Mayor Catherine Pugh is set to kick off the new year by filling a number of key cabinet positions, including the appointment of Ellicott City management consultant Bruce H. Williams as her third chief of staff.
Pugh disclosed her choice of Williams, a former IBM executive and active Howard University alumnus, at a holiday party for City Hall staffers, sources told The Brew.
Pugh’s spokesman, James E. Bentley II, confirmed that the mayor plans to announce her choice of Williams soon.
From Cleats to Corporate Suites
Since 2012, Williams has been managing partner of BH Williams, LLC which provides “management expertise in operations and executive coaching” for small businesses, according to his online resume.
Williams previously worked at a number of information technology companies, including Maden Technologies, Allstar Consulting and Global Integrated Technologies Services.
As an IBM vice president from 2005 to 2008, the resume says, he was “appointed to transform and develop the Integrated Technology Services portfolio for the federal government into an end-to-end infrastructure services business.”
Possessing undergraduate and graduate degrees from Howard University, Williams also was a varsity member of the school’s football team and currently chairs the board of directors of Bison Express, the school’s athletics booster club.
After graduation, Williams was signed as a free agent by the Denver Broncos but “he traded in his cleats for corporate America,” as one source put it.
Williams’ appointment comes at the midpoint of a mayoral administration that has been dogged by high-level departures, among them Mary H. Talley, director of human resources and chief human capital officer.
Talley, who came under criticism in an audit of her department, resigned in July.
The process of filling the administration’s highest-profile vacancy – that of police commissioner – has drawn criticism, but is moving ahead next month with City Council hearings for Pugh’s chosen candidate, Fort Worth police chief Joel Fitzgerald.
If confirmed, Fitzgerald would replace Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle, the third person to serve as Baltimore’s police commissioner this year.
Tuggle’s predecessor, Darryl De Sousa, resigned in May after admitting to failing to file federal income taxes. He pleaded guilty earlier this month in federal court.
Pugh had chosen De Sousa after firing his predecessor, Kevin Davis, amid continuing high levels of homicide and other crimes.
Another criminal justice vacancy set to be filled is director of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice.
Its director, Andrew G. “Drew” Vetter, was hired last month as deputy administrative officer by newly-elected Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.
Pugh hired Vetter to the key criminal justice policy position in 2017, a year that finished with Baltimore experiencing the highest homicide rate among the largest cities in the nation.
Vetter remained in that position for 15 months. Among the candidates Pugh is considering to replace him, Bentley said, is one of the BPD’s sharpest critics, former Interim Commissioner Anthony Barksdale.
Yet another item on Pugh’s 2019 to-do list is finding a replacement for Health Commissioner Lena Wen, who left amidst the city’s opioid addiction crisis and other health challenges. In September Wen took over as the head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Also creating a vacancy was the retirement in October of longtime Planning Director Thomas J. Stosur.
The role Williams steps into is a critical one for Pugh – running the day-to-day operations of the mayor’s office as well as acting on her behalf across a wide range of issues.
The job was held previously by City Hall fixture Kimberly B. Morton. Morton left the post in September in the wake of an audit detailing questionable spending by the mayor’s office using city credit cards.
Known as a behind-the-scenes “enforcer” for Pugh and, before that, for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Morton moved to the Department of Public Works, where she is now deputy director, replacing S. Dale Thompson, who retired.
Tisha S. Edwards was Pugh’s initial pick for chief of staff.
A former City Schools official, Edwards left the $190,000-a-year post after five months.