It started with the bus ride to school.
Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld said that when he was a teenager, he used to take the Number 8 bus from North Baltimore to high school in West Baltimore every day. The more than hour-long journey across the city sparked his interest in transportation.
“Growing up in Baltimore City, using transit, particularly as a younger person, and just the excitement of transportation has drawn me to understanding its complexities and the way it can move people and improve communities.” Secretary Wiedefeld said.
The Baltimore native was sworn in Thursday by Governor Wes Moore as the 18th secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation. Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller also took part in the ceremony. By the secretary’s side was his wife, Marcia, and his son and daughter-in-law, Hank and Hannah.
Governor Moore appointed Secretary Wiedefeld to the role in January. He now oversees the department’s six agencies: the State Highway Administration (SHA), Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), Maryland Aviation Administration, Maryland Port Administration and the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). As secretary, he leads operations and maintenance of state highways, bridges, tollways, transit systems, motor vehicle licensing, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.
Secretary Wiedefeld also serves as chair of the MDTA Board, the Maryland Port Commission and the Maryland Aviation Commission and as a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board.
His latest position is the culmination of a 40-plus-year career in the public and private sector that the secretary said gives him a “unique perspective” on transportation needs and opportunities.
His career at the Maryland of Department of Transportation began at State Highway as an assistant regional planner for District 4 overseeing Baltimore and Harford counties. He later served as director of planning for the Maryland Department of Transportation at The Secretary’s Office overseeing all six transportation agencies. He also served as the Maryland Transit Administrator, managing day-to-day operations of what was then the nation’s 13th largest transit system, including commuter rail, subway, light rail, buses and paratransit.
Secretary Wiedefeld also served twice as chief executive officer of BWI Marshall Airport for a combined 10 years. He began his work at the airport in 2002 navigating the aviation field post-911 and oversaw the implementation of the first Transit Security Administration screeners. Despite these challenges, he worked closely with airlines and grew BWI Marshall to become the leading passenger airport in the Washington metropolitan region. During his tenure at BWI Marshall, he managed the largest capital expansion in the airport’s history, including construction of a 26-gate terminal for Southwest Airlines, an 8,400-space parking garage and a modern consolidated rental car facility.
Secretary Wiedefeld was chief executive officer and general manager at WMATA from November 2015 to May 2022, including keeping operators and passengers protected through the COVID-19 pandemic. As head of the National Capital area’s Metro system, he focused on safety and oversaw a series of improvements to one of the nation’s largest transit systems.
Prior to returning to MDOT as secretary, he served as Vice President for the international architectural and engineering firm HDR. Additional private sector experience includes a decade leading the consulting practice for Parsons Brinckerhoff engineering firm in its Baltimore office.
As Maryland’s transportation secretary, he wants to stay focused on the bigger picture, addressing day-to-day challenges while charting a course for an innovative transportation network that can improve communities, promote equitable access and spur economic opportunity for all Marylanders.
“We should look at the department as much broader than just what you see us do every day,” Secretary Wiedefeld said. “We’re really shaping the future and supporting the future of communities. That’s the exciting part about this.”
The secretary said he plans to visit MVA Branches and State Highway District Offices across Maryland to talk to employees, especially those on the front lines. He’s also looking forward to speaking with MTA’s transit operators and mechanics in Baltimore.
“It’s really just understanding what their needs are and, hopefully, I can do my job better by understanding that,” he said. “Some of the most devoted people I’ve ever worked with are in the public sector.”
Secretary Wiedefeld comes from a family devoted to public service. His father and one of his brothers were firefighters. One of his other brothers was a police officer; another was in the Navy. He also has a sister who is a nurse.
“Around our kitchen table, public service was thought of as a career that you could help other people with,” he said. “It’s always been a value to me.”
Secretary Wiedefeld has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Towson University and a master’s in city and regional planning from Rutgers University. He attended Mount St. Joseph High School.
In his free time, he enjoys the outdoors. He likes to bike on the Eastern Shore, as well as golf, hike and garden. At home, he prepares meals for himself and his wife. They have three children, Hank, Lucie and Alice, and live in Towson with their dog, Nittany, and two cats, Smokey and Jupiter.