When Gov. Martin O'Malley sifts through the local talent pool in search of a new transportation secretary to replace John D. Porcari, who is going on to better things with the Obama administration, he could finds his choices constrained by matters of salary. Some of the most logical candidates would have to take a pay cut to get a promotion.
There's no problem if the governor goes with the most obvious choice: promoting Deputy Secretary (and newly named acting secretary) Beverly Swaim-Staley to succeed Porcari. She now makes $140,460 a year, compared with Porcari's $162,825.
In an interview, Swain-Staley left no doubt she is a candidate for the top post. If named, she would be the first woman transportation secretary in Maryland.
"I would be interested. Obviously, that decision is up to the governor," she said.
But if O'Malley was looking to move up one of the current administrators of the agencies within the Maryland Department of Transportation, he could find himself trying to persuade a highly paid professional to become a less highly paid political appointee.
For instance, Maryland Transit Administration chief Paul J. Wiedefeld, who also has experience running BWI, now makes $179,500 for performing one of the most difficult jobs in the state, according to the Office of the Comptroller. The current BWI chief and head of the Maryland Aviation Administration, Timothy Campbell, makes $256,428 in his current role. Maryland Port Administrator James J. White's salary is $252,000. Not much incentive to climb the ladder there.
Some of their peers, on the other hand, could earn more with a promotion to secretary. Neal J. Pedersen receives pay of $156,723 for running the State Highway Administration -- a huge agency with thousands of employees. Ronald Freeland, executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority, makes $140,405 for running the agency that manages Maryand toll facilities. John T. Kuo receives a paltry $137,470 for running the Motor Vehicle Administration.
This may seem a bit confusing but there is a logic to it. Competition is stiff for top executives with the specialized skills to run airports and seaports. The same applies to a lesser degree with transit administrators. Pedersen and Kuo are guys who worked their way up through the ranks in state government through administrations of both parties.
Whether the governor chooses one of these individuals or goes to the outside for a new secretary, he'll have a hard time finding someone who's as skilled at explaining the administration's policies to legislators, the media, the federal government, business and the public as Porcari. The departing secretary was fully comfortable in those roles and was a consummate diplomat. He could field the dumbest questions from a legislator and answer them as if the lawmaker had spoken words of genius. It's a trait that will serve him well in Washington.
Anyway, if you're interested in the job, it's listed on the state Department of Budget and Management website. The deadline to apply is Wednesday. The salary range is listed as $124,175 to $166,082.