaigning for governor for almost a year, and Madaleno decided to remain in the statewide race.

Madaleno said he is pleased to be joining Elrich’s administration, which takes office on Monday.

“Marc and I have been political allies for a very long time,” he said. “And I respect and support his seven principles for moving Montgomery County forward. It’s an exciting time to work for the county.”

Madaleno said that Montgomery County has the resources to govern in innovative ways. He was enthusiastic about the possibility of the county moving to a biennial budget, “so there is more political space to talk about outcomes, and moving away from the green eyeshade approach to governing.”

The new County Council is expected to take up Elrich’s interim appointments at its first meeting Tuesday, and is likely to consider nominees for permanent positions, like Madaleno’s, at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Elrich said Madaleno will help the county government fashion a leaner and smarter budget.

“This is not about crippling or reducing services, but figuring out how we run this government better and run it with not demanding as many resources, so we can free up money to do other things,” he said. “And I think Rich gets that.”

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Elrich Taps Madaleno to be Montgomery County Budget Chief