I’ve got so much love; Got so much patience

I’ve learned from the pain; I turned out amazing

I’ve loved and I’ve lost; But that’s not what I see

‘Cause look what I’ve found; Ain’t no need for searching

And for that, I’ll say:

Thank you, next.- Ariana Grande, Thank you, next


Did you miss me? I can’t promise I’ll write regularly but I’m back for a minute to post my 2018 Most Fascinating of Howard County List. Also, I co-host a podcast now with Tom, so if you haven’t heard of it (WHAT?!), check out Elevate Maryland. Lots of opinions and great interviews with fascinating people from around the state.

This year was pretty darn good. Not perfect (life never is) but as Big Sean says, “…way up I feel blessed”. 2018 = new job and career focus/opportunities, 16/1 (if you have to ask go view my FB posts from March 16th and 17th), a November reconnection, a #1 slot in the primary, big election wins (so proud of many people!), the end of Lyme meds (pray for a lady that this is forever), true support for my “hobby”, some special family time, new friendships, old friendships, lost friendships (necessary), a vacation for the first time without the kid, and one super kid who made her transition to college with grace, class, and hard work. (There’s probably more but those are pretty darn good.)

There were also some challenges. The biggest one was in my professional life but I grew (still growing) and learned a lot about grace under pressure.   

Here’s the list! And as I say every year, this is NOT an endorsement piece. So don’t @ me.  

The History Makers

2018 was a history-making year in Howard County. I am not a public crier but on November 6th, in the back of Kahler Hall at the celebration party, I grabbed my good friend and former boss, Ken Ulman, and wept. Openly. Some may remember that just four years earlier in 2014, I was in that same hall as my heart broke when I watched the results and saw that many of the candidates I supported lost. It felt like someone had died. It hurt. And not only was it a loss of several elections but it meant that I also lost my job. I was a political appointee but worked hard for the people of Howard County. So no matter how many times folks say “people over politics”, that’s not the case most of the time. I could write a novel about that time of my life…but nah. Because look what happened in 2018. History. And so I choose to move “forward” (get it? Forward.).  

County Executive Calvin Ball- So, Calvin has been on this list before. In fact, this is the third time. The first time, I said this about him (courtesy of one of my commenters): ”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).”  The second time I added him to the list because he stood up for what is right after he announced his legislation to support our undocumented community members. This time, he’s included on this particular list for being our first African American County Executive but there’s so much more to this.  In the first few weeks, our new County Executive has shown what it means to be inclusive. To truly embrace what it means to invite all voices to the table. Look at his team. Look at the initiatives he has introduced and championed already (EC!). Look at his transition committee team members. Hell, even look at his social media posts.

This probably comes as no surprise but I believe that if you want to be a top leader in your field and truly change a community, culture, business or the world, you MUST embrace diversity and truly support inclusion. Calvin is doing this. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

State’s Attorney Elect Rich Gibson- Rich was also on this list before. Maybe we’re good at picking winners, friends! Rich came out of nowhere in 2014 when he first ran for State’s Attorney. I thought he had great ideas on how to reshape the office and I knew then that he was a top prosecutor. He lost that race but went back to the toolbox and really reworked his strategy and approach. So when he told me he was running again, I knew he was ready. And he went out there and did the damn thing with a big win and became the first African American State’s Attorney in Howard County.  

Oh, have you heard about his approach and what his history-making win means to him? If not, please listen to this. Inspiring.

 Sheriff Marcus Harris- Ok, so I have to be honest here. I was not sure that Marcus would be our next sheriff. Don’t get me wrong, Marcus is certainly qualified, worked hard during the election, has an excellent vision for the office of the sheriff, and is valued by the community. He was even recruited by some members of the sheriff’s team. I like him. But he was running against the super popular, former police chief Bill McMahon. A police chief who guided the community through some very public, hard times.

Well, my uncertainty was unfounded. And, as my daughter said, “Mama, we have a black sheriff”. #thefirst #rolemodel

Alicia Altamirano- Immigration lawyer and fierce advocate by day. And making history as the first Latina elected to the Democratic Central Committee in her spare time. Alicia and I met casually through a friend during the primary and I should have taken more time to get to know her. Because from the limited knowledge I now have, I really admire Alicia’s commitment to our shared values. 2019 goal- coffee with Alicia.  

Tonya Kennon-  ICYMI somehow, Tonya is the new president of the Howard County Library System and is the first African American to hold the position. Tom and I interviewed Tonya on Elevate and she was just refreshing and on point. Her chat about libraries being community assets and “bumping places” made me think a little differently. Plus she said the movie she was recommending to friends and family members? Black Panther. #wakandaforever

Ainy Haider Shah- You may remember Ainy as the lady who rocked the mic as the MC at the County Executive/County Council Installation. What you may not have known is that Ainy was elected as the first woman president of the Howard County Muslim Council. The first. Not only is Ainy a smart, talented, well connected leader in our community but she is also funny as hell. Ask her to tell you a joke. It will be witty.

Ainy was just accepted into the Emerge Maryland program. I can’t wait to see what she runs for. She has my vote.   

Sabina Taj- No teacher’s endorsement? Darn but ok. No newspaper endorsement? Well, darn but ok. No People’s Voice endorsement? Well, ok. I’ll just work hard as heck, continue to challenge the status quo and stay advocating for ALL children. That was Sabina’s winning playbook. Take note future Board of Education candidates. You can stand up for what is right and win. Oh, and talk about history? In addition to being ridiculously qualified for the position, Sabina made history by becoming the first Asian American woman member of the Board of Education. Yep.  

Gabriel Moreno- I don’t know Gabe that well. Gabe ran and won a seat on the Howard County Democratic Central Committee after grinding hard for values, equity and other candidates. He was positive and worked really hard and a lot of folks took notice. He seemingly came out of nowhere but his paid gig as an immigration attorney should have had him on someone’s radar. He and his wife also have super cute kids. In 2019, I will make an effort to get to know Gabe better.

Oh yeah, Gabe is the first Latino man to be elected to the Central Committee.

Christine Uhlhorn- Ok, so a secret. For some reason, I have always wanted a fire helmet with my name on it. I was not on board the Ulman team yet when senior staff participated in some exercises with the Fire Dept and got their personalized helmet so I never got one. And I’m bitter about it.

I have great respect for firefighters. And I was beyond excited to see that Christine was named the first woman Fire Chief in Howard County history. I don’t know Christine but I love what my friend and former Chief, John Butler said about her in the Baltimore Sun: “Christine was a role model and held her own at the table,” Butler said. “She has and had a voice and often spoke for those who were apprehensive to speak out loud.” She happens to also be a single mom. So, yep, badass.

I still want my helmet. Help me out, Christine.  

Mavis Ellis– Back in 2015, now retired teacher Karen Randall called me and said, “I have someone who you need to meet. She needs to run for the Board of Education.”  About a month later I hosted a meeting at my house and met, Ms. Mavis Ellis. I’ve written about Mavis before. I admire her as a strong, behind the scenes leader who stands up for what’s right. Her level of experience as an educator and advocate is unparalleled. What I learned back in 2015, after licking envelopes at my dining room table, is that she’s not the political type. She just wants to do what is best for kids. And I’m so proud that she’s the first African American woman chair of the Board of Education.

HoCo Forward Team– Whole team. That has to be history.   

Jenny Park- I don’t Jenny but I do know that she was elected as the first Korean American elected official when elected to the Republican Central Committee so she belongs on this list. I tried to find more information about Ms. Park online but I didn’t see anything else. But I’m curious. Coffee!

The New County Council- Liz Walsh. Opel Jones. Christiana Rigby. Deb Jung. David Yungmann. What can I say about this Council. This impressive bunch are all brand new and none of them have ever been elected to public office. But for some reason, I feel really good about what they can do. We have some real challenges in the County: APFO, crowded schools, homelessness, the opportunity gap, poverty, de facto segregation, hate crimes, etc but our newly elected Council members are super smart and know our community (three of them are from Howard County. That has to be a first, right?!). I think they’re going to be innovative in their approach.

I won’t (again) mention my one concern. I’ve said it enough. And I’m going to trust that it gets addressed by this talented group of leaders.   

Special nod to the OGs- Vernon Gray- first African American elected to the County Council, Frank Turner- the first African American male elected to a state delegate position, Vanessa Atterbeary and Terri Hill- the first African American women elected to state delegate positions, Clarence Lam- the first Asian American male elected to a state delegate position, and Sydney Cousin- the first African American Superintendent. I may have forgotten someone…please remind me in the comments.

The Musicians

I am a huge music fan. Picky and a little stuck in my ways but music soothes my soul and makes me happy. And live music? The best. Here are a few local musicians who rock.

Richard McCready– I don’t know Richard well though his wife and I run in some of the same circles. I’ve met him once or twice in my previous role with Howard County Government. But I do know this…Richard is known in Howard County for being a music teacher extraordinaire. Every time I turn around, he is being nominated for Music Teacher of the Century! Or best Music Teacher in the Galaxy! Or Music Man Extraordinaire! You can’t help but notice.

On a serious note, his students seem to love him, co-workers seem to admire him, other musicians want to jam with him, and he really does win some dope awards. Keep rockin’, Richard. I see you.   

Gallant- Did you know that a kid from Howard County was nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Urban Contemporary Album” in 2017? You may not have heard of Gallant but he is killing it.  His full name is Chris Gallant and he is the insanely talented son of Chris and Lillie Gallant. His debut (DEBUT!!) album, “Ology” was up for the award. I featured him on this list a few years ago and I was bummed I didn’t have the opportunity to see him when he was supposed to open for John Legend at Merriweather (the concert was rescheduled because John wasn’t using the lozenges I sent him) but I really like his music.

Lindsey Jordan- I admit I knew nothing about the ultra talented Ms. Jordan before her mom and I became friends on Facebook. That was in February. And then, all of a sudden, I started reading about Jordan and her band, Snail Mail, everywhere! She’s #3 on Esquire Magazine’s Best Album of 2018 list. The Ellicott City kid is performing at the Met in Philly and the 9:30 Club in DC. She’s in the Wall Street Journal in an article featuring “The Best New Music of 2018”. And she’s 19!

I’m no music critic but here’s what the experts are saying: “A half-generation behind Car Seat Headrest is rock phenom Lindsey Jordan’s Snail Mail. Her clean guitar lines and idiosyncratic vocal phrasing have drawn comparisons to Liz Phair, and her band’s debut album, “Lush” (Matador), touches on confusion and self-doubt with an underlying toughness and preternatural wisdom.” Rock on, kid. You make us all proud in Howard County.

The Women Who Rock

Full disclosure: this list started off with about 75 women and I just don’t have time to write something thoughtful about everyone. I want to but I can’t. Self care folks. Truly the list could have about 5765 women on it and still be incomplete. So, please don’t come for me. Trust me when I say that I know there are so many more women who rock…but here are my six for 2018. (Also, look at some of my lists from previous years. Your favs are there too…)

Laura Johnson– Laura just flies under the radar and gets things done. As the chair of the NAACP Education Committee, Laura has quietly worked to form real partnerships with the HCPSS and has hosted events to help spread the word about the NAACP’s education advocates. During the day, Laura is a Vice President at National Summer Learning Association so she clearly knows her stuff. I look forward to seeing what additional activities and initiatives are introduced to our community due to Laura’s leadership. Remember when I talked about working on our real challenges? Well the opportunity gap is a real one. Thank goodness for people like Laura.  

Jennifer Jones– Jen is the GOAT. I don’t think Jen sleeps. Ever. Jennifer has this quiet yet powerful way about her. She has an MBA and a Law degree but unless you read her resume, you’d never know. She is the new Deputy Chief of Staff for Howard County Government and I know she will do great things because in addition to being incredibly smart (did you see what I wrote above?) she is thoughtful and in the position for the right reason. It’s never about accolades or credit with Jennifer. It’s about doing what’s right. And that’s rare in this day. Thank you for all you do, Jen.

Lena Kennedy- I’ve known Lena for awhile. She’s married to my good friend, Ian. (Ian and I got to do some good stuff together when we worked together in the Ulman Administration.) Lena had her coming our party this year, though. In a big way. Recently she was accepted into the highly competitive Emerge Maryland program, but before that she used her voice to speak up against inequities, whether online (I may have clapped out loud sometimes after reading her words) or in person by testifying in front of the school board or the County Council and Executive. She advocates for what is right and by doing so has ruffled some feathers. But you know what happens when people ruffle feathers? Things change. Thank you, Lena. Continue to use your voice and fingers for good.

Oh, and let us know when you’re ready to set up YOUR BOE campaign team.  

Akbi Syeda Khan Yusufzai– I don’t even know where to start with Akbi but I’ll start with our first meeting. We had a wonderful conversation about the LGBTQ community in Howard County. She encouraged me to try to become a better ally (I’m still a work in progress) and I hopefully gave her a bit of history about the politics of Howard County.

Akbi jumped into the 2018 election cycle like a beast (If you don’t believe me, ask her to see one of her 18338 campaign shirts…) and worked hard to get strong candidates elected. She also writes a fascinating blog that you should check out. You can find it: here.

Jessica Feldmark I feel like Jessica’s contributions to Howard County (and now state) politics completely fly under the radar. Jessica was the special assistant to Councilman Ulman, the Chief of Staff to County Executive Ulman, the current administrator for the County Council, and MD state delegate elect for District 12. Oh and she served on County Executive Calvin Ball’s Administration transition Team. Seriously? If you need to know anything about what’s going on in Howard, you may want to give Jess a buzz. Chances are she’s touched it, advised on it, or developed it herself. Seriously.     

Moms Demand Action- Need something done about gun control? Call the mamas. They advocate on a different level. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for 2019.

Courtney Watson- “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years…” Actually, let’s call this one a comeback. For real. Last time I wrote about Courtney, it was after the 2014 election and I included her in a post with Allan Kittleman. That wasn’t fair. She deserved her own post and so here it is. It takes something special for someone to come back and run again for elected office after a devastating loss. Courtney did that. And won big. I think Courtney will be a fantastic delegate and will champion issues related to girls and women. We need her voice in Annapolis and I’m happy for her.

Oh, and extra bonus points for sticking through difficult conversations with me. That’s between us (and maybe J. Baker) but I do appreciate you for that, C-dub.    

The Youngins

These babies are trying to run things. Actually, they are already running things. And so they deserve a nod.

Milan Reed- My girl. Successfully transitioned to college. Resilient. Thoughtful. Loves all things related to the brain. Threw me for a loop when she chose a college I had never visited, a major that required her to take 18 credit hours as a first semester freshman, and left track behind but she’s ALWAYS done things her way. I’m biased but she’ll change the world. Love you, kid.

Alex Horn– Known in Howard County as Spawn. Super smart wizkid who volunteered to get some good folks elected and then turned right around after the election to testify on school start times. Can’t wait to hear about what he’s going to do next. Run for President or something, Spawn.

Collin Sullivan– Brains behind the HoCo Forward campaign while running his own campaign to be SGA President at UMBC. Tech smarty (although he still owes me a lesson on my giant Ipad). Love his sarcastic personality and I look forward to yelling loudly for him as he crosses the stage in May. We’ve been through some things this past year and Collin’s leadership skills have grown tremendously. I’ve enjoyed watching his growth.

Aidan Hennessy– I don’t know Aidan but I read an interesting article about him in the Flier. The Clarksville Middle student raised over $1000 for Small Miracles, a no-kill animal shelter in Ellicott City. I worked with folks who supported the shelter when I worked for Howard County Government and they have a special place in my “I don’t really do animals” heart. Well done, Aidan.

Felix Facchine– Worked hard and smart as a member of Christiana Rigby’s winning campaign and then hopped on board the #TajTrain and helped with her victory for BOE. Just appointed as Rigby’s district assistant and I think he has a strong future in politics. Plus he graduated from UMBC. #onlythebest

Safa Hira– Pretty sure I could have listed Safa in the history makers category because I believe she made history as the youngest person ever elected to the Central Committee. Amirite? But I’m ok leaving her in this category with the youngins. Safa made her mark in Howard County this year. She worked hard for Team Ball, really helped folks with outreach efforts and educated our community on diversity and inclusion matters. Good work, Safa. Nope. Great work.   

Najee Bailey– Najee is my “son”. Ask his mom, we both claim him. Great district assistant to former Councilman Ball. Check. Current district assistant for Councilman Jones. Check. Elected to the Central Committee with the highest number of votes for a male. Check. NAACP Young intern program graduate. Check. President of Young Democrats. Check. The community loves Najee. And I’m so proud of him.

Honorable mention– Two babies named Whit.

The Mix

Just some random favorites that don’t work in the other categories…

Elevate Maryland and Tom Coale- Gave me my voice back. So had to make the list. Thanks for having my back, partna.  

Cathy Bedolla and Eric Pakulla– Taught me so much about love, grace, resilience, and strength. Love you both.  

Andrew Kanicki- My kid loves Andrew. And I love who/what she loves. Most recently, Andrew helped me out big time when I was sick and was a guest co-host on Elevate Maryland. Before that, though, I was introduced to him when former CE Ulman said, “Meet with this guy about all things Long Reach. He’s good.” And I agree. Andrew speaks truth about challenges and offers solutions. Plus he’s part of a fun group of fellas who I like a lot. I’m not going to tell you what they call themselves. Ask him, though.

Brian Gaylor – I didn’t know anything about this gentleman (I’m allergic to beer…) but a friend of mine brought this to my attention. Brian is the owner of Black Flag Brewing Company and is hosting a Go Fund Me campaign to reduce the debt of HCPSS students who were unable to pay their school lunch debt. To date, he has raised $6464. His goal is to raise $15,000 to make a dent in the $47,000 debt. I know it’s the holiday season and I know many of you are like me and paying tuition for your babies (I know. Super specific. But the struggle is real.) but please donate if you can. And kudos to you, Brian. Thank you for caring. (And thanks Alan for bringing this to my attention.)

Special love to: my family, the Hrabowski’s, the Gladiators, Dylan Goldberg, my supportive UMBC team, and a random new thing.

“Spend more time with my friends; I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’…”

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