Rushern Baker promised he would come in and make changes within the county’s government and he instituted those changes in a major way, announcing several changes at top levels of many Prince George’s County agencies.
Instead of waiting and letting agency heads stay on in their capacities until new candidates can be vetted, Baker announced a slew of interim heads to join him as he attempts to move the county forward as he promised on the campaign trail.

“While the Transition Committee continues an extensive search for the best possible applicants, reviews the current state of county agencies, and seeks best practices to deliver a more effective and efficient county government, these experienced and talented individuals will be able provide the expertise and leadership needed during this interim period of transition,” Baker said in a statement.

The new heads are Mark Bashoor, interim chief of the Fire/EMS Department; Betty Hager Francis, interim director of the Department of Housing and Community Development; Gail Francis, interim director of the Office of Finance; Thomas Himler, interim director of the Office of Management and Budget; Samuel Wynkoop, interim director of the Department of Environmental Resources and Stephanye Redd Maxwell as director of the Office of Human Resources Management.

Perhaps Baker’s most controversial decision was the removal of Prince George’s Police Chief Roberto Hylton. Hylton oversaw a record drop in the crime rate but found himself dealing with scandal in recent months as 46 officers were suspended or on light duty for police brutality, academy cheating and for arrests in connection with former County Executive Jack Johnson’s corruption case.

Baker decided to go with a clean slate and replaced Hylton with Mark Magaw, the former Deputy Chief in charge of the Bureau of Strategic Management. Magaw, a 32-year veteran of the force, says he looks forward to continuing the positive changes that Hylton created within the department.

“I am honored and humbled to be appointed Interim Chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department by County Executive Baker,” Magaw said in a statement. “This is an outstanding police department with dedicated employees who serve our residents every day. I will do everything I can to continue to move our agency forward.”

In the vein of cleaning up the county, Baker also announced the Accountability, Compliance and Integrity (ACI) task force will be led by former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and longtime Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge William Missouri.

The ACI task force will help institute the Office of Inspector General, make sure government practices are in compliance with county and state laws, review the county’s ethics board and research best practices from other jurisdictions around the country.

“It is imperative that Prince George’s County immediately reviews its internal procedures, and that we do so with the right model from the start,” Baker said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have Mayor Schmoke and Judge Missouri leading this task force. Both of these individuals have a wealth of knowledge to offer, as well as impeccable reputations for integrity and character in government.”
 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO