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Commentary: Building good government in Maryland

A view of Swallow Falls State Park in Western Maryland. photo by Nathaniel Gonzales.

By Christy Felker

The writer is a specialist in the state’s Department of Natural Resources. 

This week is Public Service Recognition Week, and it has given me the chance to think about my own service to the state. For almost 35 years, I’ve worked in the Department of Natural Resources. I started as a secretary with the Forest Service and now work as an administrative specialist with the Wildlife and Heritage Service, helping conserve Maryland’s wildlife and plant population and provide residents with the most up-to-date information on hunting and trapping.

For me and thousands of other state employees, the job isn’t about politics — it’s about service. My time in state government has spanned six different governors — both Democrats and Republicans. I do this work because I love our state and want to help make it better. I grew up in Western Maryland; I’ve raised a family in our beautiful state; and I plan to spend my life here. I’m proud to be a Marylander, and I’m proud to contribute to the betterment of our communities.

During my career, I’ve seen, first-hand, how decisions made in Annapolis affect my ability to do my job and the ability of my colleagues to do theirs. And I can say without hesitation that Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) see me, recognize the value of my work, and are implementing policies to make my life and my job a whole lot easier. The Moore-Miller administration wants to rebuild state government — and they are taking action to do just that.

This work is absolutely critical to the future of our state. At the start of this year, the Maryland state government had nearly 6,000 vacancies in the executive branch alone. In my office, that has meant overextended staff taking on new responsibilities to fill in the gaps. I’ve had to contend with stress, fatigue, and frustration–in my own life and the lives of my colleagues and friends — especially during COVID-19.

Over the past few months, I’ve watched the Moore-Miller Administration ramp up hiring and roll out policies to make state government a better place to work — so we can recruit and retain top talent. Crucially, the Moore-Miller administration has negotiated raises for state employees, including civil servants who have been working for the state for over five years. That’s so important because people who work hard, put in the hours, and serve their state should get a competitive wage. In addition, Gov. Moore’s new service year option will create a pathway for our next generation of public servants to step up and work in the public sector.

I’m also happy to see the administration channel more resources toward our public servants in uniform by enacting legislation to expand tax exemptions for military retirees and cut health care costs for members of the Maryland National Guard. Public service doesn’t always mean wearing the flag of your country, but those who make that choice should be recognized for their sacrifice.

I’ve seen administrations that support state employees and I’ve seen administrations that don’t. After eight years of growing vacancies in state government, I’m happy to see Gov. Moore move Maryland in a new direction. I am grateful for the vision of Gov. Moore and Lt. Gov. Miller, who are taking action to honor the work we do and the ways we serve.


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Commentary: Building good government in Maryland