From the Baltimore Sun

A balancing act for Brown
The lieutenant governor concentrates on daily duties, but his role remains unclear

By Jennifer Skalka
Sun reporter

March 29, 2007

A balancing act for the lieutenant governor

When Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown took his oath of office on a bitterly cold day in January, he urged Marylanders to "walk good" and "let good walk with you."

His own do-gooding, though, is still a work in progress - and that's not for lack of effort.

Since the swearing-in, Brown has been running, not walking - to prayer breakfasts, blood drives and the solemn funerals of Maryland soldiers killed in Iraq.

He has jumped into his key assignment - leadership of the subcabinet created to manage the influx of military jobs created by the Base Realignment and Closure process (BRAC) - by holding regular meetings with state and local officials. It's a mission that dovetails with Brown's experience as a lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Army.

For a man with ambition, however, it isn't easy being Maryland's lieutenant governor. The state constitution doesn't convey any specific power or responsibilities to him and says only that he "shall have only the duties delegated to him by the Governor."

Brown, 45, the state's second black lieutenant governor, is intense, Harvard-Educated and interested, no doubt, in his future beyond the Maryland State House. But if Brown, who served for eight years in the House of Delegates, most recently as majority whip, is bored by dutifully carrying out a largely ceremonial job, he doesn't let on.

"Anthony is a soldier, so he understands chain of command and teamwork," said Del. Dereck E. Davis, who represents Brown's former Prince George's County district. "The adjustment is going smoothly so far as I can tell."

Seated in a taupe wing chair in his second-floor State House office, Brown puts the best spin on his situation. He says his primary public responsibility is to promote Gov. Martin O'Malley's agenda, to make the governor look good. It's a goal he stated many different ways in the course of a recent hourlong interview.

"My role and responsibility is to support the governor in promoting his agenda," Brown said.

"We've been pushing the governor's agenda," he noted later in the talk.

And then, for emphasis: "My eye is on being the best lieutenant governor I can be."

Not every state has a lieutenant governor, a sign that gubernatorial succession often works smoothly without the position. In some places, secretaries of state fill the role. In others, the Senate president will do. And those states that elect officials into the position - there are 44 of them - set out different levels of responsibility.

In Louisiana, the lieutenant governor manages the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. The Indiana lieutenant governor, by contrast, has 42 statutory duties, the most in the nation, according to Julia Hurst, executive director of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

"You can't have a big ego that you're all that important," said J. Joseph Curran Jr., who served as Maryland's lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 and is O'Malley's father-in-law. "You do what's required."

Maryland's office of the lieutenant governor was created by the constitution of 1864 but was only occupied from 1865 to 1868 before being phased out by the constitution of 1867. It was re-established by constitutional amendment in 1970, two years after Gov. Spiro T. Agnew was tapped to run for vice president, which left a vacancy in the top job and no one to fill it.

Seven people - including one woman, Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend - have served as lieutenant governor since 1971.

Townsend said her relationship with Gov. Parris N. Glendening allowed her to dig into a range of issues, including anti-crime initiatives and volunteerism.

"It really does depend on how you get along with your governor," she said, when asked how lieutenant governors draw their meatiest fare.

But Townsend counted herself a fan of Brown and said O'Malley would be wise to include him.

"I think he's very smart, extremely committed and has enormous talent," she said of Brown. "And O'Malley's a smart politician and a very good governor, and I'm sure he'll use him very well."

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican and former minority leader, said, too, that Brown is at O'Malley's mercy, but added that the jury's still out about how involved the lieutenant governor will be in shaping the administration's policy agenda.

"I haven't seen much of him, and as of now I don't know that the governor has let him do a whole lot," Stoltzfus said. "My personal feeling toward Anthony is that he's bright and that he's a good man. I have positive feelings about him personally, but as far as the job he's doing, I guess I don't have an opinion on that. How do you evaluate him when there's no criteria for the job?"

Brown said BRAC takes up about a third of his time. With the help of nine Cabinet secretaries, he is leading the effort to prepare the state to incorporate 45,000 to 60,000 new jobs. Schools, roads and water and sewer infrastructure will be affected. Over the next six months, the group will craft a statewide plan to address these issues.

"Jobs are coming to Maryland; that's a good thing," Brown said.

The lieutenant governor's schedules indicate that he routinely covers other ground, from five Black History Month speeches in February to regular district parties held throughout the 90-day General Assembly session. A week in mid-March included a meeting with officials from Pepco Holdings Inc., a meet-and-greet with members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, a reception at the Australian Embassy and a series of seminars at the National Lieutenant Governors Association in Washington.

Brown, a married father of two, laughed when asked what else is on his plate. He said jokingly that he spends time signing official photos. His press aide, Samantha Kappalman, shot him a stern look. "Off the record!" Brown bellowed in response to her glare, and then burst into deep-throated laughter.

His job does entail graver responsibilities - most memorably, attendance at four funerals for soldiers killed in the Iraq conflict. Brown, who served as a senior consultant to the Iraq transitional government's Ministry of Displacement and Migration in the current war, represented the administration at the services, bringing the families a flag that has flown over the State House.

"That's like one every 2 1/2 weeks," said Brown, who was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service. "At this rate, we'll bury 21 Marylanders before the next [year]. That's serious."

Despite the lack of an official role, he keeps a frenetic pace. Brown, slender enough to require the assistance of suspenders (his trademark accessory), is always in a hurry. He can be seen zipping through the marble halls of the State House. The state troopers who guard him appear uncharacteristically weary, hunched shoulders and all.

In many ways, the lieutenant governor's most vital responsibility is to be the governor's chief cheerleader. And Brown, with his booming voice and stick-straight military posture, is well-suited to the task.

To stay in the loop, he participates in weekly senior staff meetings with the governor's team and stands by O'Malley's side during key staff announcements. In the long term, Brown hopes to be involved in shaping the administration's higher-education and economic development policies.

O'Malley said Brown was invaluable in leading the transition team that helped him select Cabinet members and other government officials.

"We have one lieutenant governor and one governor at a time, but I do think it's a partnership," O'Malley said.

Brown, a native of Huntington, N.Y., said he enjoyed his service in the House of Delegates and the camaraderie that developed among members. Moving upstairs, he said, has been more of an adjustment than he anticipated.

He said he is conscious, however, of not stepping unwanted into the General Assembly's universe. He recalled a time when Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele wandered downstairs during a session. They and their staffs lingered too long on the House floor, Brown said, and lawmakers noticed.

" 'You came, you did your thing, we want our chamber back,'" Brown remembers several of his colleagues saying at the time. He added: "Part of this year is feeling out what the appropriate level of interaction is as the lieutenant governor."

So for now Brown is working out the details of being second-in-command at the State House, figuring out what the governor needs from him and sublimating any desire for the limelight. He taps into the lessons he learned in the Army - specifically, a focus on the here and now. Brown said that he sees a few opportunities on the horizon, perhaps an opening for the U.S. Senate or O'Malley's job should the governor seek higher office, but that he will save the future-gazing for another day.

"I wasn't going to make a career out of the Army," he said. "But every single day on active duty, I treated it like I was going to become, one day, a two-star general. Every day. I worked as hard as I could to get the best performance evaluation. ... I knew what my purpose was - to be the best second lieutenant that I could possibly be. And if I treat it like I'm going to be here forever, and that I want to be a two-star general, then chances are I'm going to bust my ass and do a really good job."
Copyright © 2007, The Baltimore Sun