“Baby, this is what you came for, Lightning strikes every time she moves. And everybody’s watching her, But she’s looking at you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, oh, oh”- Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna (and Taylor Swift apparently)

Heeeyyyy…I am a bad blogger. There, I’ve confessed. Junior year of high school has me running. As does everything else. That’s my story (this time).  It’s hard out there for a …. (wink).

Anyways… I had to pull out the laptop and hop all over my famous (lol) list. This is a shorter one this year but I had to shotout my Most Fascinating People in Howard County for the third year.

Five things before I get to the list. 1- Fascinating doesn’t necessarily mean popular. Or loved. 2- It’s my list. 3- If your favorite person or thing isn’t on this list, please read my previous blog posts. They may be on one of those. Or not. 🙂 4- I’m just writing what’s on my mind. It may not be gramattically correct. Please don’t be my editor. 5- The song choice is usually one of the top songs for the year.  This year I went with the number 5 pick. A gem by Calvin Harris. Because I just couldn’t go with a Bieber song. And I gave Taylor the shotout for my friend, Sam O’Neil. Taylor is her fav. Ask her about that.

So here we go:

Main Street, Elliott City

If you don’t know why I’ve listed Main Street, allow me to explain. One summer day in July, 6.5 inches of rain fell in the span of two hours and caused a freakish flash flood that washed away businesses, homes, cars, and, sadly, people. The footage from the storm is actually painful to watch. Painful. Like, you’ll cry.  But, if you’re like me, after you wipe away the tears and check out how the community came together and rallied to support Main Street, you’ll feel good. Real good.  I’ll admit that I’m not expert on all things Main Street but everyone, including me, who followed this story felt #ECStrong. Now head down there and buy some post holiday presents or grab a meal. My favorite place? Pure Wine Cafe (Sidebar- Pure Wine Cafe was founded by PJ Strain, who went to my alma mater, Trinity School. So I’m winning all around when I go there…).

Bonnie Bricker

I met Bonnie a few years ago to talk about her work with children and her book, Zoom Out Parenting: The Big Picture Approach to Raising Children.  We had a great meeting and made some mutual connections but nothing came of it then.

Since that meeting, Bonnie launched a FB page called HOCO School Interest.  And it took off like crazy. Go join the conversation. Seriously.

Her words about the page:

“Our goal is the best education for our students here in Howard County. That takes knowledge. Persistence. Courage. And-Listening to each other. Members are free to post high-quality articles about education policy as well as programs. Information and articles about HCPSS can be shared here. Our members are parents, students, teachers, administrators and Central Office staff as well as Board of Education members and other local politicians. We will treat each other with respect. NO personal attacks and we’ll try to subdue our snark a bit, too. If those restrictions don’t work for you, then this is not your group.”

My words about the page:

HOCO Interest has helped shape the conversation about K-12 education in Howard County.

Need to learn more about the diversity coordinator (wink)? Post there.  Have an opinion about school start times? Speak your mind.  Pissed about the amount of homework your 5th grader has? Type away.

I don’t always agree with the opinions on there, in fact, many times I disagree, but I can’t deny using that page as a resource, guide, and testing ground for ideas.  Even if folks can get a little harsh sometimes.

Howard County voters

You think I’m going to talk about the Presidential Election, don’t you? Nope. Except to say, we did our part. (smirk)

What I’m talking about is the local stuff. The Board of Education election.  Soon after the election, I tweeted something like…If you don’t think constituent services matter, you are sadly mistaken (or something like that). Anyways, my point was (and is) to highlight the importance of listening to constituents. Because if you don’t, they will vote you out office. After frustrations related to transparency, community relations, and accountability, the Howard County voters spoke loud and clear in the 2016 Board of Ed election.

Last year, I wrote this about the (then) four challengers- Coombs, Ellis, Ponnuri, Miller-

“These four individuals are running for the board of education…and I’m not positive but I would guess that they made this huge decision to run for elected office after witnessing the current, very public education challenges in Howard County. I’ve either read about or talked with each of them re: their priorities for our school system and I think they are right on point.  Now can they beat any of the incumbents?  Only time will tell. #payattentionhoco #thisisasimportantasthepresidentialelection #yesseriously”

Hmmm. #listenandact

Councilpersons Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa

This may seem lazy but I’ve just got two words (and then ask you to read the link for more information): SANCTUARY COUNTY.

https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/olis/PrefiledLegislation.aspx (CB9-2017)

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Local folks have a love/hate thing with Merriweather. People who love it appreciate the fact that we have an award winning arts concert venue in downtown Columbia.  And those who hate it complain about noise. And “those” concert goers. Which is funny because 1- Merriweather predates a lot of stuff. And people. And organizations. And 2- No diss but you moved next to a concert venue.

Well, in 2016, those who love it…well, won. At the end of November, the Merriweather advocates (including my fierce, bearded friend, Ian Kennedy) got an early holiday present when ownership of the venue was transferred from the Howard Hughes Corporation to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. The transfer, which was approved by the Howard County Council, supports additional community programming, a parking garage!, additional development in downtown, and so much more.  All good.

(Sidebar- Can you figure out how I feel about Merriweather? #gem)

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-ho-cf-merriweather-transfers-1208-20161130-story.html

Now all they need to do to get my official stamp of approval is to bring John Legend back. (And yes, I know I talk about his music all of the time. #haters)

Opel Jones

I met Opel back in 2014 when he was president of Alpha Phi Alpha and I was president of the African American Community Roundtable. I was impressed by his commitment to our community (that’s always huge in my book) and his dedication to his family and friends (also huge in my book. Bonus- his wife is awesome.).  Soon after meeting, he was appointed to be a member of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee and his commitment to Howard County became even more clear as he began to advocate and fight for things we hold dear in this county- inclusion, equity, education-our values. And he’s done that as both a Central Committee member and a Human Rights Commissioner.

Can’t wait to see what Opel does next in Howard County (wink, wink).

 

Deeba Jafri and Tina Sheets Horn

I love rabble rousers. Especially when they’re women.

I love people who speak up and say something. Those who don’t remain silent in the face of injustice and hate.

I love people who look at an issue or challenge and say- the status quo is not good enough.

I love Deeba and Tina. Well…love is a strong word and I don’t say it lightly..especially about people I barely know so…I really like these ladies.

Deeba. I admire Deeba for standing up and refusing to be silent about the effect that racist rhetoric and hate speech has on our children and our community.  It’s not easy to stand up in front of hundreds of people and speak (extemporaneously!) with raw emotion. And it’s even harder to do when someone is attempting to silence your voice.  And Deeba did. Twice.

Tina. Tina is one of the fiercest Black Lives Matter advocates out there.  You know those monthly vigils that take place on the corner of Governor Warfield and Windstream? That’s Tina. You know the Black Lives Matter- Columbia, MD advocacy group? That’s Tina. Follow her on Twitter if you don’t believe me. Tina stands up for those who have been marginalized and for those who need an ally. And pretty much everyone else in between.

Thank you Deeba and Tina. There are no words to articulate how much your advocacy means to me. #morevoices

Sheriff McMahon

A couple of years ago, the Chief…err Sheriff.. was on this list for his leadership after the Columbia Mall shooting.  I try not to repeat on this list but this is noteworthy.  If anyone can help change the negative image and horrible reputation of the Howard County Sheriff’s office, Chief McMahon can. He is simply one of the best.

Gallant

Did you know that a kid from Howard County has been nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Urban Contemporary Album”? Yeah, me neither. Well, until recently.

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” is up for the award.  He also is touring in Europe and performed at the Library of Congress’ tribute to Smokey Robinson.

The fella can sinnnnggg.  Check out the Grammys on February 12th. And root for the hometown guy for the W.

“Baby, this is what you came for…Lightning strikes every time she moves…And everybody’s watching her…But she’s looking at you…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Allow me to re-introduce myself…”- Public Service Announcement, Jay-Z

My first blog post. Numero uno! Appreciate all of the support as I look to find my voice in the blogosphere (is that a word?)… Not sure what I’m going to regularly write about but this was on my mind…

Today is technically my last day with Howard County Government. Less than one month after the famous (or infamous?) 2014 Gubernatorial Election. “It’s politics…” I get it. I know. If you’re a Republican, I guess? you can’t have the person who garnered 10,897 votes to win a seat on the Democratic Central Committee in your cabinet. (Sidebar- still proud about every last one of those 10,897 votes. Thanks again, Howard County.)

So yeah, “it’s politics…”

My love for this community, and the work I was able to do over the last seven years, though, is more than just politics. I helped people (my people as I called them), regardless of their political party…their skin color, who they love, or how much money they happen to have in their bank account. Constituent services.

Yes, I belong to a certain party but, you see, for me, it was bigger than my party. The lady who called me because she couldn’t feed her kids, didn’t care about what party I belonged to. The community members who met me at their home in Jessup back in 2008 to address some serious, serious police related matters, could care less about who I vote for. And my friends in the trailer park on Route 1, who couldn’t get BGE (or anyone) to call them back to address the numerous downed wires that their kids were tripping over, didn’t care either. They just wanted me to help them.

(Note for the new constituent service folks in HoGo Government…It’s helpful to meet people onsite because I believe you meet people where they are so you can understand their perspective.)

Those are just a few examples of the “smaller” things. There are always potholes to fill, traffic calming techniques to work through, sidewalks to install, “crime” challenges to address, and community meetings to attend.

And then there was the bigger stuff too.

I have had the pleasure of working through challenges with the purchase of the Long Reach Village Center, community concern about a safe house off of Route 29, and the turf field installation process at Glenelg High School. And that’s just in the past two months.

I’ve learned about mulch, sewers, fields, septic tanks, libraries, parkland, and where your water goes when you flush the toilet (go visit the wastewater treatment plant. It’s awesome.)

And constituent services was just a portion of my job.

I’ve been on a few police ride-a-longs, advocated for nonprofits, worked on budgets, sat in some SERIOUS OEM briefings, and staffed one of the most prolific and innovative elected officials in the history of our great state (I know I’m biased..whatevs. Ken Ulman is wonderful.) Honestly, I could go on and on and write a book with all of the stories I have.

My amazing colleagues and I have served in snowstorms, hurricanes, a derecho (I’m still not sure what that is..), an earthquake!, and major flooding. I have slept on my office floor (ask me about that one day..funny, funny story), in the Emergency Operations Center, and in the Jim Robey Training Center. We have delivered food to people in need and set up water buffaloes for folks without power.

We shed tears with our community after a mall shooting, a tragic train derailment, bullying incidents, and many other situations that don’t make the papers.

And we did this together….most of the time while our loved ones waited (worried!) for us at home.

“Now before I finish, let me just say…I did not come here to show out…Did not come here to [try to] impress you…”

Thank you, Ken, for the opportunity to serve this great county. It’s been an honor. Councilpersons Ball, Fox, Sigaty, Terrasa, and Watson, it’s been a pleasure working with you and your teams on the complex… and the ordinary. Howard County Government colleagues, I love you. Thank you for teaching me everything I know about our great county.  Community, let’s work together to remain as one of the “top 10 places to live”in this country.

Change is good…yes, I know. And trust that I will put just as much energy and effort into whatever I do next!  But, for now, I will miss serving constituents in Howard County.

I will likely always have a D after my name.  When it comes to serving my community, though, it’s really not just politics.

It’s been real.

“Now back to our regularly scheduled program….”