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Posted at 11:12 AM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Md. health secretary lauded as tenure nears end

By John Wagner

Colmers mug.jpgA formal announcement of his departure is not scheduled until noon Wednesday, but the tributes to John M. Colmers, Maryland's health secretary, started rolling in long before that.

At a morning meeting of the state's Board of Public Works, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said that the final scene of the remake of "True Grit" reminded him of Colmers -- who has spent much of his four-year tenure making tough recommendations to cut his budget.

"They rode the horse, old Blackie, into the ground," O'Malley said, referring to the trusted companion of leading character Mattie Ross.

Colmers is being replaced as Maryland's secretary of health and mental hygiene by Joshua M. Sharfstein, the second-in-command at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sharfstein is expected to appear alongside O'Malley and Colmers at the noon announcement Wednesday.

"I don't know anyone who's been a more hard-working, inspiring leader in really tough times," State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), also a member of the Board of Public Works, said of Colmers.

O'Malley said that a lot of people didn't see the compassion that Colmers brought to a job that involves providing health care to some of the state's most needy residents.

"You never, ever jettisoned that compassion or became callous or created a defensive shell," O'Malley said.

As the compliments came in, Colmers piped up, saying "I'm not dead yet."

He later thanked O'Malley for allowing him to advance health care "even in difficult times."

By John Wagner  | January 5, 2011; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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