A Public Ultimatum, Then Quick Action from Senate on State Police Superintendent

The roll call for the state superintendent of police Friday evening. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

In a whirlwind series of events on Friday, Maryland’s newest superintendent of state police was confirmed by the Maryland Senate at what is likely a record-setting pace.

In an extraordinary move, the Senate recessed around 6 p.m. to allow members of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee to meet in the chamber to hold a hearing on Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s nominee for superintendent of state police, Woodrow W. “Jerry” Jones III.

The Senate committee had planned to hold a hearing on Monday for Jones, who was nominated in mid-February.

But that changed with a tweet and a press release from Hogan around 5 p.m., when he called for the General Assembly to curtail its workload to focus on a narrow band of priorities ― including passing a budget and confirming the superintendent by Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, the governor put out a news release. Certainly would have preferred a call,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said from the rostrum. “In this time of heightened anxiety, it’s really easy for miscommunication to happen. And I think this is one of those moments where tempers can be high. Now more than ever, we have to find ways to work together.”

For that reason, Ferguson said, the chamber would undergo a swift change, from sitting as the Senate to sitting in the Senate as spectators while the Executive Nominations Committee met on the floor, their staff now at the rostrum.

Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick), chairman of Executive Nominations, convened the meeting and read a short biography of Jones.

Ferguson then spoke to “strongly endorse” Jones’ nomination and move for his approval.

“Given this moment of uncertainty in Maryland, it’s important that we have acting officials who have the experience they need to keep this state safe,” Ferguson said. “The Senate has a responsibility to move forward at this time.”

Sen. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Middle Shore), whose sons went to pre-kindergarten with Jones, called the nominee “an outstanding role model for all of us” and praised his decision-making, organizational skills and professionalism.

Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Harford) said the state needed a leader in uncertain times and someone who could “bring about a feeling of calmness.”

“And I think he without a doubt would be the guy to do it,” Jennings said.

With that, the committee voted unanimously in favor of Jones’ nomination, and the full Senate was being gaveled back into session.

Moments later, the committee’s “Report No. 8,” clearly preprinted pending the outcome, was being distributed to the Senators’ desks.

In a matter of moments, the vote was called. As the electronic voting board lit up green on the sides of the chamber, Ferguson took a moment to explain his vote.

“Now, more than ever, Maryland must be united, must be united and work together,” he said.

Jones was confirmed by a 45-0 vote at 6:18 p.m.

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Danielle E. Gaines
Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.