After facing rejections from several prospective candidates, Mayor Brandon Scott has turned to a public relations specialist as his new chief of staff.
Chezia T. Cager will replace Michael Huber as COS, charged with overseeing legislative affairs, communications and constituent services in the mayor’s office.
Ebony Thompson, who now serves as interim COS, will go back to being deputy city solicitor, and Leslie Carter will retain her position as deputy chief of staff.
The mayor’s office, which announced the appointment today, said it did not have a copy of Cager’s resume, and none was available on LinkedIn or elsewhere online.
Spokeswoman Monica Lewis did not answer questions from The Brew about her background and salary. Huber was making about $185,000 a year.
The 38-year-old Baltimore native comes to City Hall with plenty of political bona fides.
Between 2007 and 2010, she answered constituent mail for former Mayor Sheila Dixon and later interned at the Obama administration and as a special assistant in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
While a member of the 41st District Democratic Central Committee, she established Nidia Chez LLC in 2019, which describes itself as a “small boutique public relations and events consulting” firm.
Cager got a $6,611 Paycheck Protection Program loan during the pandemic as a “single-member LLC” working out of her father’s house in Gwynn Oak.
Through Nidia Chez, she gave $250 in campaign contributions to Scott during his 2020 campaign, supplemented by $237 since then.
She gave $500 to Dixon, $110 to former Comptroller Joan Pratt, $250 to former Delegate Bilal Ali, $350 to Senator Jill P. Carter, $100 to Councilwoman Sharon Middleton. $200 to Senator Cory V. McCray, and $500 to Wes Moore.
Her father, Lawrence “Chris” Cager Jr., is a local developer and former vice chair of the Baltimore Board of Elections, and she has ties to freshly-minted State Delegate Caylin Young (D-45th), deputy director in the Scott administration’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights.
And note to sports fans: Her half-brother, Lawrence Cager, was recently signed to the New York Giants practice squad.
Cager was described today as “smart as a whip, decisive but approachable” by a senior Scott official, who asked not to be identified.
Another City Hall observer wondered “what experience does she bring to the job,” after noting that a short list of other candidates had turned down the COS position.
Both agreed that her job will be anything but easy, given the recent turmoil in Scott’s office.
Approaching his third year as mayor, Scott has been hit by a series of high-level departures, losing not only Huber, but more recently, Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Shorter and Natasha Mehu, director of the Mayor’s Office of Government Relations.
“Chezia brings an impressive wealth of government experience [and] first-hand knowledge of Baltimore” – Mayor Brandon Scott.
Assuming her new post on November 28, Cager will be charged with handling Scott’s legislative agenda less than six weeks before the 2023 General Assembly opens in Annapolis.
The press release announcing her appointment today said she “served in senior advisory roles” in the Obama and Biden administrations, “leading to improvement efforts impacting domestic policy, national operations and external engagements.”
According to Scott, “Chezia brings an impressive wealth of government experience, first-hand knowledge of Baltimore, and a comprehensive understanding of how to develop and maintain beneficial partnerships with federal, state, and local governments for more than 15 years.”
Cager added this:
“As a Baltimore native, I’m proud that my public service career began right here at home. I’m excited to support Mayor Scott’s vision and continue to serve our citizens and City of Baltimore.”