Josh Kurtz: Busch’s Chief of Staff Leaving

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Kristin Jones, longtime chief of staff to House Speaker Mike Busch (D), who also served as a top aide when he was chairman of the Economic Matters Committee, is leaving for a job at the University of Maryland Medical System.

“It’ll be nice to immerse myself back into health policy,” Jones said in an interview.

Jones will be replaced by Alexandra Hughes, the current deputy chief of staff.

Jones, an expert in health care policy, is slated to become the UMMS vice president of external affairs, where she’ll have a substantial portfolio, including overseeing the state’s role in the new Prince George’s Regional Medical Center.

“Her talents and expertise will be tremendous assets as UMMS charts its strategic course for the future, evolving our business to meet the challenges of the current environment while remaining focused on providing high-quality, high-value patient care to the people of Maryland – both in and out of the hospital setting,” Robert Chrencik, the system’s president and CEO said in a statement.

Jones started working for the General Assembly in 1998 and has been Busch’s chief of staff since 2005 – a post she shared with John Favazza until he left to become a lobbyist in 2011. She will leave Busch’s office in mid-October.

“Throughout my legislative career, I have never known anyone with a better grasp of the health care delivery system than Kristin Jones,” Busch said in a statement.

Hughes’ ascension in Busch’s shop could mean a strategic shift in the already-tense relationship between the House and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. While Jones is a policy maven, Hughes has stronger political instincts and is unafraid to throw sharp elbows.

“She’s a great wartime consigliere,” said one admirer.

Hughes will also be making history – she’ll be the first African-American to serve as the top aide to a presiding officer of the Maryland General Assembly.

Jones has been part of a potent duo of women running the operations of the state’s longtime legislative presiding officers, along with Vicki Gruber, Senate President Mike Miller’s top aide. Coincidentally – and in a sign of what a small town Annapolis can be – Jones and Gruber are married to men who once held the other’s job and are now lobbyists.

Jones’ husband is Joe Bryce, a former top aide to Miller – and former government relations chief for Govs. Parris Glendening (D) and Martin O’Malley (D) and for the University System of Maryland – who lobbies for the firm Manis & Canning, where Favazza also landed. Gruber is married to Tom Lewis, former chief of staff to Busch and former House Speaker Casper Taylor (D) who is now vice president of government and community affairs for Johns Hopkins University.

Although Jones will still be a fixture at the State House during legislative sessions, she joked that she’s looking forward to the possibility of occasionally eating lunch away from her desk during the winter for the first time in 17 years.

“I’m ready for a new challenge,” she said.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter -- @joshkurtznews

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.


But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.


The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.


In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.


Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.