Edward Montgomery, University of Marylanddean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, has been named the head of a transition team for President-elect Barack Obama (D), an indication he may be asked to return to work for the federal government, experts say.
Montgomery is leading the Labor Review Team, a group of advisers who will examine the Department of Labor to identify key issues and problems Obama will need to be familiar with come the Jan. 20 inauguration.
"They need to first understand what's going on in those agencies, and second off what they want these agencies to be doing the day after the inauguration," said Associate Dean of BSOS Robert Schwab, who has taken over many of Montgomery's responsibilities in the college.
Among the issues Montgomery is concerned with as the head of the team is minimum wage legislation and occupational safety, Schwab said.
Schwab said Montgomery still works on the campus two days a week and keeps in close contact via phone and e-mail on the days he is not in. Montgomery continues to deal with budget decisions and the hiring of new faculty, Schwab said.
But whether Montgomery will return to the university as a full-time faculty member remains to be seen. Montgomery said he was not giving media interviews until the inauguration, and both Schwab and experts say a government job offer is not out of the question.
"It's possible," Schwab said. "I wouldn't be surprised. Few people would be surprised if they do offer Ed a position. To be honest, I think they would be fools not to. He would be fabulous. So many of us in the college have tremendous respect for Ed, and I'm sure the Obama people understand that, as well. They see what he can do."
Martha Joynt Kumar, a transition team expert and a professor at Towson University, said the position of transition team leader is sometimes used as an audition period for a larger job offer. Further, Montgomery's background as chief operating officer and chief economist of the Department of Labor, as well as principal representative to former President Bill Clinton's National Economic Council, suggests he is more than qualified for a position within the Obama administration.
"It means they have a great deal of confidence in his expertise, in his confidence and in his ability to make good assessments as to what's going on in the department," Kumar said. She added that Montgomery was probably tapped for the transition team by John Podesta, the chief of staff for the Clinton administration from 1998 to 2001 and an expert on government specialists.
"Sometimes they do hire people out of the transition team, that's true," Kumar said. "Sometimes people don't want to go back in [to the federal government]. They might like being an adviser on the outside."
However, Schwab said he doesn't think Montgomery would pass up the opportunity to take a high-profile government position.
"It would be a complete surprise if someone offered him the position of the Secretary of Labor and he turned it down," he said. "That would be a complete surprise."
Unlike Montgomery, State Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Anne Arundel & Prince George's), who represents College Park, said he has no plans to return to the federal government, and he plans to run for re-election. Rosapepe served as Ambassador to Romania under Clinton from 1998 to 2001.