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List of State Officials - Martin O'Malley, Governor; Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor; Shari T. Wilson, Acting MDE Secretary 

Volume II, Number 11

 March 2007

eMDE is a monthly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. 

Meet Our New Acting Secretary: Shari T. Wilson

By Marti Davis, Office of Communications

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Photo of Acting MDE Secretary Shari Wilson 

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"Enthusiastic about returning, MDE’s leader takes a strong environmental approach to enforcing regulations."

Acting Secretary Shari T. Wilson has a big order to fill. She will be responsible for over $200 million in state funding and nearly 1,000 employees at the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). While Ms. Wilson brings to the table an impressive background and set of credentials, she is no stranger to MDE. During her previous tenure, Ms. Wilson managed the brownfields and environmental restoration and redevelopment programs from 1996 to 1999. Ms. Wilson was instrumental in developing policies to reform the cleanup of hazardous waste sites to increase their likelihood of redevelopment. Before becoming the Director of Policy Management from 2002-2003, she also served as MDE’s Smart Growth Coordinator.

A Broader Look for a More Focused Approach

Ms. Wilson’s combination of management, policy, and legal training allows her to look at all sides of an issue. “As a lawyer, my first inclination would be to address what the statute says about the issue, but it would be just part of the answer,” said Ms. Wilson. “Our obligation is to look more broadly. To maximize our resources, we need to look at how to most efficiently address regulatory mandates.”

Meeting Demands for Responsible Growth

Across the board, Ms. Wilson agrees that programs in air, water and land management are effective based on the initial laws. "While measurable progress has been made in regulating certain aspects of these programs, one of the biggest challenges for Maryland is land development and the growing population. These issues are creating additional loads on the system that we need to accommodate with appropriate planning throughout the state.”

The agency works with the Maryland Department of Planning and local governments to help communities develop and plan for adequate water supply and sewer capacity and protect the critical areas essential to Bay restoration.

Enhanced Bay Restoration Efforts

The current complex web of federal, state local and private funding aimed at restoring the Bay needs better coordination and more comprehensive accountability. MDE will join other Bay Cabinet agencies to institute Governor O’Malley’s BayStat program. BayStat is a performance-based management system that will measure progress on all of our restoration efforts to improve the health of the Bay.

“Over the next four years, we will bring real accountability and performance measurement to environmental management through programs like BayStat,” said Acting Secretary Wilson. “We will continue working to protect public health in Maryland and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

“We need to know whether resources deployed are getting the right benefit or result,” said Ms. Wilson. “This involves a built-in connection among the senior management on a routine basis. We consider it an ongoing process of communication, rather than relying on strategic planning to accomplish our goals.”

MDE’s Knowledgeable Experts

“I am enthusiastic about returning - it is a great opportunity to work with an incredibly talented group of people in different facets of the department,” said Acting Secretary Wilson. “It is humbling to be surrounded by so many knowledgeable people with profound expertise in air quality, water supply, stream health, waste issues and more. Their enthusiasm is contagious. It’s hard not to be excited commitment of employees and by the challenges of being here.”

What Our New Acting Secretary Brings to the Table

Working as a MDE staff attorney right out of law school, Ms. Wilson’s expertise in enforcement helped to enforce newly enacted, stringent regulations regarding Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements. She gained a true appreciation for what inspectors do on a day-to-day basis and a better understanding of the different conditions and variables affecting UST leak issues. “I witnessed the hard work required of inspectors to follow an enforcement case through from start to finish.”
As an administrator, Ms. Wilson took the opportunity to help reform how Maryland laws work in revitalization cleanup requirements and the intended consequence for non-compliance. “Antiquated laws made it easier, quicker and cheaper to close and abandon a property,” said Ms. Wilson. “In the 90s, we worked to restructure the law to offer incentives and make it beneficial for developers to revitalize and bring properties into compliance for sustainable use - this became the genesis of Brownfields reform in Maryland.”

As the Chief Solicitor for the Baltimore City Department of Law’s Land Use Division, Ms. Wilson advised the City on environmental, land use, and zoning cases. She also has served as a Division Chief in the Baltimore City Department of Planning.

Moving Forward for Today’s Challenges

MDE, like many environmental agencies, is organized based on Federal laws and funding dating back to the 70s and 80s. "While this first generation of environmental laws have been very effective, we need to make sure that our organizational structure is evolving with our priorities,” said Ms. Wilson. “Our current programs and laws must be rethought to make sure we are best positioned to meet the environmental issues and challenges we face today.”

“MDE faces funding challenges. We plan to assess our priorities over the next six months according to where the greatest public health and environmental needs are now, then realign our resources accordingly,” said Acting Secretary Wilson. “We are studying variables like federal funding streams, dedicated funds and limited resources, to reconcile or match them to our highest priority needs. The resulting changes will ensure adequate funding for the work we are charged to do to protect public health and the environment.”

Let’s Get to Work

Ms. Wilson plans to make MDE more transparent to enable the public to better understand what the department does. She plans to keep an open line of communication by making dynamic electronic information available daily to our citizens and stakeholders. Ms. Wilson also believes in efforts to recruit new staff and retain the excellent MDE staff already on board. She also plans to create a performance-based internal management system to measure progress of the department’s programs and efforts currently underway called MDEStat.

As our new Acting Secretary rolls up her sleeves to take on the responsibility of protecting and restoring the state’s air water and land resources, she will promote smart growth, community revitalization, and environmentally-sensitive economic development.

“We are fortunate to have Deputy Secretary Bob Summers – a leading water quality and Bay restoration expert and Assistant Secretary Steve Pattison – an environmental sciences expert. Our team brings technical expertise and experience from both public and private sectors. It’s a carefully thought out team and we plan to do the best we can for the State of Maryland.”

In keeping with Governor O’Malley’s “Let’s get to work” ethic, she humbly admits: “I am but a temporary steward, the work of MDE will go on.”


©2007 Copyright MDE

Editorial Board
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230