2021 | Government

UPDATED: County official selected as Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator

Ortiz led Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection since 2019

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Adam Ortiz has been selected by the White House to serve in the Environmental Protection Agency. His last day leading the county's Department of Environmental Protection will be Oct. 29.

Courtesy Montgomery County Government

This story was updated at 8:25 p.m. Oct. 12, 2021, to include comments from Adam Ortiz and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Adam Ortiz, the director of Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection since January 2019, has been selected to work for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The White House announced Tuesday that President Joe Biden is appointing Ortiz as a Mid-Atlantic regional administrator for the EPA.

“Adam Ortiz has been a standout leader in my administration,” County Executive Marc Elrich wrote in a prepared statement. “He has been at the forefront of our aggressive efforts to combat climate change and has implemented key reforms within DEP to better serve our residents and protect our environment.”

Adriana Hochberg, the county’s climate change officer, wrote in a prepared statement that Ortiz is a “dynamic, innovative and collaborative leader.”

“I deeply appreciate his contributions to the County’s climate change initiatives, and I extend my best wishes to Adam as he transitions to his new role at EPA,” Hochberg wrote.

The White House announcement about Ortiz says he led a $140 million agency and a staff of 300.

In an interview, Ortiz said his appointment will not require confirmation from the U.S. Senate. He expects his first day with the EPA will be around Nov. 1.

As regional administrator, he will oversee EPA activities in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.

He was the director of Prince George’s County’s Department of Environment from 2012 to 2018, according to his county bio.

He also served in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration from 2007 to 2012. He focused on workforce, higher education and veterans affairs as deputy chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and he worked on workforce and immigration policy as a special assistant for Labor, Licensing and Regulation Secretary Tom Perez, his county bio says.

Ortiz was the mayor of Edmonston in Prince George’s County from 2005 to 2011.

According to a Montgomery County news release on the appointment, Ortiz helped start residential and commercial composting pilots, led efforts to ban plastic straws and improve building energy performance, and improved safety measures at the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station, among other initiatives.

Ortiz said these efforts were always the result of his entire team. He said he’s still focused on shepherding legislation through the County Council in his final weeks, including a building energy performance standards bill and several other initiatives. 

As an EPA regional administrator, he’ll help ensure states under his jurisdiction are enacting policies that lead to clean air, water and land and that they comply with federal laws.

Part of that, he said, includes the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

“The health of the Chesapeake Bay requires a regional approach. … Living in the Bay watershed, it’s important to have that perspective represented,” he said of his role.

In a statement praising Ortiz, Alison Prost, the vice president for environmental protection and restoration for the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said he “well understands the challenges local jurisdictions are facing and has demonstrated success in putting local pollution-reduction plans into action.”

His last day with the county will be Oct. 29. Hochberg will serve as acting director of the Department of Environmental Protection while Elrich searches for a replacement, which will require approval by the County Council.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com