Weekly Letter: From Joe Biden’s Eye to Staying Strong

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They say you can see the soul of a horse through its eye. But people are more complicated, so that only works for the ones who are open and honest, like a horse is.

Joe and Pete
Last Friday, I met President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and got to look them in the eye.

The President’s eye was warm and kind. He told me that I have the most important job in the world, “Where the rubber meets the road.” He made me feel important, and despite what some would have you believe, he was fully engaged and sharp.

Pete Buttigieg’s eye was kind but probing, showing the curiosity that devours information for a hungry mind. I told him that I’m a big fan, because I am. I want to have a beer with him someday.

It was comforting to stand at the side of the Patapsco River with these two men, our Governor, Senators, and fellow local leaders, with the broken Key Bridge behind us, and know that we will fix it. To honor the President, I wore my aviator sunglasses.

Group Photo at Key Bridge

Pulse Check

Earlier that day I welcomed business leaders from the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) to our county for the unveiling of a new thing called “Pulse Check.” It’s that organization's first annual report on investments in our economy. 

We heard about our economic outlook from the brilliant Richmond (our region) Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Tom Barkin, and discussed opportunities and challenges. The good news is that our pulse is strong, and that our region, our governments, and our businesses are working in sync.

Disaster Recovery Center

On Wednesday, I joined the Small Business Administration’s opening day for our county’s Disaster Recovery Center at Arundel Christian Church in Glen Burnie. 

Lieutenant Governor Miller, Council Chair Pickard, and I spoke to SBA disaster recovery staff from as far away as Puerto Rico, and dedicated public servants from our county’s Office of Emergency Management, Economic Development, Workforce Development, Crisis Intervention, Social Services, and Arundel Community Development Services about the services they are offering for businesses and workers impacted by the Key Bridge collapse. 

Every day I learn more about the economic impacts of what happened on the morning of March 26, some of which will be relieved in the coming weeks as the channel reopens for ships to access the port, and others that will continue until the new bridge is built. Please send people to https://response.maryland.gov/bridge for assistance.

Crofton and Farm Bureau

I did manage to get to a couple of community meetings this week. Crofton residents packed the library meeting room on Wednesday night for the Kiwanis Club meeting, where I was able to update them on region planning, Route 3 traffic mitigation, Millersville Park, the battle against the landfill, Johns Hopkins House, and budgeting. 

It was fun to meet Jitendra Rathad of Farm Unity on my way out, and see the community gardens both inside and outside of Crofton Library that he and hundreds of volunteers have been planting. 

Community Garden

On Monday night I spoke to my old friends at the Farm Bureau meeting where I used to serve on the board. We covered operation of the grain elevator, south county fire service, Rockhold Creek Barn issues, potential expansion of the ag education program at Southern High, access for local farmers to space at the Riva Farmers Market, Navy Dairy Farm updates, and introduction of the new manager of the county’s ag preservation program, Eddie Franceschi.

It helped a lot to have my dream team of James Kitchin and Courtney Buiniskis at both of these meetings. They feed me the information that makes me look smart.

Sine Die

Political insiders may marvel at the fact that I managed to attend that Farm Bureau meeting Monday night, for it was Sine Die, the last day of the Maryland General Assembly when the streets of Annapolis are swarming with celebratory politicians, their staffers, and lobbyists. It’s an Annapolis tradition that I must admit to partaking in, for it is my duty as County Executive of the host county. 

Leaving those festivities early left me without the opportunity to congratulate members of the Anne Arundel County Delegation on a very successful session. We have some real stars serving us, and it’s been rewarding to watch this new generation of leaders, many of whom took office in the last six years, rising quickly up the ranks to leadership positions where they are able to deliver great wins for our people.

Day Trip

Yesterday was a Day Trip. Not for me and my staff, but for Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Jake Day and twenty of his staff. We were the hosts, and we took them on a bus tour of our efforts. We started the day at the new Severn Center and finished in Brooklyn Park at the Chesapeake Arts Center with a group of community stakeholders.

It made me proud to show off the talent of our staff and our community leaders, and to talk shop with like-minded professionals who work to build community and house families at the state level. More importantly, we made an impact on the people who finance and fund much of our work. It’s a trip that will pay dividends, for them and for us.

Speech Writing

My last activity of note this week has been some chunks of time in my schedule to write the budget address that I will deliver May 1 with the FY25 Budget proposal to the County Council. Yes, we’re almost done, and no I won’t tell you what’s in it - yet. 

What I will say is that it does not fund everything I’d like, but does have what it takes to maintain our progress. The budget theme is Staying Strong, and I very much look forward to delivering it.

Until next week …

Steuart Pittman

Anne Arundel County Executive