2021 | Government

Stoddard appointed an assistant chief administrative officer for county

Sturgis stepped down from post on Friday

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One of the leading officials in the county’s coronavirus pandemic efforts has been appointed one of County Executive Marc Elrich’s assistant chief administrative officers.

Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Earl Stoddard began work as assistant CAO on Monday. He replaces Caroline Sturgis, whose last day was Friday. 

The county has two other assistant CAOs — Jerome Fletcher and Adriana Hochberg. Stoddard still needs the confirmation of the County Council, but will work as acting assistant CAO until then.

Fletcher’s area of focus is mostly on economic development and small businesses, including advocating and helping create policy to help women,  minority and veteran-led businesses.

Hochberg focuses on energy and environmental protection issues, and was heavily involved in the county’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the county by 2035.

Stoddard will continue to work on emergency management and health issues.

He said in an interview Friday that he appreciated the opportunity and is excited.

He will make $182,710 annually in his new role, according to Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Elrich. Sturgis made $175,000 annually before stepping down, Peterson said. 

Stoddard said his expertise from working in both the county’s Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Emergency Management Homeland Security will still apply in his new role in the county executive’s office. 

Emergency preparedness and public health will still be part of his job, but now, it involves working with a wider range of county agencies and departments, he said.

“Obviously, it kind of elevates it to a broader array of issues,” Stoddard said of his new role. 

Part of that includes looking at staffing and retention for the county’s police and fire departments, he said. But he also will look at existing health equity issues and communities most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and coming up with solutions.

Part of those solutions must include how the county’s public health officials can better serve residents of color, he said.

Stoddard added that he will also focus on how to improve the county’s overall public safety response by police, the fire department or emergency medical services. 

Part of that will include improving staffing and recruitment, he said. But county officials must look at how to make salaries more competitive with other jurisdictions across the Washington, D.C., region. 

Sturgis was helpful in the last few weeks in her role as assistant chief administrative officer, especially on budgeting issues, Stoddard said. She was heavily involved in helping the county’s vaccination efforts, in roles not always visible to the public, he said.

Peterson said Marianne Souders, chief of the planning division in the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, will take over as acting director. She will be paid $146,600 annually.

Stoddard said communication and collaboration between county agencies and departments will be critical for Souders and him in their new roles.

“I think the big thing in emergency management, you have to see every issue not only through your eyes, but also through the eyes of the partners that you engage with. … When you start to align your vision with theirs, that’s when you can achieve great things,” Stoddard said.

Managing more people won’t be the greatest challenge as assistant chief administrative officer, he said. It will be the need to work together.

“We always suffer when … we silo too much, we get focused on our [own] issues,” Stoddard said. “And really, what I see my role is to break down some of those interagency barriers and make government work more collaboratively for our residents.”

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