In the first significant personnel announcement in advance of his second term, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said Monday that he would nominate Kelly M. Schulz, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, to become secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce.
Schulz would replace Secretary R. Michael Gill, who has led Commerce – formerly known as the Department of Business and Economic Development – since Hogan took office in 2015. Gill plans to return to the private sector.
“Secretary Schulz is a strong advocate for Maryland’s job creators, and has a proven track record of working directly with our business community to create jobs, enhance economic growth, and expand opportunity for both businesses and workers,” Hogan said in a statement. “I know that Kelly will be instrumental in ensuring that we build on our incredible progress.”
In her role at DLLR, Schulz, a former Republican state legislator from Frederick County, has been a staunch ally of the business community. Leading an agency with almost 2,000 employees and an operating budget of more than $375 million, Schulz has been a major part of Hogan’s push to eliminate what he calls “more than 800 job-killing regulations.”
“Business leaders’ number one concern is ensuring they have access to a talented workforce, and I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve been able to do thanks to Governor Hogan’s leadership to prepare Maryland workers for 21st century jobs,” Schulz said in a statement. “Having a leader at Commerce who understands workforce needs will help us grow our private sector and continue to foster an environment where businesses thrive and create even more jobs.”
Prior to becoming secretary of DLLR, Schulz was a member of the House of Delegates from 2011-2015, serving on the Economic Matters Committee. She won her Frederick County seat in 2010 by ousting an incumbent delegate, Paul Stull, by six votes in the Republican primary. Schulz won a second term in 2014, but was confirmed to lead DLLR one month after being sworn in.
Schulz earned an associate’s degree from Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y., and later obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Hood College in Frederick. She sold real estate, worked as a program manager for a defense contractor, and was a part-owner of a cyber security firm.
Schulz, 49, remains a political rising star in the GOP. Some Republicans urged her to run for Congress in 2018, and there are likely to be further entreaties in the future.
With a diminished GOP bench following the November election – and a desire by some Republicans to see more women active in the party – Schulz could become part of any discussion about candidates for statewide office in 2022 or beyond. She will be serving in a more visible role at the Department of Commerce, assuming she is confirmed.
Gill was an enthusiastic booster of Maryland business, but there was some grumbling among Hogan staffers and allies that he wasn’t enough of a team player. Still, the governor paid tribute to Gill Monday, calling him “instrumental in our work to change Maryland for the better.”
“I want to thank Mike Gill for his distinguished service,” Hogan said. “Under his leadership, Commerce has played a pivotal role in transforming Maryland’s economy, and we owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Gill, in a statement, said “the last four years have been the most exciting and rewarding four years that anyone could have.”
When he leaves state government at the end of the year, Gill will resume his old position as chairman of Evergreen Advisors, an investment bank with offices in Columbia and in McLean, Va.
With Schulz set to depart DLLR, Hogan announced that James E. Rzepkowski will become acting secretary. He currently works at the agency as assistant secretary for the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning.
Rzepkowski previously served as Director of Workforce Development at Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC and as an assistant secretary within DBED. He also spent nine years representing Anne Arundel County in the House of Delegates.