On Tuesday morning I told two hundred online and in-person attendees of the Anne Arundel County Behavioral Health Symposium that their work makes me optimistic.
When I saw that the theme of their day was “The Power of Connection,” this week’s letter came into focus.
The sense that people have become disconnected from one another in our country and our county is almost universal. It’s not a good feeling.
Nobody should be surprised that the mental health of humans depends on personal connections. Nobody should be surprised that a shift from in-person to electronic communication, social interaction, and entertainment is leaving people isolated.
My message to the good people who deliver mental and behavioral health services was mostly just, “Thank you.” But also that I wished more people knew what they were doing and knew what an extraordinary team we have in our county. Now you know!
That got me thinking about how lucky I am that every single day I am exposed to people in our county doing good work. I’m lucky because meeting them gives me gratitude and optimism. And it’s that gratitude and optimism that gets me out of bed in the morning.
So I thought I’d help you out of bed in the morning by sharing a few of those people, or groups of people, from just the last week of meetings.
AA Women Giving Together - They are 280 women who pool their money and give it to worthy local nonprofits. I thanked them for their work at their Grants Showcase, which took place last night at the beautiful Atreeum at Soaring Timbers event space, built and operated by the Knights of Columbus. Good work.
City Dock Action Committee - They are the 100-or-so people who are engaged in the design of our county’s first major climate resiliency project, the raising of Annapolis City Dock and creation of a public space that offers water access, recreation, entertainment, and the telling of history. I spoke briefly to open their work session at City Hall where an updated design was presented. Good work.
Essential Worker Housing Access Act - That’s what we’re calling the forthcoming proposal that requires all new housing developments of ten or more units to include some “moderately priced dwelling units” that are affordable for homeowners or renters at the income levels of our teachers, first responders, and others. I’ve been at two meetings this week with staff and one with home builders to work on the specifics. Good work.
Protecting Places of Worship - I attended and spoke at a forum with this title at Annapolis High School that included speakers from the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, Anne Arundel Police, our State's Attorney, and our Office of Equity and Human Rights. The audience was primarily worshipers who came to learn what they can do to protect their buildings and congregations. They left with tools and a sense of empowerment. Good work.
Anne Arundel County Food Bank Mobile Pantry Launch - Last Friday my office staff volunteered at the Food Bank at Crownsville, filling backpacks for distribution at Head Start programs. On Monday, I returned for the ribbon cutting to send the brand new Mobile Pantry vehicle on its first run to the mobile home parks in Lothian. Good work.
Korean Festival - The Korean Festival moved last year from Howard County to Anne Arundel, where Live! Casino welcomed their tents, their food booths, their arts, and their culture. I was proud to stand on the stage and welcome them back this year, and happy to join Congressman Sarbanes, Delegate Chang, Senator Lam and others for a hell of a good meal afterwards. Good work.
Money Maryland Conference - I welcomed business owners to Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation’s first conference for minority, women, and small business enterprises last week at Maryland Hall. There was a track in Spanish and two in English, with topics like accessing capital, thirty steps for startups, and procurement and contracting. Good work.
Ag Tour - I had the pleasure of taking Planning and Zoning Officer Jenny Jarkowski, Economic Development (AAEDC) CEO Amy Gowan, and incoming AAEDC Ag Manager Shelley Garrett to see some farms and check in with some experts on farmland preservation and agriculture policy. We’re working on a plan to preserve farms and woodlands, and to make agriculture more profitable and sustainable for generations to come. Good work.
LDC Grant Announcements - I was back at Live! Casino for a presentation of checks to some 30 nonprofits and county agencies totalling over $18 million from casino proceeds. It’s part of the deal that voters approved to permit slots in Maryland, and our own Local Development Council recommends grants to my office to benefit the communities within three miles of the casino. We’ve always accepted their recommendations. Good work.
Police Promotions - And then there was the ceremony in the Southern District community room at which eight police officers and two civilian staff were promoted, an event that celebrates outstanding performance and new responsibilities with proud spouses, children, parents and colleagues on hand to show their approval. Good work.
We’re not as isolated as people think. We do come together and make good things happen. We use technology to facilitate the work. The power of connection is alive and well. We just have to work at it.
Anne Arundel County Executive