Baltimore City’s Chief Administrator Aims to Keep the City Running Smoothly

From traffic signal optimization to trash in roadways, Faith Leach is strengthening the systems put in place for municipal work.
—Photography by Mike Morgan

Much of Faith Leach’s work as Baltimore City’s chief administrative officer sounds complicated and inaccessible—reforming outdated systems, for example, or securing philanthropic donations for city programs. But it’s all too real when she’s out driving around town.

“I feel it every day,” says Leach, 40, who explains that her job is essentially to keep the city running smoothly. “[City agency] directors will tell you how they get daily texts and phone calls from me about everything from traffic signal optimization to litter and trash in roadways. These are all things that impact our daily life.”

After nearly 20 years of government service in North Carolina and a stint as deputy mayor in Washington, D.C., Leach was appointed by Mayor Brandon Scott in January 2023. Her mission of “professionalizing” city government culture and streamlining how it all functions is no small order, but she’s up to the task.

How would you describe the culture of municipal work today in Baltimore City?
Our public service members are very proud. They love their city fiercely, but the thing I’ve noticed is that for a very long time, city government and its employees were forced to use piecemeal solutions to make up for broken and antiquated systems, and we really needed to professionalize the overall management of government and strengthen our service delivery.

For example, we have a notoriously inefficient procurement system and employees had to figure out how to [purchase inventory] with a system that just frankly did not work, and that became a part of the culture.

After a year and a half, what’s your biggest victory so far?
We’ve really gotten a lot done together. As soon as I walked in the door, one of the biggest things I heard about was recycling. I pulled together a cross section of our government leaders to dig into the challenges and we developed a plan to not just return to weekly recycling, but to stabilize our Solid Waste Division. We hired almost 70 drivers and laborers, we right-sized and optimized our routes, and we set about updating our fleet, which was well out-of-date. It was this very thoughtful exercise to ensure we brought recycling back in a way that was sustainable for the city.

Do you have moments when you’re off the clock and notice, “This is where my work impacts daily life”?
One of the things that moves me the most is when I drive through a community with vacant houses and lots that haven’t been maintained, and I see young people at bus stops or walking to and from school—this is what they pass every day. That’s when it really hits home for me how important this work is. It’s those quality-of-life issues that impact the growth of our young people. It impacts our ability to grow our city and sustain and maintain our population. Those are the things that we have to get right if we want to really be the best version of ourselves as a city.