T.J. Smith leaving post as Johnny O’s press secretary, says announcement coming soon

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Smith in 2018. Photo via T.J. Smith Media/Facebook.

Former Baltimore police spokesman and rumored mayoral candidate T.J. Smith is leaving his position as press secretary for Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. after nine months on the job.

The county executive’s office announced Smith’s exit today, with a release saying he’s departing “to explore other opportunities.” His last day is this Friday.

“T.J. has been a valued advisor and a critical team member as we began our work in Baltimore County,” Olszewski said in a statement. “I’m grateful for his hard work and his thoughtful approach to the job of press secretary.”

Smith, who served as chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department for just over three years, starting with a leadership change following Freddie Gray’s death in BPD custody, is among a number of well-known Baltimoreans said to be mulling a run for mayor.

Council President Brandon Scott has already declared, and current Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has said he’s weighing whether to do so after initially saying he wouldn’t (and is reportedly busy fundraising as recently as this weekend). Ben Jealous has bowed out, but ex-Mayor Sheila Dixon, Sens. Bill Ferguson and Mary Washington and Del. Nick Mosby are all said to be still considering.

When Smith left BPD last October, he penned a 2,300-word letter that touched on, among many other subjects, his future plans, including “consulting, teaching, media stuff, and maybe, just maybe a book and politics!”

It was his former boss, ex-BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis, who publicly fielded the idea of him running for mayor, and when asked by The Sun about such ambitions, Smith replied, “Over the course of my career, I’ve been in a position to represent people,” and said he was “honored” some would consider him running for the office.

Asked about his next steps today, Smith wrote in a message to Baltimore Fishbowl, “I’ll have an announcement soon.” He said he informed Olszewski several weeks ago that he’d be leaving. “For now, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work for the Baltimore County Executive and I’m looking forward to the future.”

Sean Naron, a Dulaney High grad, will take Smith’s place as press secretary. Naron most recently held the same title working for Dr. Leana Wen while she was heading up Planned Parenthood in D.C.

Before that, Naron worked as communications director for Olszewski’s campaign and the late Kevin Kamenetz’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018, and as public information officer for the Baltimore City Health Department (also under Wen’s leadership) and deputy press secretary for former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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