Two Maryland counties were recognized for innovative programs to tackle climate change and systemic racism at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference last week.
Charles County and Anne Arundel County received the association’s 2020 County Innovation Award, which is issued to an urban county and a rural county each year.
In Charles County, leaders established the Climate Change Preparedness Program, which includes efforts to identify the impacts of climate change within its geographic boundaries and reduce carbon emissions. The program has also expanded climate-smart decision-making among the county’s workforce and led to some reorganization of county offices.
“Global warming is real. Climate change is real. And government’s response should not be an ideological exercise,” Charles County Commissioners President Reuben B. Collins II (D) said while accepting the award in Ocean City.
Anne Arundel was recognized for its establishment of the Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice in April 2020. The office’s mission is to advocate, educate and implement health equity and racial justice initiatives in Anne Arundel County.
County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) called the county’s health department “a safe place to talk about difficult issues … and take the politics out of it and just get it done.”
Pittman said the county has increasingly turned to the health department to lead on important issues, including opioid intervention, gun violence prevention, and now racism.
“It does really put the issues in a place where science is where we are left, where doctors prescribe medicine, and we have to decide whether to take that medicine,” Pittman said.
Also at the annual conference, Frederick County Executive Jan H. Gardner (D) was recognized with the Marilyn J. Praisner Public Service Award.
Gardner was recognized for contributing to the Frederick community for more than three decades, starting as a parent advocate in the school system in the early 1990s and continuing through her election as the first county executive in Frederick’s history.
Gardner said it was an honor to receive an award named after Praisner, the late Montgomery County councilmember and community advocate.
“She was somebody I really learned a lot from,” Gardner said. “And it really is very special to me to get this award and is named after her.”