From Upper Marlboro to Towson and points in between, five holdover county executives began their second terms Monday with promises to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, build on their counties’ strengths, and seize on the opportunities presented by unprecedented federal largesse heading their way.
While Harford and Frederick counties saw new county executives take over, in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s, Democratic county executives were sworn in for their second terms, along with the new county councils they’ll work with.
As a public service, Maryland Matters is providing the Inauguration Day speeches of Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr., Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks as prepared for delivery. The speeches were provided by the executives’ respective offices.
Anne Arundel: ‘We really can bend the arc of history toward justice,’ Pittman says
I will begin by recognizing and thanking some very special people, starting with the person who tunes my moral compass and grounds me every day, my wife Erin.
To my sons Sam and Drew, my daughter Jesse, my mother, my five sisters, my brother, and my father, who is looking down from heaven approving the fact that we are outside in the cold roughing it today, I say thank you.
I also want to thank and recognize my work family, the extraordinary, battle tested, hard-working public servants — in my office, leading county agencies, and throughout county government. You and the work that you do was on the ballot in last month’s election, and you won. Congratulations.
I thank and recognize every candidate for public office who sought to serve in the November election, and to those who came out ahead and will be inaugurated today or in the coming weeks, I look forward to being your ally in service to the people, regardless of the district you represent, or your party affiliation.
I particularly want to recognize Pete Smith, Allison Pickard, Nathan Volke, Julie Hummer, Amanda Fiedler, Lisa Rodvien, and Shannon Leadbetter, the Anne Arundel County Council that will be sworn in this afternoon. Once again the voters of this county chose to be represented by diverse political viewpoints and a supermajority of women. I believe that the voters chose well, and I look forward to working with each one of you.
And finally, I want to thank and recognize you, the taxpayers, the voters, the residents. The business owners, the workers, the renters, the homeowners. The communities that make up our county, whether defined by neighborhood or by common interest.
I want to thank you for doing what I asked you to do in this speech four years ago. You organized and you engaged with your government, at our town halls, through our online portals, and at the polls. I always say that the hard stuff only gets done with community engagement, and during the last four years you engaged, and we got hard stuff done.
On Dec. 3, 2018, I stood before you at Maryland Hall and laid out what the Capital Gazette described as an ambitious agenda. It was hard stuff, and we did it. All of it, and more.
We created a smarter, greener, more equitable 20-year development plan, and we brought back the community-based planning process that empowers our residents.
We delivered the pay, the staffing levels, and the equipment that our public safety agencies had been going without for far too long.
We restored those eight years of back step increases to our school staff, added over 500 new teachers, and fully funded our school construction program.
We did those 200 town halls, including seven each year on the budget, and we created the open data portal through which you can monitor the performance of every county department and map what we’re doing in your neighborhood.
We passed the fair housing bill and the workforce housing bill, and we created the Housing Trust Fund.
We confronted racism and we created tools to overcome it — our new offices of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; and Health Equity and Racial Justice.
We passed forest conservation, the Green Infrastructure Master Plan, the styrofoam ban, the first county-wide no discharge zone, and we stopped ignoring the environmental laws in our code.
We not only created the nation’s first independent Resilience Authority to address the impacts of climate change, but we funded it, staffed it, and put it to work.
We acquired land and made it available for public use at Quiet Waters, Forney, Deale, Tanyard Springs, and the 544-acre green heart at the center of our county where we gather today to heal.
We did all of these hard things and many many more in a fiscally responsible way. We took advantage of federal support and a strong economy to protect ourselves from future economic challenges. Our rewards were the county’s first-ever AAA bond rating from Moody’s, and a crowning final budget that earned nearly unanimous support on the County Council from both political parties.
All of us who made these things happen have every right to celebrate success.
But now, let’s take a much-needed pause, set aside our pride, our politics, and even our self-interest, and take a hard look at our moment in history.
Our county is a microcosm of America, politically and demographically, and more than ever, the threats we face are threats to all of humanity — climate change, pandemic, war, greed, intolerance, and concentration of wealth.
It’s easy to lose hope when faced with these challenges, but perspective helps. That’s why not long before he died, I asked my dad if he was optimistic about the future of humanity.
He’d lived through the Great Depression and World War II, worked on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, and was President Kennedy’s director of civil defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
My father’s answer was that amidst our cycles of crisis and progress is a slow evolution toward common purpose, toward a more humanitarian humanity. He was optimistic.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it more clearly. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Let’s assume they’re both right. Let’s proceed with faith that we will come together, we will achieve peace, and we will take better care of one another.
If we have that faith, it’s a simple step to put ourselves at the front of that evolution and take responsibility for bending that arc. Doing so gives us the purpose we all seek in our lives. It inspires us.
So here we stand in the geographic center of Anne Arundel County on ground and amidst trees that saw a recent cycle of history in which human beings created an institution where those of a different skin color, those left out of economic prosperity, those who behaved in ways that made others uncomfortable were kept apart, drugged, and experimented on.
The state of Maryland took pride in its progress. Those people were allowed to live, they reasoned, and some were offered treatment, but very few were healed, and thousands were buried in unmarked graves at the end of Farm Road on the other side of what is now I-97.
Only this past summer did volunteers review death records of 1,772 African American Crownsville patients who were buried here. I visited those volunteers as they worked at the Maryland Archives and looked over the shoulder of one at the record on her screen. The cause of death was listed. It was strangulation.
I promised in my inaugural speech four years ago to begin the process of acquiring this land and its buildings from the state of Maryland so that the people of Anne Arundel County could, and I quote,“transform this tainted jewel at the heart of our county into a place where healing happens through the powerful medicine of nature.”
We are here today standing upon this ground because today it is ours, and today we begin that healing.
Today, in this place, we launch Crownsville Hospital Memorial Park, and its campus for the community-based nonprofit organizations that so effectively deliver behavioral health services, food assistance, job training, and anything and everything that promotes the social determinants of good health.
Today, in this place, we accept the facts presented in the recently published report called Poverty Amidst Plenty, about the extraordinary movement of wealth in our county to the top end of our economic scale while one third of our families live paycheck to paycheck, unable to save for the next pandemic or economic downturn because the cost of housing, child care, transportation, food, health care, insurance, and clothes is at or above take-home pay.
Today, in this place, we lock arms with our new Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell and our Board of Education and commit to livable wages for ALL AACPS employees so that we can fully staff our schools and provide ALL kids with the education that will prepare them for college or career upon graduation.
We commit today that our Police Department, our Fire Department, our State’s Attorney, our Sheriffs, our Office of Emergency Management, and our Department of Health will not rest until gun violence is a rare occurrence in our county.
We commit to eradicating the racism and hate crimes that divide and hold back our workplaces and communities.
We commit to housing our people at all ages and income levels in livable, affordable homes.
We commit to increasing our rates of kindergarten readiness for children of all backgrounds, with universal access to childcare and pre-k, and expanded programming at our libraries.
Today, in this place, we commit to implementing our Green Infrastructure Master Plan, forever protecting 30% of our county land by the year 2030.
We commit to purchasing or producing from renewable sources all county government power by 2030, transforming the county fleet to electric, and creating the infrastructure for a renewable energy future.
We commit to making it easier to do business in this county, by streamlining permitting processes, delivering an educated workforce, and building a 21st century multimodal transportation system.
And today, in this place, we commit to making county government more efficient, more effective, more transparent, and more connected to the communities it serves.
That’s a lot of promises, I know. But I want to close by telling you why it’s possible.
COVID made us stronger, despite having divided us and having taken the lives of 1,197 of our neighbors. We saw the food distribution lines and learned that our neighbors are vulnerable. We were isolated and learned to communicate in more effective ways. We needed county government to act with urgency, and we proved that we could.
Political threats to the institutions of government showed us what we have to lose. Some may still believe conspiracy theories, but both our town halls and our elections have demonstrated that most people don’t want to shrink or attack our government. They just want it to work better.
Here in Anne Arundel County we have an alignment of values and priorities with our outstanding delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, our responsive and forward-thinking congressional delegation, and starting on Jan. 18, a governor whose mother lives in Pasadena and whose commitment to all of us is Leave No One Behind.
Leave No One Behind. To the forgotten souls of Crownsville, those four words have come too late. But to those of us who stand here in their presence, those four words inspire action.
So yes, our brilliant, dedicated, battle-tested public servants, and our passionate, engaged, and battle-tested communities can deliver on these promises.
By placing ourselves in our history as we have done today, and choosing to follow our fundamental instinct to care for one another in recovery, all of us really can heal. We really can bend the arc of history toward justice. We really can become a more humanitarian humanity.
Or, as our signs say at every road entering this land, Anne Arundel County really can become The Best Place — For All.
Baltimore County: ‘We have an opportunity to be where we always should have been.’ Olszewski says.
What a blessing that we get to share in this moment together and I am honored to be here with all of you.
Thank you, to all our amazing performers; please join me in acknowledging them and the talents they are sharing with us all today.
Thank you to President Kent Devereaux and to Goucher College for hosting today’s ceremonies. I am very proud to return to my alma mater for today’s swearing in. It is especially meaningful to be standing on this stage.
One of the first occasions I had to provide remarks from this very spot was nearly 20 years ago as an undergraduate. Not too long after, I received an email from another student sharing that they enjoyed the remarks — coupled with a reminder to stand up straight. That other student is here on this stage with me today and I am so much better because of it. Marisa, nearly 20 years later, you continue to push me to be my best. Thank you for being a copilot on this journey and for all of the ways that you inspire me as a husband, as a father and a best friend. I am better at all of those jobs, and this one, because I always have you standing — up straight — alongside me.
To our adventurous, creative and kind daughter Daria: we love you so very much. You remain my source of inspiration every single moment of every single day. Thank you for being a constant reminder of why we need to keep fighting every day to build a better future for children just like you.
I would also like to thank all members of my immediate and extended family, including those here with us, for your unconditional love and support.
I also want to recognize all the members of our Baltimore County team here today. You all have become extended family, too. Thank you to our Administrative Officer, our department heads, executive office staff and to every single Baltimore County employee. These last four years have brought challenges none of us could ever have predicted, but through it all, you all never wavered in your dedication and devotion to your work and to our residents. Every community across our great County is better off today thanks to your service.
I must also thank and acknowledge my colleagues in elected office: our Councilmembers, Judges and members of the Courthouse Team, Board of Education members and everyone else here with me today. I look forward to serving together in the years ahead. We may represent different branches of government, hold different beliefs, or even belong to different parties, but we are all bound by a common call to serve and by a shared commitment to delivering a better future.
But most of all, I want to thank the people of this great county for the remarkable opportunity to continue serving as your county executive.
Four years ago, you put your trust in me to lead based on a series of promises. Together, we embarked on a journey to build a better Baltimore County and to usher in a new era of leadership. One that has embraced data-driven governance to deliver high quality, 21st century services to every neighborhood, not just a few. A journey that is removing the stain of corruption first enabled by Spiro Agnew half a century ago, and which is transforming Baltimore County into a model of open, accountable and accessible government. A journey that is re-envisioning how we operate by embedding the values of mutual trust, respect and honesty into the bedrock of our government — because we know they are fundamental pillars for our shared and sustained success.
It has already been quite the journey and one that has required all hands on deck. Whether you were among those instrumental in helping us first get here, or one of the growing number of those who have joined us along the way, Baltimore County is better, because of what we have all created together.
Our successes have been powered by our inclusive philosophy and in the many ways you have embraced it; not just cheering what we have done well, but also driving us to be even better where we may have fallen short.
Because of you, we have invested more in public education than ever before. We have created the most transparent, accessible and engaged government in our history. We have holistically invested in public safety and, as a result, made our neighborhoods safer. We have instilled the principles of equity and sustainability into the culture of Baltimore County. We have built the most diverse administration in our county’s history, and we have fundamentally changed the relationship between our government and the people it serves.
But we’re not done yet.
I am humbled to have the opportunity to continue serving as your county executive. It is a validation of the work we have done and the progress we have made together. It is a challenge for each of us to be and do even better in the years ahead. Four years ago, I stood before you to declare that we could overcome any challenge, both the expected and the unforeseen, as long as we did it together. That is exactly what we did — although the circumstances we faced were far more challenging than what any of us could have ever imagined.
We always knew what we aimed to accomplish was going to be daunting. That was before we discovered an $81 million deficit literally buried in budget documents as a footnote; the kind of fiscal shortsightedness and the very culture of mistrust we sought to eliminate. And it was before COVID-19 swept through our communities, leaving devastation in its wake.
In the face of these crises, we did not shy away from what was hard. Instead, we worked in partnership with our residents to make the difficult choices necessary to not only carry us forward, but to make us stronger on the other side. Together, we did what many said was impossible, tackling a structural deficit that was holding us back, so that we could make record investments in education, recreation and so many other areas important to our communities. Together, we delivered what was widely recognized as one of the best responses in the state to one of the worst crises of our lifetimes.
Despite all we faced, COVID-19 in some ways showed that we were capable of achieving even more than we first aimed to accomplish. Now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do more than recover to where we were. We have an opportunity to be where we always should have been.
We always knew that the type of generational change we envisioned and have been fighting for would take more than four years. Because as good as we are now, with all that we have accomplished, we still have more work to do to in order to live up to our fullest potential as a place where every family can find an attainable place to call home in a neighborhood they feel safe. A place where every child, regardless of their ZIP code, can attend a world-class public school and go on to build the career of their dreams. A place that respects our rich agricultural legacy while keeping our eye towards the future; promoting ongoing economic revitalization and environmental sustainability.
It is with remarkable pride in all we have already achieved and an unrelenting optimism in that vision for the future, that we now continue our work to reimagine what is possible.
I will always believe that we have not just a legal obligation, but also a moral imperative to expand economic opportunity, improve equity and make sure that every family can find a safe place to call home in Baltimore County.
There have been a lot of “first-evers” in our administration, but I will forever be proud that, in the midst of a global pandemic that reminded us all just how fragile housing can be, we established the county’s first dedicated Department of Housing and Community Development. This new department is now uniquely situated to both address historical inequities and foster more inclusive communities.
Baltimore County entered into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with HUD that requires us to build 1,000 new affordable units across the county by 2028. We are well on our way and we will meet this goal, but fulfilling this obligation should be the baseline from where we start the conversation about attainable housing opportunities — not the end of our journey. Too many among us simply cannot access safe, affordable housing for themselves and their families in thriving communities near where they work and attend school. Therefore, as we move forward together, we need to think more broadly to truly meet the housing needs of all our residents.
The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Baltimore County is approximately $1,400 a month — more than what two adults working full time at the current minimum wage can reasonably afford. Meanwhile, median rent rose nearly 18% during the pandemic’s peak—and showing few signs of slowing down. Home prices in our region have risen nearly five percent in the last quarter alone, 14% the last year and a staggering 35% over the last five years, keeping the American dream out of reach for far too many residents. We have to do more and we will.
In the coming weeks, we will introduce a foundational legislative package of housing and revitalization reforms — the first of multiple initiatives — that together will realize a bold and broad vision to address key gaps in our housing continuum, from preventing homelessness, to expanding opportunities for low-income families, to strengthening pathways to homeownership and support investments in our existing communities.
We know that a multitude of challenges remain ahead of us, from supply chain issues, to the costs of acquisition to NIMBY-ism. To continue Baltimore County’s rise above the past — and away from the unfortunate issues caused from historic redlining and housing segregation — we must make it a government-wide imperative to transform Baltimore County into a model of inclusive redevelopment and growth. This will require creativity, flexibility, collaboration and maybe even a few battles along the way. But we know those are the ones worth having.
We also recognize that housing does not exist in a vacuum. It is a foundational building block that empowers our residents to access everything Baltimore County has to offer. No matter how affordable, housing remains unattainable without a reliable, good-paying job.
Growing up in the shadow of a steel mill, I had a front row seat to the shockwaves caused by the demise of Sparrows Point’s mill, but I have also seen firsthand how employment anchors like Tradepoint Atlantic are transforming our local economy. Working together, we have created tens of thousands of jobs across a wide range of entry points. I am thankful for the partnership of all of Baltimore County’s anchor institutions and job centers with whom we will continue to provide opportunities for our families.
Building a strong, resilient workforce is about more than just job creation. It requires us to break down barriers that far too often keep someone from pursuing their dreams. If a person can find a good job but has no way to get there every day, it does not do them any good. If a parent cannot find affordable childcare that enables them to go to work, they will never be able to get ahead. If a new company comes to town with exciting new job opportunities, but a resident cannot afford the training they need to land a job, they will be left behind.
Government has the opportunity and a responsibility to help our residents overcome these obstacles. Every dollar we invest in a job is a dollar invested in the future of our neighborhoods. That is why we have taken common sense steps like freezing tuition at the Community College of Baltimore County and expanding eligibility for the County’s College Promise scholarship program.
In the years ahead, we are going to build on this foundation, creating innovative programs that allow everyone to access career training opportunities. In the coming weeks, we are set to announce an exciting new pilot focused on doing just that. As we move forward, our administration is going to continue making investments in our people and our infrastructure to strengthen pathways into good jobs while also meeting the needs of our employers. Direct investments in our people improves lives and strengthens our communities in ways that benefit us all. So too do investments in our physical infrastructure.
Our county has grown significantly in recent decades and our infrastructure has been showing some signs of its age. With more than 850,000 residents, we must have modern, efficient infrastructure to best meet their diverse needs. The institutions that keep our neighborhoods safe, like police stations and firehouses, require significant investments to ensure they are equipped to address the needs of the communities they serve as well as the people who work inside of them. The school buildings where we educate our children must be modern, safe and equipped to meet the needs of families from every walk of life. The parks where our families play and recreate should have the amenities that will draw people to them, encouraging active lifestyles and healthy communities. I am incredibly proud that we have invested record amounts in our school buildings and recreational assets.
We will not stop until every community has a world-class school building and park facilities that meet their needs. In the coming years, we will continue investing heavily in our capital infrastructure to ensure we are prepared to meet the evolving needs of our growing county.
Through all this work, we will never lose sight of our commitments to equity and sustainability. These two foundational values are the lens through which we view every decision, because they make our decisions better. By focusing on equity, we chip away at longstanding injustices that plague our communities. By keeping sustainability at the forefront, we ensure a more livable future. From Randallstown to Rocky Point, we remain committed to building more equitable, sustainable communities that our children will be proud to call home.
Over the past four years, we have come together and surprised a lot of people. When we first began our improbable journey to seek this office, we were told by a chorus of naysayers that we did not have a chance. After defying those odds, we were told that what we needed to do simply could not be done in a place like Baltimore County. When the most dangerous public health crisis in a century upended our lives, we again showed that our amazing frontline heroes and our residents were capable of truly incredible and lifesaving work.
Maybe it’s my Dundalk roots, but I’ve learned to never stop rooting for the underdog; you never know when we’re going to surprise you. Every time we have faced the supposedly “impossible,” we found a way to overcome it. We did it through our unwavering belief in each other and the understanding that we are always stronger together.
Considering all that we have accomplished under some of the most challenging of circumstances, I truly believe that the best of Baltimore County is yet to come. Our innovations will not be the result of small thinking or closed circles; but the result of open hearts, open minds and a willingness to embrace the possible — no matter how improbable.
As we begin the next step of our journey, we hope you will continue working with us so we can show Baltimore County, and beyond, what is possible.
Let’s go deliver on the promise of that better future together.
Thank you and God bless.
Howard County: ‘Let us together, in spite of our fear, be bold and be brave’
Thank you for that warm introduction from the first lady — MY first lady, Shani Ball.
Family, friends, neighbors and all who care about the future of our county, our state, our nation, and our world.
We come together tonight during a serious moment in our history, a pivotal moment of new beginnings. Tonight, is not about a victory of a person or a party. Rather tonight, is ceremony. It is a celebration of opportunity.
Congratulations to my councilmembers and colleagues, and to all of our elected officials, including our Central Committee, on your elections and I look forward to our continued collaboration and progress. Please give them all a round of applause.We, united, can embrace the opportunity to boldly face the challenges of today and transform the world of tomorrow into the best embodiment of who we are, who we want to be, and who we can be.
After enduring the shared difficulties of fear, anxiety, discomfort and loss, which culminated in a passionate campaign season, many of us face fatigue. We are fatigued with division and negativity, fatigued with trying and not achieving, fatigued with fear.
Tonight, I’d like to remind you that it’s ok to feel fear, it’s ok to feel anxious, it’s ok to be tired.
As your county executive, I too know that weight of those common difficulties. In recent years, facing those difficulties, together, we:
Invested more in our students and educators, because we understand the opportunity of education.
Prioritized our first responders, because we understand the opportunity of being safe and feeling safe.
Preserved green space and farms and became national environmental leaders because we understand the opportunity of saving our planet for current and future generations.
Broke down barriers in business, entrepreneurship, and homeownership, because we understand the opportunity of an economy where building generational wealth can positively impact the trajectory of a family, neighborhood, our future.
And we were able to responsibly address budgetary deficits and begin to make progress to improve our infrastructure.
We are all blessed to see today. We were not and will not be defined by our fear. Rather, we choose to be defined by our works.
We have, and we can unite around creating the very best place to live, work, play, grow, and grow older for all by:
Innovating in the areas of physical and mental health and wellness, so that we can all live longer, healthier, happier and more active lives;
Expanding apprenticeships, career opportunities, and elevating the entrepreneurs of tomorrow;
Increasing parks, playgrounds, and places where we can connect, laugh, and create;
Becoming more energy independent and making more progress on becoming a national model for flood mitigation and resilience;
Opening more schools and providing the best teaching and learning environment so that our children of all ages and abilities can grow and thrive as adults;
AND creating a community where as we age, we have accessible outdoor spaces and buildings and more efficient transportation options.
The pandemic and the related challenges and common difficulties, in many respects made many of us feel more isolated and alone. However, through technology, we learned we can stay connected; we can carry on business and even make strides in economic development; we can, and we will, make progress.
We will further embrace technology to service our external and our internal customers, ensuring that we do stay connected and that we further erode barriers of time and distance. Allow me to publicly and personally thank everyone who works for Howard County government, because you all make it, so we all look good.
We will go boldly into an innovative era of technology that will help those who work for your government be more supported, more responsive, and become even more data-informed and people driven.
We will efficiently, effectively, and respectfully serve our residents, businesses, and visitors of Howard County.
We are here tonight in the midst of the holiday season — a time of forgiveness, good will, and hope. This is a time for us to reconnect with loved ones, and ourselves.
During this time many of us enjoy or know someone who is enjoying having some turkey. As a boy my father, who was a great cook, taught me about the wishbone in a turkey — a singular bone inside the turkey that two people pull apart, while making a wish. The one with the bigger piece gets their wish. My father and I would pull it apart every time we had a turkey. Over the years sometimes I got the bigger piece and sometimes he did. My wishes would range from great wealth to bigger muscles to height, and I’d like to think maybe even world peace every once in a while.
After many years, I asked my dad what he wished for. He responded that every time we pulled the wishbone apart, he made the same wish, year after year. Curious, I asked him what it was. His reply to me was that I would get my wish. I think that’s a shared wish for all of us parents these days.
My father and my mother taught me many things — my sister and I. The deepest and most enduring are the power of compassion, service, and love…always love.
Let us together embrace, activate, and expand the opportunity in this serious moment in our history.
Let us together, in spite of our fear, be bold and be brave.
I implore you to make the world a better place in the simplest way you can…by following your passion and living your purpose. Finish that degree you were afraid of or too busy to complete. Start that business you know that you can run better that anyone else. And always, share your love with one another.
Let us be more compassionate, more empathetic. Let us be examples of caring that help reignite the flames of hope and healing.
My mom, my beloved mom, who is watching us at home, my dad, and all of our ancestors who are watching us in heaven, my beloved little, big sister Karen, my A-team of the amazing Alexis and Alyssa, and my “day one ride or die” Shani, I want to thank you all for being there always and for so many years and seeing so much potential when the stoop was real, real low.
I pray that as my father, and all of our beloved ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand, continue to wish for us to get our wishes. We united as a community wish and manifest the very best future beyond even what we can imagine for Howard County, our state, our nation, and our world.
God bless Howard County, God bless America, and God bless each and every one of you.
Montgomery County: ‘I recognize I don’t have magical powers,’ Elrich says
Editor’s note: Elrich’s speech followed a performance of the song “This Land is Your Land.”
That song “This land is your land…” written by the legendary Woody Guthrie in the midst of the Great depression, became an anthem to what America could be.
We also made history in the state. I am very excited to work with our Governor-elect Moore, Lt. Governor-elect Miller, Comptroller-elect Lierman, and Attorney General-elect Brown. This is truly a historic slate of leaders who all understand how important Montgomery County’s success and priorities are to the state. I look forward to a great partnership with each of them.
I want to recognize our partners in education — Dr. Monifa McKnight, Dr. Jermaine Williams, and Dr. Anne Khademian. Your leadership is key to keeping Montgomery County’s reputation as the education and workforce capital of our state and region, and I appreciate your Leadership.
Finally, I look forward to working with our state delegation, led by our good friends Senator Ben Kramer and Delegate Julie Palakovich Carr. You have a big job ahead of you, and our county is ready to stand with you to make sure we all succeed.
Please join me in giving all our elected officials and county leaders another round of applause.
Four years ago, when I stood before you, none of us could have predicted that we’d be dealing with a global pandemic, an economic disruption, an attempted insurrection, and so much more. But it was COVID that really changed our lives.
When I saw the images of New York City where body bags of COVID victims were being dragged out of buildings, I was determined that THAT was not going to happen here.
Because of our collective efforts, we succeeded. The county death rate from COVID was only two-thirds of the national average and if the other 3,000 counties in this nation had the same results as us, there would be over 300,000 fewer dead Americans.
Today, we are the most vaccinated large jurisdiction in the nation. And we did that by turning to our community partners, who helped us reach deeper in our communities and enabled us to achieve high rates of vaccination for all our residents.
Our success cannot be credited to any one leader or institution — it was accomplished by our collective and communal response to this unprecedented health threat. I thank the public for following science-based advice; I thank our amazing county workforce that pivoted in a matter of days to mobilize and fight COVID, I thank the doctors, nurses and all health care workers for your selflessness, and I thank our incredible nonprofit partners — many of whom are here today — who were there helping to increase testing, vaccinating, and providing access to food and other necessities for those in need. These collective efforts saved lives.
COVID isn’t gone, but we have far more tools to use if we need them. But there was always a bigger picture and we always knew that every problem that faced us coming into office would still be waiting for us when we emerged from the worst of covid. So while we were focused on public health, we did not let it deter us from working to move this county forward.
- We established our county’s first office of Racial Equity & Social Justice and appointed our first Chief Equity Officer.
- We passed an ambitious plan to address climate change
- We rightsized our budget, going from a $90 million deficit my first year in office to a surplus four years later.
- We made historic investments in educational funding, housing, early childhood education and in transportation. And I look forward to working with Gov. Moore who reiterated again this week that he wants to accelerate the expansion of early childhood education
- We pivoted service delivery to increase collaboration with community partners.
- We made sure county employees were fairly compensated
- We worked with our business community to eliminate unnecessary regulations and sped up the permitting process
- We built the county’s first year-round homeless shelter because we decided that when our temporary shelters closed we were not putting people back on the streets
- We worked with police and the community to begin reimagining public safety — providing more transparency and accountability — and increasing resources and pay
- We maintained our AAA bond rating
And we did all of this — without increasing taxes.
The county has taken on big projects: starting Bus Rapid Transit, making county properties available for new affordable housing and starting up a new Montgomery College Campus in East County.
And a couple of weeks ago, we announced a new partnership with the University Maryland system to create an Institute for Health Computing in North Bethesda — which the dean of the University Medical System said would make us the Silicon Valley of health computing,
This initiative will provide leading edge computing, data visualization and AI research along with talent from the University system and population data from the University of Maryland Medical System.
With our proximity to federal research institutions, a trained workforce, and an ecosystem of booming life science and advanced computing companies, something very important and special will grow here.
We are changing the narrative about the economic future of this county from pessimism to optimism.
Too often, we can be our own worst enemy and allow well-funded political forces to dictate a manufactured, false, and negative narrative about this county and our government.
But the stars are now aligning for a renaissance in our economy built on the foundation that this county has always been known for — a robust education system with a highly educated and trained workforce.
When 75% of voters this November voted to reelect me, they sent with them a message that they want to continue the progress we have made together, and I am focused on delivering on this promise.
We are, no doubt, one of the best places to live, work, and raise a family, yet we face serious challenges. Our challenge, in the broadest sense, is to build one county for all of us, where our fates are not determined by our zip codes.
So, I want to address four big challenges.
Affordable housing stands as one of our greatest challenges. We are at a tipping point, and Montgomery County has spent too long in fantasyland when it comes to solving this problem. In the mid-seventies, we launched what was then a signature housing program, Moderately Priced Dwelling Units. This program was designed to serve the teachers, firefighters and police officers who had a hard time finding housing affordable to them. At the time, our county was 95% white, 4.5% Black and .5% other. That’s not Montgomery County now and tens of thousands of people today struggle to find housing at lower incomes than MPDU’s serve.
Our non-profits can’t produce enough units to meet our needs. Our MPDU program — which requires developers to provide only 12.5% to 15% of the units they build to be affordable. However, we have tens of thousands of households who are severely rent-burdened — paying 50% or more of their income for rents, for whom nothing is being built, and the future projections of who will move here actually make the numbers much worse. Current policies won’t create the housing we need, and the math simply doesn’t work — getting 15% of new market units as affordable doesn’t come close to meeting existing and projected needs. Like over 50,000 units of not close.
Reaganesque trickle-down economics suggests that just building more market housing will solve the affordable housing crisis — but the market doesn’t build any more affordable units than governments require them to build and that’s a sad and sorry fact.
If we want different outcomes, then we need different policies that actually create affordable housing. We will propose taking aggressive steps to increase the county supply of affordable housing, by preserving our affordable housing stock, producing more affordable housing, and protecting tenants from displacement.
We will propose legislation that:
- Requires no-net loss of affordable housing when existing housing is replaced
- Replaces our MPDU program with a program that expands the number of units required from new development and serves a wider range of incomes, and
- Enacts a rent stabilization program that will stop the unconscionable rent increases that have plagued some of our renters who make up almost 40% of our county’s population. Rising rents cause us to lose more units than we create. This has to stop.
The next challenge we face is climate change, where the news only gets worse, and yet the world dithers around the edges. Half-measures will not stop this impending disaster.
Five years ago today, the county passed the most aggressive climate goals in the country.
There are many obstacles to progress, including climate deniers, the misbelief that there are no solutions, that we lack the resources, or that we simply cannot make a difference. People need models and they need success stories to show we CAN overcome the obstacles, and Montgomery County will continue to be that example of success. This is how we reduce our carbon footprint:
- By helping provide funding for buildings to transition from gas to electric
- By electrifying our vehicle fleet, and using approaches to make this happen sooner than later
- By retrofitting our county buildings for energy efficiency
- By expanding the collection of food waste Countywide and moving to composting
- By expanding the implementation of solar on rooftops, parking lots and fields
- And by financially assisting marginalized communities most often impacted by climate change to transition to clean energy
- And we will shut down the incinerator, which is both a public health and climate change threat
In the end we must go on the journey as a community.
A little less than 60 years ago when Dr. King was in the halls of Congress lobbying for civil rights legislation, a reporter asked him how he felt about critics who said he was moving too fast and King responded that “they want us to wait another 40 years.”
Well 40 years has come and gone and for almost every metric of what we call success: health, home ownership, income, educational attainment BLACK PEOPLE are at the bottom of the metric. We know systemic racism and inequalities permeate our system.
There is work we’re doing to address it:
Our new health officer will bring a focus on Health in All Policies in the county, including working with health providers in the county, to broaden and increase the effectiveness of and access to our community health programs.
We are going through a re-evaluation of public safety because we know that adverse and/or unnecessary police interactions have a disproportional racial impact. We are creating a restoration center to divert more people from the criminal justice system.
And we need to seriously rethink our approach to crime — our jails are centers of punishment, not rehabilitation, we cycle people — from jails to streets and back again, and make it impossible for them to get jobs or rent apartments. Why we think such a system will improve things in society is beyond me. And it’s expensive.
We know that homeownership is one of the keys to bridging the racial wealth gap and creating generational wealth, so we are increasing the focus on homeownership
Our racial equity office is examining both our operating and capital budgets to scrutinize spending from an equity perspective.
And the East County campus of Montgomery College will open new doors to education.
I’m excited by our new partners in the state, as this is a priority of the new governor — we have many goals in common and there’s much we will work on together.
And then there’s growing the economy.
We are determined to drive economic development. As a self-confessed progressive and environmentalist, I know we cannot build a better future without better jobs and more resources. Economic progress provides the resources to speed social progress, which costs money.
Over the last 20 years, we watched Northern Virginia’s economy outpace us as they invested more in their transportation infrastructure and weaponized their education assets to better attract businesses. I have often said that if someone is “eating your lunch,” you should figure out how they got it. It was the story of how Virginia landed Amazon that drove me to find academic and research partners for our life sciences sector, that resulted in the Institute for Health Computing coming to North Bethesda.
We’ll make the investments in transit and education that we need to succeed. And knowing there’s life beyond life sciences, we’ll continue to help the small businesses who are the lifeblood of our county.
With a new governor, new comptroller, and a new General Assembly, we are going get the right deal and project for I-270, I-495, and the American Legion Bridge to ease traffic congestion, save motorists from high-cost tolls, and protect our environment and communities.
What makes me tick?
I have lived in this county since I was 10 years old.
I went to my first anti-war demonstration in D.C. when I was 12. At 13, I went to the 1963 March on Washington.
I protested the War in Vietnam until it ended — I saw the toll it took on people throughout the country — and especially those who didn’t look like me, who were forced to fight an unjust war, for a country that would deny them their rights when they came home, while I sat safely in a classroom with my student deferment (which I eventually signed away).
I saw racism up close as a student at the University of Maryland where Black students weren’t hired by businesses and couldn’t find landlords to rent to them. Having grown up with overt racism and antisemitism, I was not a stranger to mindless hatred. And I could not accept the politics that ignored the lack of humanity embodied in what I saw around me.
I fought for tenant rights and rent control in Takoma Park, and as a teacher at Rolling Terrace Elementary School — I taught kids in a community that too many had forgotten. I saw firsthand the effects of poverty and policy failures. When you teach children every day for whom every dollar their parents spend on rent is a dollar not available for food, clothes or fun — when you come to see how business transactions, like paying rent, can impact every aspect of a person’s life — you will start weighing these things in the moral sense.
I’ve maintained that activism and still see myself as an activist. I serve the interests of people and I try not to over-promise — I recognize I don’t have magical powers and sometimes I can’t do what I’d like to do because that’s just the way it is. But I don’t think that just because you’re an elected representative that the job description requires you to defend the institutions, policies or practices just because they exist. So, I’ve told my staff, at all levels, that if there are better ways of doing things, I am not afraid of change. Some people see changing as a confession of errors. I see change as a growth opportunity.
At my core I know: Montgomery County is the best place to raise a family, the best place to open a business, and the best place to look to the future.
I am appreciative of all those who helped us get to where we are today and of all the people who believe in our county, and the path we are on. I look forward to the work and partnership ahead with all of you.
I know that Montgomery County’s best days lie ahead. And we will get there together.
Prince George’s: ‘You should never bet against a Prince Georgian,’ Alsobrooks asserts
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
I am so thankful to God for the opportunity to be here today, and for his indescribable love and faithfulness to me.
To my parents, who are celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary tomorrow, thank you is insufficient. To my sister, the truest ride or die I’ve ever known, I love you.
Since we were here four years ago, my daughter Alex headed to high school. Like her classmates, she would be forced to figure out adolescence in a global pandemic. To be sure, it wasn’t easy. She experienced the same isolation and challenges that so many of our young people have felt during this difficult time.
But in true Alex fashion, my girl fought hard, slayed some dragons, and believed in herself, even when she couldn’t see the end. She earned the position of captain on the track team, started a womenism club, became president of the mental health club, and capped off the hardest year of her life last year with a solid 3.8.
Next year, I will be proud to send off to college an absolutely brilliant young woman, who is my amazing daughter. And I can also say, thank you, Alex, for being a wonderful friend.
To my colleagues in Prince George’s County government, thank you for lending me and the people of Prince George’s County your extraordinary talent. You are truly the best team this side of heaven.
To all of the members of the judiciary who have graciously joined us today, thank you so much for your service.
To all of my partners in public service thank you for your hard work that helped produce so much progress. Thank you to all the council members who labored with me these past four years. Welcome and congratulations to all of the new members who are joining us for this new term.
To my extraordinary campaign team and the people of Prince George’s County, to everyone who wanted to continue walking along a path of progress together, thank you once again for placing your trust in me.
These last four years I’ve watched Prince George’s County rise as we’ve worked to overcome hardship that we could never have imagined.
Even in the face of so much adversity, our pride in this place we share became our power.
For much longer than any one of us have been on this earth, throughout our history, we’ve seen that when we move forward as a community in the face of adversity, we can do great things.
At the start of this year, William Hall Academy unveiled a mural painted by local artist Ryan Allen. The mural contains a prominent red house that stands out from the rest of the artwork.
This is the Van Horn House, located in Capitol Heights. It was built in 1803 by Archibald Van Horn, former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates; former United States Congressman — and former slaveowner.
But something happened after the house’s ownership changed hands. This former plantation house had a tunnel underground, a stop for people on the Underground Railroad seeking freedom.
The house had the same intricate façade, the same bricks and mortar, but sometimes a place is more than the sum of its parts. The Van Horn House kept changing and became a symbol at the forefront of progress.
It served as a hotel for Black customers when other places turned them away.
Intellectuals imagining a brighter future for our nation stopped here beginning in the 1940s.
The house became a prominent gathering space for activists. A sacred stop on the path to change, where pride in this community was a guiding light.
Four years ago, shortly after I became county executive, we coined the phrase “Prince George’s Proud.” Proud, because our history tells the beautiful story of an upward trajectory.
When I think about how far we’ve come I think about that red house on the hill. With our pride and determination, we went from a county that housed a symbol of oppression built by one of the nation’s highest lawmakers, to being the crown jewel of Maryland, a diverse and equitable community that happens to be the economic engine of the great state of Maryland.
But now, Prince Georgians, I’ve stopped back by to finish the thought. Let there be no doubt that we’re not only proud — we are powerful.
We must use our power to unite and uplift, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. We must use our power to break down barriers so our community works for everyone. We must use our power to create broad and growing access to opportunity for all people.
Prince Georgians, that’s what we’ve done these past four years. And I can promise you this, that’s what we’ll do these next four years together.
When I took this stage four years ago, I talked about our goals on education, health care, and growing our economy.
But one thing I didn’t know I needed to talk about was a global pandemic.
At the beginning of 2020, just a little over a year into my first term, COVID-19 shook us to our core. We had a greater number of vulnerable residents, a higher number of essential workers, and in the beginning, the highest infection rate in the state.
From the beginning I spoke to the deep well of faith that resides in Prince Georgians and declared that COVID-19 would not have the final say. This was a time where isolation could have pushed us to go our own way. But, Prince Georgians, I’m so proud of the way we worked as one community to fight back. We came together to protect the whole community.
We used our power to assist families and local businesses, leading Maryland’s distribution of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds, helping over 9,800 households stay secure in their homes, and providing over $40 million in assistance to local businesses.
We used our power to create an award-winning, innovative food distribution program to help those who had lost their jobs and to help small businesses keep their doors open, called Stand Up & Deliver. And since we launched it in May 2020, we’ve given out 457,000 boxes of groceries, or 4.6 million meals. And we delivered an additional 4 million meals to our homebound seniors.
Prince George’s County went from the highest infection rate in Maryland to the lowest. Some might say, from the bottom to the top. And now, we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation.
Prince Georgians, we came together and flexed our power against COVID-19.
And we still managed to make generational investments in housing, health care, education and infrastructure. Now the whole state…no, the whole region…knows what I have long said to be true: You should never bet against a Prince Georgian.
Four years ago, I promised that when we labor together our community will rise higher.
We labored together and focused on education. We were the first in the state to create an alternative construction program, helping us address an $8 billion construction backlog and break ground on 10 new schools in the last two years — now counties across the region are asking us how we did it. And we gave every employee in the school system the greatest salary increase in over 20 years.
We labored together and modernized our government. We came into office and decreased the average 311 call response time from over four minutes to just 15 seconds. And we have been named the number one digital county in the United States for the second year in a row.
We labored together and made massive investments in healthcare to improve the life of every resident in our county.
We opened a new mental health and addiction care facility so we that we stop treating people with mental health and addiction crises in jail.
We secured funding and broke ground on the county’s very first cancer center.
We’re building a new in-patient rehab facility so Prince Georgians can get the care they need right here at home.
And now we’re redeveloping the site of the old hospital in Cheverly, building new homes, new restaurants, retail, and businesses, and a new hotel for visitors.
We labored together to invest in growing our economy on a scale our county has never seen before. Hear me on this when I say, we want the Washington Commanders to stay, but whether they stay or go, let me be clear about one thing: we are going to invest in the communities around FedEx Field that have missed out on investments for far too long.
Up and down the Blue Line we’re investing $400 million in a new amphitheater, a new cultural center, a new library, a new youth sports fieldhouse, a new market hall and a new civic plaza.
We’re making stops along the Blue Line walkable and bikeable, creating new buildings for amenities, new homes for residents, and new places to grow community.
Prince Georgians, we labored together and invested in transportation projects to help move residents. Including electric busses for our sassy seniors who like to stay active.
At New Carrollton, we’re opening new mixed-use housing with retail, restaurants, office space, and a hotel. We recently secured a Raise grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which will help us build a new train hall.
These investments are transforming New Carrollton. In fact, Prince Georgians, can y’all promise to keep a secret? Well don’t tell my good girlfriend Muriel Bowser, but New Carrollton will replace Union Station as the premier gateway to the National Capital Region.
Prince Georgians, we’ve come together to overcome every obstacle laid before us. Even now, we are working together to overcome new problems like the spike in crime we have seen.
When I served as state’s attorney, I would visit felony crime scenes where children were victims, and as county executive, when a serious crime involves a child, I often still go.
A call went out that a 2-year-old was shot in an apartment, so we met Chief Aziz on the scene.
I saw a little 9-year-old girl wearing pink crocs and a blood-stained unicorn shirt, who told me she was holding her baby sister when her sister was shot.
I hugged this 9-year-old girl and told her how brave she was. She struggled to understand the tragedy that happened just hours before, and she told me that she tried to rub her baby sister’s stomach. I was devastated to learn from a family member that, just two months before, this same 9-year-old girl’s father had been shot to death.
I knew this child didn’t understand what happened to her, or the toll these tragedies were taking — not just in that moment, but the way this violence could shape the rest of her life.
Too often we admonish people and ask, “What’s wrong with you?” But we rarely ask, “What happened to you?”
When we make decisions about our criminal justice system, we cannot simply punish offenders. If it were that simple, we wouldn’t have any crime.
This little girl in her unicorn shirt didn’t know what to do. But she rubbed her sister’s stomach because she knew she needed to do something. We need to do something.
How do we, as a county, use our power to make sure our most vulnerable residents aren’t helpless against violence in our communities? How do we ensure they aren’t left to fight for themselves?
We need to look at the evidence, be scientific, and use the information we have to develop solutions that include policing, but also include other types of support. Like wrap-around services to help vulnerable individuals access behavioral healthcare, anti-violence programs that reach our vulnerable youth, and reentry services that give people a chance to make a new life after serving their time.
I reject the idea that there’s anything normal about a child holding her baby sister after she’s been shot. I reject that Black and Brown communities have a higher tolerance for violence of any sort.
Prince Georgians, we will never develop a tolerance for violence.
So far, we’ve enacted a successful youth curfew. We created the Office of Returning Citizens Affairs to support re-entry efforts. And last year we launched an anti-violence initiative called Hope in Action, to give at-risk youth and young adults across the county opportunity, and to interrupt cycles of violence with hope.
Every opportunity is a new way forward for someone. Something as transformational as a new mentor, an apprenticeship, or a career and technical education in the entrepreneurship wing we’re building at Crossland High School, can be a golden ladder to a new life.
But let me say this clearly. Progress on crime starts with accountability.
We desire a criminal justice system that is transparent and humane. We desire a system that guarantees us both justice and freedom. Justice from an inequitable criminal justice system and the freedom to come back from the store with a bag of groceries or pump gas without being assaulted. Our pride tells us this is what we deserve.
We have the power to build this community together.
Prince Georgians, I see a future for our county now which I could not see years ago.
In the past we didn’t fully embrace our potential, or our power. For too long, we let others rush in to create a narrative of our county. We let others say who we are and determine what we could or couldn’t be.
But now, we hold the pen. Now, we embrace the history that makes us proud. Now, we express our power and how it can transform the future for Prince Georgians.
For over a decade, even during COVID-19, we’ve led the state and the region, and now everybody knows what we’ve always known. The truth is that we’ve always had everything we needed to be successful right here at home. No matter what comes, we’re ready.
We lead now because we’ve had practice with change. The same pride, the same spirit that helped us remake that red house on the hill is our power. We can make progress and we can lead even during times of rapid change.
Now I can see a Prince George’s County where our sons and daughters have the newest and the best schools, the brightest teachers, and the most access to opportunity.
Where our children go on field trips to quantum computing labs.
A Prince George’s where every resident from every walk of life has a safe and stable home for their family.
Where every one of us can easily reach a grocery store.
I can see a Prince George’s County where people from across the state, the nation, and the world arrive at our grand station in New Carrollton.
Where our friends and family from across the county receive world-renowned medical care right here at home.
A Prince George’s County that can depend on our fleet of electric buses to clean up the air and arrive on time.
I see a Prince George’s County that is a destination people visit for sports, entertainment, or to appreciate natural beauty so close to Washington.
I see a Prince George’s County that people study. A place where urban planners, mayors, educators, and leaders come to understand how we built something so livable, equitable and free.
I see a future for our county that people write about. Progress that leaves even the greatest minds asking, “How did they do it?”
We want a county where our future has no limit but our imagination, and our progress has no cap.
With our pride and our power, we have already started to make this future real, and we are building it together.
Our success now is not unexpected. We have an exceptional skill set; we have the power to change.
In the four years since I stood here and asked you all to labor with me, we have accomplished so much. Our labor has helped us reach the position of power we now hold. And more than anything, our success is proof that the only threat we face is if we stop working together and turn on each other.
I once heard an old folk tale of three beautiful African waterbuck who were close friends. They did everything together.
What the waterbuck didn’t know was that a lion was constantly watching them, hoping to catch one off guard and get a nice meal. But it would be impossible to take on all three at one time. The lion was very patient, but the waterbuck had a strong bond.
But one day the three friends had an argument, and instead of mending their differences, each one went their separate way. The stalking lion couldn’t believe his luck.
And as soon as the crisis drove them apart, the lion took down the first waterbuck…then the second…and finally, the third. When they stuck together, the waterbuck prospered. But when trouble came and they were divided, each one fell.
In governing, it’s ok to disagree. But disagreement doesn’t mean we have to splinter and go our own way. We’re all pulling towards the same goal — to make this county work for all Prince Georgians.
Right now, our county is poised to use our pride and power to grow our reputation and influence in our region and state in a generational way.
What we must remember is this strength, this power we have does not come from positions or titles. It comes from the people — the residents of Prince George’s County — and it’s strongest when we stick together.
When we’re united, we can do something transformational for this community we love.
When we are united, we can shield our residents from violence. When we’re united, we can rid our neighborhoods of food deserts and provide secure access to quality education and health care.
When we’re united, we can set a strong course for this county’s future.
And just as I reject developing a tolerance for violence, I reject the harsh words we sometimes use when speaking to and about each other. Public service is a tough calling, but we shouldn’t fall prey to the belief that our political discourse must be course and bitter.
We have the power to rise above the discord that has become too commonplace in our nation. We can flex our power while engaging in politics that we can be proud of. As residents, and as leaders, we can be examples, and lead the way together in Prince George’s.
As a county, we’ve labored, and we’ve grown stronger, and we still have more to accomplish.
Over the next four years, we’ll use our power to do what could not be done. We’ll break down barriers that could not be broken. We’ll use our skills to show the world that there is no limit to what we can achieve.
One of the Underground Railroad’s most famous conductors was a super bad woman named Araminta Ross, better known to most of us as Harriet Tubman. She was born over in Dorchester County, but I like to think that she moved like a Prince Georgian.
Harriet suffered major injuries at the hand of an overseer that led to health challenges which she battled throughout her life.
Her illnesses diminished her value in the eyes of slave traders. But in her weakness, she found power in the God of our weary years and silent tears. She said, “I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.”
Harriet fought because she was fiercely proud of who she was and where she came from. She escaped bondage and found freedom.
But it wasn’t enough for her to experience freedom alone. She had to share it with someone else.
She didn’t achieve all she did through rugged individualism or the narrow confines of her own concerns. She was strongest when she fought to help others experience freedom with her, and she became one of the most powerful people this world has ever known.
We know her life’s theme. “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”
Imagine now what she saw in the Van Horn House, that little red house on the hill. As she led others to that stop along the Railroad, she was full of hope, full of pride. The promised land was finally within reach.
But all the struggle to get to that point would mean little if they didn’t keep going. What power would they have if they were content to stay, or afraid to continue? Harriet knew they couldn’t stop there.
Prince Georgians, this is our moment. Our labor has led us to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the course for this county’s future together.
So, when circumstances try to shatter our positive self-image, we’ll keep going. When unforeseen challenges try to break our stride, we’ll keep going. When they change the rules at the eleventh hour to try to block us from generational opportunity, we’ll keep going.
When outside forces dismiss our power and talk about what “PG” County can’t do, we’ll show them we can, we’ll bring them along with us, and we’ll keep going. Because when we go together we are unstoppable; an example for the rest of the nation. There’s no limit to what is possible.
Prince Georgians, we can’t stop now.
And the same God that gave Harriet the power to fight will cover us. Joshua 1:9 tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
When I was sworn into office the first time as your state’s attorney 12 years ago, my uncle, Reverend Lester James, said Angie, if you remember who sent you, you’ll do just fine. I have never forgotten who sent me, and I have never forgotten you. Day and night, I carry the concerns of Prince Georgians with me. It is my solemn promise to you that I will never forget you and I will never forget the God who sent me.
I am humbled by the awesome opportunity you all have given me to lead this rare and wonderful community once again. We are proud, we are united, and Prince Georgians, we are powerful.
Thank you. May God continue to bless you all and may God continue to bless Prince George’s County.