“So it’s gonna be forever…Or it’s gonna go down in flames…You can tell me when it’s over…If the high was worth the pain…”- Blank Space, Taylor Swift

This song doesn’t exactly fit with the theme of this post BUT Taylor Swift was one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People in 2014. And this song is the most popular song on Billboard’s Top 100 list.  And I love it.

For those of you who are not friends with me on Facebook or who may have missed the post, I decided to do a Most Fascinating List.

My status read: “You know how Barbara Walters does a “10 Most Fascinating People” list? Well, I want one of my next blog posts to be about the “10 Most Fascinating People in Howard County-2014 Edition”! If I get enough responses I’ll do it! So who makes the list? And why? I’ll add my own commentary too of course!”

Because this is Howard County, the response was overwhelming (Thanks!). And so, I came up with categories.  It’s not perfect..but it’s mine. And some of yours.

So here it is…My Most Fascinating People in Howard County-2014 Edition List Avec Categories! I had fun writing this, although it stressed me out a little!  Hope you enjoy it…

Note- This is not an endorsement of anyone or anything…This is about fascinating people/things.  You know I had to say that, right?!

Politics

Ken Ulman– I mean. Come on.  If you know me, you know why he’s on the list.  Innovative, creative, smart, cool, and down to earth.  I think EVERYONE in Howard (actually everyone in the state) was waiting to see what he was going to do next.  And now we know. #margravestrategieswillkickbutt

Dylan Goldberg- This guy.  Besides being a politically savvy twelve year old (just kidding. He’s like 19, though, right?), he routinely quotes West Wing, never sleeps, saves random dogs, and collects political paraphernalia.  If you need tickets to ANYTHING or information about some obscure political fact, call this dude.  No, seriously.

Mike Davis– I’ve known Mike for a number of years as he was the chair of the board of The Columbia Foundation (what is it called now?) when I was the associate director.  I knew him then as an estate lawyer slash philanthropic community advocate but later found out that he is also a political guru.  He has quietly headed up transition teams for two County Executives…without seeking the limelight.  Impressive in my book.

Maureen Evans Arthurs– Maureen took a shot at school board this past year and I truly believe that voters missed the mark by not electing her.   She worked her butt off and her message resonated with so many in our community.  She’s also a super talented writer and she’s not afraid to speak her mind.  Oh..and she’s sharpening her skills in this year’s Emerge, Maryland class.  So she’ll be ready.  For whatever she chooses to run for.

Alice Giles- The League of Women Voters’ guide and recorded forums were a lifeline for many during this election season.  If you couldn’t make the forums (kids!!!), you could certainly learn a bit about the people who were competing to guide our county and state.  Alice led this organization through Election 2014.  Someone also told me that she’s a NAMI advocate and she definitely writes some hilarious FB posts about her experiences as an employee of the library (is she still there?).  And then there’s the hair.  Fascinating indeed.

Calvin Ball– One of my FB commenters said it best…”He was out there rallying votes for candidates when they were running for office and he’s worked tirelessly to get the revitalization of Long Reach going (in addition to having a full time job and being a family man). Another fascinating dude!”  What more can I say? (Name that tune! Hint- The artist is married to Bey.) Go ahead, CBall.

Courtney Watson and Allan Kittleman– Executive candidates from Howard County- check.  Graduates of our public school system- check.  Smart and witty- check.  Paid their dues as county council members- check.  Super cute kids who look like they stepped out of a magazine- check.  The County Executive race was fascinating for so many people in this county.  These two leaders had to make this list.

Rich Gibson– During the election season, someone said to me, “Where did he even come from?! I like him”.  He challenged a strong incumbent for State’s Attorney in HoCo and made folks pay attention.  He’s a smart prosecutor for Baltimore City and a family man who lives in Ellicott City.  Can’t wait to see what’s next for him!

Vanessa Atterbeary- Ran for and won a delegate seat in District 13 while parenting two toddlers and pregnant with her third child. Oh and she’s super smart and fly.  Badass.  Can’t wait to see what she does in Annapolis as an advocate for working mamas.

Education

Dr. Renee Foose- In 2012, Renee became the first female Superintendent of the Howard County Public Schools.  Two point five years later, she’s shaken things up a bit as she tries to ensure that our public schools educate all 50,000 plus children and have them prepared for college and the workforce.  She implemented the first strategic plan for the system (Vision 2018) and launched the (often talked about!!) Elementary School Model.  Many folks are interested in her efforts to close the achievement gap and hire a more diverse workforce (me, me, me). She was picked as one of “50 Women to Watch” by The Baltimore Sun.  And people are certainly watching to see what she does next.

Evening in the Stacks– If you don’t know, you better ask somebody.

Cindy Vaillancourt– I don’t know Cindy well so I will be making a point to sit down with her sometime in 2015 to get to know her better.  Someone once told me that people either love or dislike Cindy.  There’s no in between.  Say what you want about her, Cindy kicked some rump and was the top vote getter in the 2014 Board of Ed Race after a very interesting public year for her.  One commenter said, “She faced crazy obstacles to re-election, stayed true to her objectives, was top vote-getter despite everything.” She is definitely one of the most fascinating people in education.

Frank Eastham– I can’t tell you how many friends reached out to me when Frank left Oakland Mills High to become the executive director of school improvement and administration.  People with kids who were going to attend OMHS were freaked out.  People who had kids who had attended during Frank’s tenure were near tears.  Sara Toth wrote an article about it (that doesn’t always happen when principals leave a school).  If you don’t know Frank (or his story), it may help to read this article…http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/bs-md-ho-principal-eastham-20130410-story.html).  I also know Frank from his great work on the Human Rights Commission and he was the moderator for our Beer Summit that I mentioned in a previous post.  Frank is not afraid to talk about and address issues head on.  Good dude.

My mom, Patricia Dodson– If I got a dollar every time someone mentioned that my mom taught them, I’d be a rich lady (money rich…of course, I’m thoroughly blessed because she’s my mom).  She’s taught a pro golfer, the new head of the Olney Theatre, the communications director for the public school system, a former pro soccer player, and the sports doc for the Eagles and 76ers..to name a few.  I’m not saying they wouldn’t have been successful without her but I’ve been told that it certainly helped that she taught them reading…and believed in them.  Love you, mom.

Community Activism

Ian Kennedy- You might hear him talking around town about Oakland Mills and bikes and paths and drinks with sugar.  Ian is the smart, communications director of the Horizon Foundation by day and the bearded, family man, extreme biker by night.  He’s a great writer, used to have a blog that a lot of people read (come back!) and he once played Merriweather with his band (They sang one of my favorites tunes that night…”Use Somebody”)…  He believes in our community and the community listens when he talks.  Hope he runs for some political office someday. Hint, hint.

Candace Avent Montague– Candace is not on this list because she shares her name with the author (although it’s awesome that she does and spells it the right way).  She’s on the list because she is a talented writer and educator who flies under the radar in Howard County.  Candace is a self-proclaimed introvert who drops knowledge and information on FB and in her published works.  And she’s funny as heck.  Check her out.

Bill Woodcock– I didn’t know Bill well when he ran for office back in the day but I added him to this category because of his passion for this community.  Bill pays attention to the hyper local races and uses his blog to weigh in on hyper local issues.  If you want the real deal, go read it. Bill is another person who people seem to have a “love-dislike-no middle ground thing” with but I can’t knock his genuine love for his community.  Keep on, Bill.

Tom Coale– You thought I was going to place Tom in a different category, didn’t you?  Yes, I know that Tom ran for a delegate seat in District 9B but what made Tom most fascinating to me this year (besides that beautiful new baby girl, Harper!) was that he continued to advocate for the folks in Ellicott City even though he didn’t win the elected seat.  Umm…what?! Tom showed up at Executive Kittleman’s first hearing a couple of weeks ago to testify on behalf of the folks on Main Street.  And I have a feeling he’ll be back.  He’s got a new baby at home and it’s the holidays.  He didn’t have to show up.  But he did.

Jason Booms– Anyone who has a strategy whiteboard in their house and uses words like bupkis in their blog posts deserves a nod on this list.  I met Jason a couple of years ago when my friend was running for a Columbia Council seat.  I find Jason to be interesting, smart, and thoughtful.  And I’ll admit it, sometimes I have to read his blogposts twice to make sure I understand. I’ve said it to him before and I’ll say it publicly, I sure hope he runs for something.  And yes, yes, I know he used to be a Republican.  And?

Larry Walker– Husband, father, grandfather!, mentor, preacher, community advocate, and appointed Board of Ed member (his term just ended in December).  Larry loves Howard County and truly tries to lead by example.  The only knock I have on Larry is that he’s a Steelers fan.  Geez.  Regardless, I hope we see Larry again on the Board of Education.  Heck, I even wrote his name in this last election.

Julia Jackson McCready– If you don’t know what community Julia lives in or what/who she advocates for you may be living in a barn.  Julia is a talented, outspoken writer and teacher who stands up for what she believes in.  More than once, Julia has made me think about things I’ve felt strongly about.  And that doesn’t happen often for me.

Health/Medicine

Dr. Donna Neale– Dr. Neale was my neighbor, back in the day! One of my commenter’s reminded me that she is a “former record-holding track star at OMHS, current assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins Medicine Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics and director of the Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine at HCGH. Dr. Neale serves as a reviewer for medical journals including, Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.”  And she runs triathlons and is on the board of Better Bed Rest.  Can someone say rockstar?

Deneitra Hutchinson– Gonna try to type this one without tearing up.  Dee inspires me.  Period.  She is beautiful (stunning!), kind, smart, and funny.  And she’s battling her second round of cancer with a grace and strength that cannot be put into words.  Check out her blog at http://losingalifelongfriend.blogspot.com/.  She’s fighting AND educating. You may recognize her as the face of the Columbia Association’s show, Columbia Matters, but I just recognize her as my friend.  Continue to kick cancer’s ass, lovely lady.

My brother, Dr. Christopher Dodson- So, my brother doesn’t live in Howard County but he’s from here..and this is my blog…and he is another rockstar doctor so I’m adding him.  Product of Howard High School, Ivy League educated, awesome husband and father, former Dove model, team doc for the Phillies and Eagles, and a partner at Rothman Institute Orthopaedics.  He is only 38 years old! (I’m allowed to brag, I’m his sister…)  He’s also an incredibly nice guy (read- not arrogant).  I’m really glad Philly folks realize what a gem they have as they named him one of the Top Docs in the area and awarded him with one of those Best 40 Under 40 things.  Love you brother.

Law Enforcement

Chief Gary Gardner– Howard County’s new chief  He’s a great officer and a really good guy but I’m going to tell you what really stands out as fascinating for me.  After the Ferguson ordeal, the Chief met with the African American Community Roundtable (his idea) to talk about how the Howard County Police Department could initiate more community conversations with the black community. A partnership is blooming…Umm. Model for the country?  Perhaps.  Stay tuned.

Chief Bill McMahon and Sherry Llewellyn- One of the FB commenters said it best, “Sherry for her masterful, human-centered communication skills that set the tone for Howard Countians to respond as they did to the Mall shooting.”

I added the Chief with Sherry because there was just a way that the two of them (with Ken) made us feel good after such a local tragedy.  I don’t have words for it so help me out if you’d like.  I know it’s their job to respond to these incidents but I think our community and our country, perhaps, felt like we really got really lucky to have such wonderful people in those positions.

Sergeant!!! Stephanie Wall– If you haven’t met Steph, you should.  Community police officer, community advocate, volunteer extraordinaire, and a diva.  As one FB commenter said, “she is a female leader in a male dominated profession who is a graceful role-model for all us (battling sexism and racism with a smile on her face). Talk about amazing!”  Yep, I agree.

The Howard County Police Department and Howard County Fire and Rescue– The men and women of these two agencies do a lot of great stuff. True heroes. They will forever be known for how they handled the Columbia Mall Shooting with skill, grace, transparency, and class.

Sports

Zach Lederer- If you haven’t heard of “zaching” you also may live in a barn.  This Howard County kid was a leader and an inspiration to people across the country…even world.  I came across this quote from a 2014 Baltimore Sun article, written by Frederick N. Rasmussen, ”It is clearly evident in the response to his passing that he was a truly unselfish and giving person who committed his energy to the kids, programs and the school. He took tremendous pride in our school and never stopped demanding that from others,” said Chad Hollwedel, who coaches Centennial’s varsity basketball team.  Pretty sure his lesson on pride and courage went far beyond Centennial High School. Rest in Peace Zach.

Tatyana McFadden– This may seem lazy but click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatyana_McFadden.   You’ll see lots of Olympic gold.  Lots of awards.  And she also won the woman’s wheelchair division of the New York City Marathon recently. I don’t know Tatyana but I truly admire her courage and resilience.  Beast.

Michael Campanaro- You could hear all of Howard County cheering when this River Hill grad turned Baltimore Ravens wide receiver scored his first professional touchdown.  Nothing better than a homegrown sports guy playing for the local pro football team (yes, I know there are two local teams.  I’m talking about the one with the winning record and who are headed to the playoffs (whew!).  Go Ravens!

Arts

Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission– Downtown…arts….culture…Merriweather. Period.

Deborah Ellinghaus– This Wilde Lake grad is the newly minted managing director at the Olney Theatre Center and the chair of the previously mentioned Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.  She is smart and talented and very cool.  She is set to reinvent the “theatre world” in Maryland. Oh..and go check out The Little Mermaid at the theatre and tell Debbie that CDR sent you.

Coleen West–  Coleen leads our Howard County Center for the Arts/ Arts Council really, really well. You can’t talk about the arts in Howard County without talking about this advocate.   And she is super flexible and creative.  I remember calling her on a Tuesday to talk about something big that was going to happen in less than two weeks.  I needed her help. Coleen hopped right on it and got it done.  The thing I called her about?  Reinventing Long Reach.

Denee Barr– Denee is awesome.  She’s a talented singer, photographer and artist, and all around neat lady.  Denee keeps me abreast of “all things art related” in Howard County.  Her talent sometimes flies under the radar but her radiant personality definitely earns her a spot on this list.

Wylene Burch–  You cannot talk about African American culture/history in Howard County without mentioning this beautiful, fabulous, eccentric gem.  Wylene was legendary and her passion for the Center of African American Culture inspired generations.  May you rest in peace, Ms. Burch.  (Note- Please consider supporting the Howard County Center of African American Culture #legacy- http://www.hccaac.org)

General 

Sang Oh- Not sure there are many developers (and no, that’s not a bad word) in Howard County who haven’t sought out Sang’s guidance.  Sang is a smart, super witty real estate lawyer who previously worked in County Executive Robey’s administration.  What people generally don’t know about Sang is that he is incredibly philanthropic.  The Altholton grad is a former Columbia Foundation board member, a longstanding supporter of Columbia Festival of the Arts, and a generous donor and celebrity bartender for the Howard County Library System.  Oh..and he can cook.it.up on the grill!

My dad, Cloyd Dodson– You probably saw the article in Her Mind Magazine about my dad and what he’s taught me.  I added him because he’s simply awesome.  And fascinating. And a teacher, listener, animal whisperer, and all around best Papau around.  (You see what I did there. If you missed it, I included almost my entire immediate family in this post.  The last one gets a post of her own on her birthday.)

Mission BBQ- One of my FB commenters said, “I can’t remember a restaurant opening that had such an impact.”  And I agree.  The lines were out the door and just about every event that I attended after the opening was catered by Mission.  The food is great, the people are nice, and they give back.  In a major way. I can’t even list all of the organizations that Mission supports so click here http://mission-bbq.com/giving-back.  You go, Mission BBQ. You go.

Howard County Citizens- After the Columbia Mall shooting, our community came together in a big way and rallied to support the Mall and each other as The Mall reopened just days after the shooting. We provided comfort to one another after our local world was shaken. Don’t get me wrong, we are not perfect but we’re better than many.  THIS IS Howard County.

Jessie Newburn-  What word do you associate with Jessie?  Say it with me: blog.  Jessie put the Howard County blogging scene on the map in her own, very unique way.  And because this is small world Howard County, Jessie was my neighbor when I was a toddler.  Crazy.  (Jessie, I WILL be submitting my blog to your site!)

Michael McCall– In 2014, the word “downtown” became legendary in Howard County. I’m fairly certain we said that word about 546,986 times in our office.  And you can’t mention that eight letter word without mentioning Michael McCall.  As one commenter said, He is the“driving force behind a new vision for Downtown Columbia. Just thinking about how much of 2014’s conversation centered around Inner Arbor.”  Inner Arbor..yes.  More legendary words.  As my friend and fellow blogger, Spartan, says, “Stay tuned, as more will follow”.

African American Community Roundtable– Ok so, disclaimer.  I founded the AACR and I’m the current president, so, of course, I love it.  However, this two year old group, of 20 plus member organizations, (we are sororities, fraternities, churches, museums, and educational groups) is quietly doing some really great work in the community.  And it’s the members who are doing it.  This year, we:

  • Received a $150,000 grant from the Horizon Foundation for outreach work with minority communities in Howard County
  • Launched an official partnership with the Howard County Public School System
  • Launched our website and our “brand”-   If you haven’t seen it, check out http://www.aacr-howard.org
  • Held a SUPER successful parent empowerment forum with HCPSS featuring Dr. Freeman Hrabowski
  • Bought Christmas gifts for our adopted foster children
  • Supported each other at various events that the individual member organizations host
  • Launched a partnership with the Howard County Police Department
  • Held several ACA workshops
  • Announced our Parent Academy                                                                       And this doesn’t even include the wonderful work that each individual organization is doing!  Check us out.  Fascinating? Yep. #totalbiasandthat’sok

Special category– Jess, David, Sam, Mark, Elizabeth, Josh, Jeremy, Wendy, Buffy, Wendy, MCat, Kim, Regina, Ginnie. Hearts.

Hope you enjoyed the list!  This is waaayyyy longer than it needed to be but I had fun.  Who would you add?  Take away?

“Nice to meet you…Where you been?…I could show you incredible things”

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

8 Replies to “”

  1. I think that what the Chief, Sherry and Ken were able to do during the mall tragedy was to humanize the response. I believe that they truly felt what we as citizens were feeling, and they were present and available for the community. I have said for a long time that we are blessed and lucky to have such dedicated public service personnel in this county. Thanks for this look at some of the amazing folks we have making a difference in little ‘ole Howard County.

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