Ahead of his swearing-in on Wednesday, Gov.-elect Wes Moore’s Cabinet is nearly complete. Moore announced his picks for nine additional cabinet positions on Tuesday, filling out key roles including the heads of the departments of Housing, Environment, Planning and Commerce.
The latest appointments include two Maryland mayors — Jake Day of Salisbury and Emily Keller of Hagerstown — meaning a change of leadership elsewhere in the state.
In a statement, Moore said he continues “to build a Cabinet that reflects the state we are humbled to serve.”
Environmentalists cheered the appointment of Serena McIlwain as secretary of Environment, and Josh Kurtz as secretary of Natural Resources.
McIlwain will come to Maryland by way of California, where she was undersecretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. In that role, which she was appointed to by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in March 2019, McIlwain oversaw the day-to-day operations of the agency and oversaw the Office of the Secretary’s $22 million budget.
Before joining the California agency, McIlwain was director of the Office of Continuous Improvement at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and, earlier, assistant regional administrator at the U.S. EPA’s Region 9 in San Francisco.
“She’s a class act and a national leader in bringing people together for better environmental results,” said Ben Grumbles, a former Environment secretary under Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and executive director of the Environmental Council of the States.
Kurtz was most recently Maryland executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, where he led advocacy campaigns aimed at helping the state reach its 2025 Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint pollution reduction goals, including efforts to plant more trees, conserve forested land, help farmers make environmental improvements, and ensure the state maintains sustainable fisheries.
Earlier in his career, Kurtz was policy and government relations director for The Nature Conservancy in Maryland and D.C.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Hilary Harp Falk said Kurtz will bring “a broad and deep understanding of the issues facing Maryland’s natural resources.”
“An environmental policy expert by training and experience, Josh approaches natural resources issues with respect for science, compassion for the people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy environment, and a deep commitment to improving the lives of Marylanders,” Harp Falk continued.
Ed Hatcher, an environmentalist and co-chair of the climate and environment policy committee for Moore’s transition team, said Tuesday’s appointments “take Maryland one step closer to being a national leader on climate change. Governor Moore has delivered big time for the environment.”
The other appointees named Tuesday were: Day as the secretary of Housing and Community Development, Keller as special secretary of opioid response, Kevin Atticks as the secretary of Agriculture, Carol Beatty as secretary of Disabilities, Rebecca Flora as secretary of Planning, Carmel Roques as secretary of Aging, and Kevin Anderson as secretary of Commerce.
Born and raised in Salisbury, Day was first elected to the city’s council at the age of 30 in 2013, before running for mayor in 2019.
An architect and planner by training, Day spent his career revitalizing downtowns, most recently as director of the Center for Towns at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.
Day announced his resignation Tuesday, effective Jan. 27. The city council appointed Jack Heath, the council president, to serve out the remainder of Day’s term, which ends in November.
Keller, an insurance agent and an advocate against substance abuse, also announced her resignation Tuesday, effective Jan. 31. During a tearful end to a Hagerstown City Council work session on Tuesday evening, Keller said the mayor’s office and council will work together to find a replacement, a process which is not clearly laid out in the city’s charter.
Keller, the first woman elected mayor of Hagerstown, also served one term on the city council. She has worked for years to help people with substance use disorder, including as co-chair of Washington Goes Purple, a community education program about the dangers of drugs, and as a member of the board of directors for the Phoenix Foundation, home to the only “Recovery High School” in the state of Maryland.
Rep. David Trone (D), in a statement, called Keller “a passionate leader in the fight against substance abuse disorder” and “an invaluable partner to me and an incredible resource to others across our state.”
Atticks, the executive director of the Brewers Association of Maryland and the Maryland Distillers Guild, is also founder of Grow & Fortify, an organization to support “value-added agriculture” such as wineries, breweries and cheesemakers.
He also serves on the University of Maryland College of Agriculture’s Global Leadership Council, the board of Future Harvest, and the board of the Maryland Tourism Coalition. He is past president of the Maryland Agricultural Resource Council.
Beatty, who was appointed to secretary of Disabilities by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2015, will remain in the role.
She has more than three decades experience as an executive in disability advocacy.
Flora founded ReMAKE Group, a certified woman-owned business with a focus on development and project management services, and previously served as senior vice president of education and research for the U.S. Green Building Council, where she was the first woman to serve as board chair.
Roques, a health care executive, was president and chief executive officer of the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Baltimore, a nonprofit community healthcare provider. She has also been a board member at the Maryland Commission on Aging, the Maryland Medicare/Medicaid Advisory Committee, and the Maryland Coalition on Mental Health and Aging.
Anderson is founder and CEO of Cardinal Atlantic Holdings, an economic and community development firm. For four years starting in 2000, Anderson was D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams’ special assistant to the city administrator and chief of staff at the D.C. Department of Transportation.
Cabinet appointments are subject to confirmation by the Maryland Senate. Positions that remain to be filled include transportation secretary — who could guide major shifts in policy related to the Red Line in Baltimore and the Capital Beltway — and higher education secretary.
(Editor’s Note: Kurtz is no relation to Maryland Matters Editor Josh Kurtz.)