Citing health issues, Maryland state senator from Baltimore County retires, opening leadership vacancy

Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, pictured in 2017, resigned Sunday, citing health issues.
Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, pictured in 2017, resigned Sunday, citing health issues. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun)

Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, a long-serving state lawmaker from Baltimore County, announced Sunday she is retiring, citing health issues.

“I do this with a heavy heart,” Nathan-Pulliam, 80, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to incoming Senate President Bill Ferguson. “As many may know, I have had three spine surgeries in recent years, the last one on September 30th. … I hope I have made a difference in my years as a public official, which includes almost twenty five years as a legislator.”


The Windsor Mill resident and registered nurse was first elected in 1994 to the House of Delegates before winning a seat in the Senate in 2014. Born in Jamaica, she is the first Caribbean-born person elected to the Maryland General Assembly.

“Senator Nathan-Pulliam has been a friend and mentor to me and so many other lawmakers in my time in the Senate,” said Ferguson, a Democrat. “She has been a national leader on the issue of health disparities, and making all of us focus on the entire population in need. She is a true public servant and my thoughts are with her in her retirement and recovery.”

Nathan-Pulliam’s retirement opens up not only a seat for a senator, but also a position in Senate leadership, as she is vice-chairwoman of the Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

“My journey, also as a mentor, will pave a path for others to follow,” Nathan-Pulliam wrote in her letter announcing her retirement.


Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who plans to step down as president to start the 2020 legislative session, described Nathan-Pulliam as a leader on health issues.

“I have had the honor of working with Senator Nathan-Pulliam closely over the last five years, and I will miss her in the Senate,” said Miller, a Democrat. “Her voice was always present, as an advocate for her constituents, especially on issues such as Minority Health Disparities, and Hepatitis C treatment, of which she was so passionate. The entire state owes her a debt, and our thoughts and prayers are with her as she works through her recovery.”

Both the Baltimore City and Baltimore County state central committees must now accept resumes to fill the position. The 44th Legislative District, which Nathan-Pulliam represented, is divided between the city and county.

To apply for the position, one must be: a registered Democratic voter in Maryland; a resident of Maryland for at least one year; a resident of the 44th Legislative District for at least six months; and at least 25 years old.

To apply in Baltimore City, interested parties should send a resume to Resumes must be received via email by no 2 p.m. on Dec. 14. Interviews of city applicants will take place on Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. at the Fayette Street Outreach Center at 29 N. Smallwood St. The interviews are open to the public.

To apply in Baltimore County, interested individuals should email an application, resume, and letter of interest indicating their professional, civic and political experience to with the subject line “BCDSCC Open Legislative Seat” or mail to “BCDSCC, Attention: Nominations Subcommittee, P.O. Box 19092, Towson, MD 21284” by Dec. 14.

After the interviews, members of city and county district central committees will then vote publicly on their selection to replace Nathan-Pulliam.

If both Baltimore City and Baltimore County select the same candidate, the name will be submitted to Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, for appointment. He can choose to either accept or reject the nominee, but cannot propose his own candidate.

If the choice of the two jurisdictions differs, both names will be submitted to Hogan for his decision.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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