I grew up in Catonsville and was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs to take care of us and put food on the table.
It was tough – and it wasn’t sustainable. So in high school I had to leave school to get a job to help support our family. While I worked during the day, I went to night school to get my diploma.
My first experience with volunteering was at my kids’ preschool. And I found my passion – working in our community and our schools to make things better.
So I spent years doing community work. Served many times as PTA president for my children’s schools. One time when we had a problem, I put 100 moms on a bus to the board of education meeting!
I served on the Police Community Relations Council, where I helped start the county’s School Resource Officers program. Today, it’s a model for the nation.
And when the police chief threatened to take police cars away from the schools – I told him, don’t make me put 100 moms on a bus to camp out in your office!
After years of working on the ground in our community, I decided to run for County Council. Our campaign office was my dining room table. We knocked on thousands of doors – a true grassroots campaign.
I came to the job with a community activist’s perspective. And I’ve learned that we can’t fall into the trap of thinking we have this false choice between growth and our communities. To have strong communities we need economic development, we need strong schools, we need public safety and we need great parks and public spaces.
Sometimes I’ve had to make tough decisions to find that balance – and I’ve got the scars to prove it! I’ve had to make people mad – old friends in the community and developers too.
But through those tough decisions, we’ve had great successes, like Foundry Row.
And we’ve made our community safer. I took action when I found out about this synthetic drug called SPICE – a deadly drug that was actually being sold in convenience stores. And it was being marketed to young kids – 8-14 years old with names like “Scooby Snacks”. So we passed legislation that the state’s attorney’s office said drove SPICE out of the county.
And when I learned of the number of kids going to Baltimore County schools hungry, but not participating in the school lunch program – we tried something new. Removing stigmas and getting more kids enrolled. Principals and teachers say attendance is up at those schools, and kids are learning better. Now we’re going to do it in more schools.
And we’ve done all these things without raising taxes.
We’ve done a lot but I believe we can do even better than we are today.
First, we need leadership that brings people together to solve problems. I’ve learned on the council is that we make the best progress when we bring differing voices to the table to work out our problems and get agreement.
Second, we need to get more out of county government – make it more efficient and effective. We have some really great employees. We need to encourage them to try new things, to innovate and to get more out of our limited resources. And we need to do the basics right – from snow removal to trash pick-up.
Finally, we need to restore people’s trust in government – at all levels. And County Government is no different. We need more openness, more transparency. That’s why I’ve fought to stream our council work sessions online, ban campaign contributions during the CZMP process, and implement a new requirement for County officials to receive ethics training.
We need someone who brings people together to move us forward. So we can have good economic growth and development while also improving our quality of life – with great schools, safe neighborhoods and beautiful parks and open spaces.