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Moore picks to lead public service and military departments head for confirmation

The Maryland Senate office building in Annapolis. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted unanimously Thursday to recommend confirmation of two final appointments made this session by Gov. Wes Moore (D). 

The vote comes after a fast-paced two days in which Moore announced picks to lead his newly minted Department of Service and Civic Innovation and the Military Department. The full Senate is expected to take up the nominations of Paul Monteiro and Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead on Friday. 

Moore announced Birckhead’s nomination during an afternoon press conference a day before the hearing. 

Birckhead, a Worcester County native, led the Maryland National Guard’s efforts during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“As I consider readiness, we are living in typical times — adversarial aggression, global pandemic, civil unrest, mother nature and human nature,” Birckhead told the committee. “Readiness comes with training, modern equipment and world class facilities. We will see and need the National Guard again. We will be ready.” 

During the pandemic the National Guard assisted in testing and teams that were sent to nursing homes to increase vaccination rates. The state military, under Birckhead, also spearheaded efforts to ensure equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines in communities of color that were subject to disproportionate rates of infection and deaths related to the virus. 

“I had the opportunity to work with the general during the COVID crisis and particularly when we needed to get the vaccine interventions out to communities that they were not getting out to and she took hold of them and took responsibility and did a great job,” said Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel).

If confirmed, she would be the only Black woman currently leading a state military in the country, Moore said. 

Moore introduced Monteiro to reporters during a news conference on Tuesday. The Prince George’s County native would become the first secretary of the department that will focus on service year programs for high school graduates. 

Monteiro, 42, currently serves as director of the Community Relations Service at the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency focuses on conflict resolution. 

Creation of the program was a top priority for Moore in the first year of his term. 

The program, as envisioned by Moore, would take on an initial 200 participants in its first year. By 2027, the program could include up to 2,000 high school graduates, all of whom would be paid a stipend during their service.  

Paul Monteiro is nominated to be the first secretary of the Department of Service and Civic Innovation. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Monteiro told the committee he hoped to make the program a nationwide model. 

“My hope is to leverage my lived experience as a first-generation college student and my professional experience in senior management roles to build a robust new Department of Service and Civic Innovation that lives up to yours and the governor’s high expectations,” Monteiro said. “Service is a powerful force. I think it’s shaped everyone in this room and your life and your path.” 

The Thursday meeting is likely the last for the Senate Executive Nominations Committee. 

If so, it effectively ends the nomination of Maria Martinez to the Maryland Stadium Authority. 

The nomination of Martinez, a politically connected Latina businesswoman, has been mired in concerns about a troubled financial past that includes millions of dollars in judgments, garnished wages, repossessed automobiles and foreclosed properties. 

The Executive Nominations Committee postponed a vote on Martinez for nearly a month. Since then, Moore has so far unsuccessfully ramped up pressure to get his nominee confirmed. Advocates, including members of the House of Delegates, also demanded the Senate confirm Martinez. 

If she is not confirmed, a law passed in 2018 would prohibit Moore from making her a recess appointment to the Maryland Stadium Authority. While the legislature is not in session, the governor could appoint her to another position that does not require immediate Senate approval.


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Moore picks to lead public service and military departments head for confirmation