Mayor Brandon Scott’s new chief of staff, Chezia T. Cager, will be paid $225,000 a year, about $40,000 more than her predecessor and nearly three times higher than her last known job at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The compensation makes the novice administrator, who has never before served as a chief of staff and has mostly worked in public relations, one of the best paid figures in Baltimore government.
Her salary, disclosed last night by the mayor’s office after many requests, is not far behind that of Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison ($276,000), outgoing City Administrator Christopher Shorter ($255,000) and lame-duck and indicted State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby ($237,000).
Mayor Scott’s current salary is $199,044.
Cager’s ascent to a key position at City Hall (she last served there as an aide answering constituent letters for Mayor Sheila Dixon) was forged by her connections – and those of her father, developer Lawrence “Chris” Cager Jr. – in the local Democratic Party.
“People saw her as someone who knows Baltimore and has been active as a committee member,” said a source, referring to Chezia Cager’s position as a past member of the 41st District Democratic Central Committee.
Operatives in the 45th Legislative District, which forms Mayor Scott’s political base, were asked to vet potential candidates for the COS position.
They passed her name, among others, to the mayor, said the source, who exchanged candor for anonymity.
Cager has another connection: She dates Caylin Young, the 45th District state delegate, who has worked for Scott since 2015 and is now his deputy director in the Office of Equity and Civil Rights.
When her position was announced last week, Cager was described by Scott’s press office as having “served in senior advisory roles” in “both the Obama and Biden administrations.”
With her LinkedIn account disabled, The Brew contacted Cager about her job history. She declined to speak, referring all questions to the mayor’s press office.
Regarding her employment in the federal government, The Brew found records of her working as an “intermittent” public affairs officer for the Small Business Administration and as an employee at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service in Woodlawn at a 2021 salary of $84,766.
Response by Mayor’s Office
Seeking a resume spelling out her previous jobs and dates of employment – as well as a position description – The Brew instead was provided with this statement by Scott’s spokeswoman Monica Lewis:
Cager served in advisory roles with the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services focusing on a variety of public affairs areas ranging from crisis management operations, securing congressional funding for disaster relief efforts and implementing the standards and policy operations for the Affordable Care Act. She is familiar with navigating large projects across agencies, operationalizing legislation, and providing strategic guidance towards operational goals.
Apparently referring to the two periods (2017-18 and 2021-22) when Cager was a member of the 41st District Democratic State Central Committee – appointed as a result of committee vacancies (see below) – Lewis said:
Cager served the 41st District in the Maryland House of Delegates focusing on constituent services and community relations. She was effective with navigating city and state resources and resolving citizens issues and concerns. During the Annual Legislative Session she provided input on bills and gave feedback to help move legislation in certain issue areas that impacted Baltimore.
And regarding her role in Mayor Dixon’s office between 2007 and 2010, Lewis said:
After graduating from Salisbury University in 2007, Cager joined the Sheila Dixon administration, first working in a constituent services role and transitioning to communications with a focus on coordinating multiple citywide engagement events and initiatives across the agencies.
According to the Maryland Democratic Party website, “Central Committee members are the grassroots-level elected volunteers of the Maryland Democratic Party. . . They are not managers or members of a board of directors, but worker bees. They help organize and fulfill tasks that may include, but not limited to, fundraising, party visibility at public fairs/festivals, etc., precinct organization, participate in canvassing operations, distribute political literature. . . and other organizing tasks necessary for Democrats to be successful in elections.”
The role of Central Committee members to fill legislative vacancies (such as the selection of Jill Carter in the 41st District after Senator Nathaniel Oaks pleaded guilty to corruption charges) has long drawn criticism as hotbeds for nepotism and cronyism.
Cager was appointed to the Central Committee in 2017 due to the vacancy of Sen. Lisa Gladden, who was ill, and served out the remainder of Gladden’s term. She was appointed again in January 2021 after two Central Committee members were removed for not attending meetings.
In the 2018 election, she received the third lowest popular vote (2.3%) of the 24 candidates running for positions on the Central Committee.
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