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New Liquor Board administrator is outsider

April 16, 2014
Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth's Linked-in photo

Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth’s Linked-in photo

Outgoing Baltimore Liquor Board Chairman Steve Fogleman sounds giddy as he announces that Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth, the Capitol Heights Town Administrator, will be taking the executive secretary post at the liquor board.

“She doesn’t know anybody,” Fogleman says. “She doesn’t know the mayor.”

He recounts Bailey-Hedgepeth’s credentials, which include a master’s degree in public administration from Florida State University and a certificate in public management from the International City/County Management Association, again marveling that she is not politically connected in Baltimore or the state, as were pretty much all her predecessors.

Which is weird, because Bailey-Hedgepeth is effectively the hired-on mayor of a DC suburb. Not sure how a person would not get some political connections doing that job.

“That’s the good thing about me,” Bailey-Hedgepeth says over the phone from her office in Capitol Heights, where, at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, she says she’s waiting by the fax machine for the offer of employment.

“I’ve seen Mayor Rawlings-Blake,” Bailey-Hedgepeth says. “I’ve been to events with her. But I have not met her in person.”

So Bailey-Hedgepeth is pretty much an outsider, with an administrative technocrat’s professional history. She cut her working teeth in North Las Vegas, spending seven years as an assistant to the city manager, after moving for that job from a similar slot in Illinois (no politics in that state, we are informed). She’s married to an IT guy who also spent many years doing call centers and LANs for Vegas casinos and the like. (He got laid off from a job in North Las Vegas city hall and the couple moved to Maryland in 2011, where Bailey-Hedgepeth took the Capitol Heights job).

After moving to Maryland, Bailey-Hedgepeth lived in Fort Meade, says the Gazette.

The couple, who have a daughter, bought a house in Baltimore in February. Bailey-Hedgepeth says she has friends here she visited often.

“She is totally independent,” Fogleman, who is stepping down to become an Orphans Court judge, says.

“Historically, selections for administrative positions were the result of political patronage,” Commissioner Elizabeth Smith said in the press release, which was embargoed until 8 p.m. on April 16 so Hedgepeth could inform the Capitol Heights town council of her resignation. “As such, it was important for this commission to demonstrate our commitment to reform by selecting a candidate based solely on qualified professional experience.”

The new executive secretary follows the long tenure of Sam Daniels, who held the position from 2006 through last June after decades at the agency. Daniels replaced former State Senator Nathan Irby in the top post after a power struggle over the board’s refusal to kill unused licenses after the statutorily required 180 days–a policy that remains controversial now. The board was buffeted  last year by a state audit that found many inspectors doing little work, poor documentation of work that was done, and the ongoing problem of unused licenses that the board won’t kill.

Bailey-Hedgepeth says she is not sure of her starting date yet, but Smith, in an email, says “we can expect her no later than June 1st.”

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