Filling a vacancy at the helm of one of the city’s highest profile and most widely criticized agencies, Mayor Brandon Scott has named Jason Mitchell, a veteran bureaucrat from Oakland, California, to lead the Baltimore Department of Public Works.
Responsible for picking up the city’s solid waste and managing its water and sewer systems, among other tasks, DPW has been the source of some of the municipal government’s notable failures.
It’s had a steady presence in the headlines thanks to overflowing sewage, soaring water rates, late and inaccurate water bills, a polluting trash incinerator and recycling pick-up that was suspended for months after a Covid outbreak.
It is also the source of enormous power for its director, who sits on the Board of Estimates, the five-member entity that approves millions of dollars of public spending every week.
The public works director controls the second biggest agency budget after the police department and a huge capital budget to maintain water and sewer infrastructure.
For a new mayor, this hire was being closely watched.
“From reforming the city’s broken water billing system to moving Baltimore towards zero waste, Jason’s strong leadership will be a crucial part of our administration,” Scott said in a release today announcing the appointment.
Since May 2020, Mitchell has served as an assistant city administrator for Oakland. In that role, he supervised multiple departments, including public works, transportation, planning, building, library, parks and recreation, and human services.
He became its director of public works in July 2017 after holding a previous position in the agency as an assistant director. Before that, he was a manager in the parks and recreation department and served as the chief financial officer for the city and county of San Francisco’s Head Start program.
Born and raised in Oakland, Mitchell is a graduate of California State University, East Bay. He earned a master’s degree in business administration and a doctoral degree in organizational leadership from the University of San Francisco.
Mitchell, who is set to begin work in May, will be making significantly more than his predecessor, Rudy Chow.
The City Council recently approved an ordinance increasing the salary for the position from $188,000 to $245,000.