Home | Careers | Font size A A A

State of the County Address


As prepared for delivery at Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Luncheon on Thursday, March 20, 2014


THANK YOU DAVE FOR THAT INTRODUCTION, AND TO ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE CHAMBER. IT IS AN HONOR AS ALWAYS TO BE HERE, AND I THANK YOU FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY.


AS ALWAYS, I AM JOINED BY MY WONDERFUL WIFE JAKI – WHO HAS HELPED ME AND OUR COMMUNITY SO MUCH. THANK YOU JAKI, FOR EVERYTHING. MY PARENTS ARE ALSO HERE – LOU AND DIANA.


SEVEN YEARS AGO, I STOOD BEFORE YOU AND LAID OUT THE CHALLENGE THAT I BELIEVE DEFINES OUR WORK: HOW DO YOU TAKE A GREAT COUNTY AND MAKE IT EVEN BETTER?


AS I LOOK BACK, I THINK WE CAN MAKE THE CASE THAT WE’VE DONE JUST THAT. WE HAVE STRENGTHENED OUR FOUNDATION AND LOOKED TO THE FUTURE, FIGURING OUT WHERE WE WANT HOWARD COUNTY TO BE AND HOW TO GET US THERE.


WE’VE SHOWN THROUGH SMART INVESTMENTS AND BOLD INITIATIVES THAT WE EMBRACE INNOVATION, AND CAN SOLVE ANY CHALLENGE BY SETTING AMBITIOUS GOALS.


WE BECAME A MODEL PUBLIC HEALTH COMMUNITY BECAUSE WE SET THAT GOAL. WE BECAME THE MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY IN MARYLAND BECAUSE WE WANTED TO BE.


WE BUILT THE BEST EDUCATION SYSTEM, WEAVING TOGETHER OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS, COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND LIBRARIES FOR UNPRECEDENTED COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION. WE CREATED THE BEST ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM AND THE HEALTHIEST LOCAL ECONOMY IN THE STATE OF MARYLAND BECAUSE WE REFUSED TO BECOME COMPLACENT.


IN ALL OF THESE AREAS AND MANY OTHERS, WE’VE DREAMED BIG, INVESTED WISELY AND ACHIEVED OUR VISION.


SO AS I STAND HERE TODAY, WITH LESS THAN ONE YEAR TO GO IN THIS JOB, I CAN SAY WITHOUT A DOUBT THAT BECAUSE OF OUR WORK TOGETHER, THE STATE OF HOWARD COUNTY IS ACCELERATING AND STRONG, FORWARD-FOCUSED AND VIBRANT, HEALTHY AND NIMBLE, AND POISED FOR FUTURE SUCCESS.


WHEN I LOOK BACK OVER OUR TIME TOGETHER, I’M STRUCK BY SOMETHING. NONE OF THESE ACHIEVEMENTS WAS OBVIOUS.


AT THE BEGINNING, I WAS A 32-YEAR-OLD ONE-TERM COUNCILMAN, WHO, SOME MIGHT SAY, SHOWED A BIT OF AUDACITY BY OFFERING MYSELF UP AND SAYING I HAD THE RIGHT STUFF TO BE YOUR COUNTY EXECUTIVE.


SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE HAD DOUBTS. AND I UNDERSTAND THAT. BUT IN THE END, YOU TOOK A CHANCE ON ME. I AM HUMBLED BY YOUR DECISION, AND EVERY DAY, I WAKE UP GRATEFUL FOR THAT CHANCE AND EAGER TO PROVE YOU RIGHT.


FROM DAY ONE, WE CREATED A CULTURE OF EFFICIENCY IN OUR GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS, AND ARE NOW SAVING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS EVERY YEAR BECAUSE WE ELIMINATED WASTE AND DUPLICATION AND FORGED NEW PARTNERSHIPS.


THOSE TOUGH DECISIONS HELPED US MAINTAIN MOMENTUM WHEN THE GREAT RECESSION HIT, AND THEY WILL PAY DIVIDENDS FOR YEARS TO COME.


WE’VE LED THE WAY IN MAKING MARYLAND THE MOST WIRED STATE IN THE NATION. BRINGING TOGETHER NINE OTHER JURISDCTIONS, HOWARD COUNTY SECURED AND MANAGED $115 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDING TO BRING BROADBAND TO MARYLAND – CONNECTING SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES, HOSPITALS AND POLICE STATIONS, BUSINESS START-UPS AND MEDICAL OFFICES.


NOW WE ARE LIGHTING THE NETWORK, MAKING US SAFER, SMARTER, HEALTHIER AND MORE COMPETITIVE, WHILE SAVING TAXPAYER DOLLARS.


OVER THE PAST EIGHT YEARS, WE CHANGED THE WAY WE VIEW OUR NATURAL RESOURCES.


WE HAVE EMBRACED SUSTAINABILITY BECAUSE WE ARE ENTRUSTED AS STEWARDS OF OUR ENVIRONMENT.


WE BUILT A HYBRID VEHICLE FLEET, MADE OUR BUILDINGS ENERGY EFFICIENT AND ARE ON TRACK TO PLANT TREE NUMBER 70,000 NEXT MONTH.


WE OPENED THE ROBINSON NATURE CENTER AND, LATER THIS YEAR WILL UNVEIL THE RENOVATED BELMONT MANOR, ENVIRONMENTAL AND HISTORIC PARK IN ELKRIDGE ALONG THE PATAPSCO, CREATING A NETWORK OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESOURCES THAT, ALONG WITH THE CONSERVANCY PRESERVE IN WOODSTOCK, WILL INSPIRE FUTURE GENERATIONS.


PROMOTING SUSTAINABILITY ALSO MAKES ECONOMIC SENSE. WE NOW TREAT OUR WASTE STREAM AS A COMMODITY. WE EMBRACED BLUE BINS FOR SINGLE-STREAM RECYCLING, AND WE LEAD MARYLAND IN THE PERCENTAGE OF HOUSEHOLDS THAT RECYCLE, GENERATING REVENUE AT THE SAME TIME.


NOW WE ARE PHASING IN GREEN BINS FOR FOOD SCRAP COLLECTION, A PROGRAM AVAILABLE TO THOUSANDS OF HOMES THAT WILL SOON BE EXPANDING. WHEN PEOPLE COLLECT FOOD SCRAPS IN THOSE NEW GREEN BINS, IT REDUCES OUR COST OF HAULING TRASH AND ALLOWS US TO RECOUP MONEY BY SELLING COMPOST – THE VALUABLE END-PRODUCT WE MAKE AT THE NEW ALPHA RIDGE FACILITY OPEN LAST YEAR.


WE ARE ALSO LEADING THE WAY IN REUSING WASTE WATER THAT GETS CLEANED AT OUR TREATMENT PLANT. RATHER THAN PUMPING TREATED WATER BACK INTO THE LITTLE PATUXENT RIVER, LATER THIS YEAR WE WILL BEGIN TO SEND UP TO 5 MILLION GALLONS A DAY TO FORT MEADE, COOLING THEIR NEW COMPUTER CENTER.


WE DEVELOPED A FIRST-IN-THE-NATION PARTNERSHIP FOR A NATIONAL SECURITY PROJECT – AND HERE’S WHY THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. WE WASTE MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF DRINKABLE WATER IN COOLING TOWERS AND DATA CENTERS. NSA HAD A NEED AND WE ARE STEPPING UP TO FILL THAT NEED BY TAKING OUR TREATED WASTEWATER, DIVERTING IT FROM THE LITTLE PATUXENT RIVER AND SELLING IT TO OUR FEDERAL NEIGHBORS. THIS MAKES ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL SENSE.


JUST LIKE WITH OUR SMART AND INNOVATIVE INVESTMENTS IN EFFICIENCY, IN BROADBAND AND IN ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY, WE HAVE MADE WISE LAND USE DECISIONS.


WE HAVE PRESERVED THOUSANDS OF ACRES OF FARMS AND FORESTS SO THAT TODAY, MORE THAN ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE ACRES OF LAND IN HOWARD COUNTY IS PERMANENTLY PROTECTED.


AT THE SAME TIME, WE ARE REINVESTING IN OUR EXISTING NEIGHBORHOODS.


WE HAVE FORWARD-LOOKING PLANS TO IMPROVE COMMERCIAL CORRIDORS LIKE ROUTE 1 AND ROUTE 40.


WE ARE MAKING SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENTS IN HISTORIC ELLICOTT CITY BY BUILDING BETTER PEDESTRIAN CONNECTIONS, MAKING PARKING MORE ACCESSIBLE, IMPROVING STORMWATER TREATMENT AND CREATING NEW PUBLIC PARKS AND GATHERING PLACES.


WE ARE REINVESTING IN THE VILLAGE CENTERS OF COLUMBIA. RENOVATION OF THE WILDE LAKE VILLAGE CENTER IS UNDERWAY, AND IN THE VILLAGE OF LONG REACH, WE ARE LAUNCHING AN EXCITING REDEVELOPMENT PLAN WITH A RENEWED COMMUNITY FOCUS. I WANT TO THANK THE HOWARD COUNTY COUNCIL FOR APPROVING THAT PLAN EARLIER THIS MONTH.


WE ARE SEEING CONTINUED PROGRESS IN EMERSON, GATEWAY, MAPLE LAWN AND THROUGHOUT THE COUNTY.


AND IN DOWNTOWN COLUMBIA, I AM THRILLED WITH THE PROGRESS WE ARE SEEING.


OVER THE PAST 8 YEARS, WE HAVE MADE IMPORTANT COMMUNITY INVESTMENTS THROUGHOUT OUR COUNTY. TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT WE’VE ACCOMPLISHED TOGETHER...

  • RECREATION AND PARKS [CORRESPONDING POWERPOINT SLIDE WITH PICTURES OF ROBINSON; NORTH LAUREL; MEADOWBROOK; ROGER CARTER BLANDAIR TROY]…
  • PUBLIC SAFETY [CORRESPONDING POWERPOINT SLIDE WITH PICTURES OF ROBEY TRAINING CENTER; GLENWOOD FIRE; SAVAGE FIRE; WEST FRIENDSHIP FIRE; JESSUP FIRE; ELKRIDGE]….
  • HOUSING [CORRESPONDING POWERPOINT SLIDE WITH PICTURES OF MONARCH MILLS; BURGESS MILL STATION]…
  • IN COMMUNITY INVESTMENTS [CORRESPONDING POWERPOINT SLIDE WITH PICTURES OF GRASSROOTS; GEORGE HOWARD RENOVATION; ELLICOTT CITY POST OFFICE]…
  • IN LIBRARIES [CORRESPONDING POWERPOINT SLIDE WITH PICTURES OF MILLER BRANCH; SAVAGE RENOVATIONS; OLD MILLER EXPANSION; NEW ELKRIDGE BRANCH]…
  • AND IN EDUCATION [CORRESPONDING POWERPOINT SLIDE WITH PICTURES OF DUCKETTS LANE; THOMAS VIADUCT MIDDLE SCHOOL; NEARLY EVERY SCHOOL EXPANDED OR RENOVATED]

AND SPEAKING OF EDUCATION, OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM IS THE ENGINE THAT DRIVES THE SUCCESS OF HOWARD COUNTY.


DURING EACH YEAR OF MY ADMINISTRATION, HOWARD COUNTY RANKED NUMBER ONE IN MARYLAND IN EDUCATION EFFORT – THE INDEX OF OUR FINANCIAL COMMITMENT TO OUR CHILDREN, OUR EDUCATORS AND OUR SCHOOLS.


OUR SUPERINTENDENT, DR. RENEE FOOSE, AND I SHARE THE VISION OF A WORLD CLASS SCHOOL SYSTEM. AND HER NEW STRATEGIC PLAN WILL HELP US GET THERE.


[THANK YOU DR. FOOSE AND BOARD OF EDUCATION]


OUR SCHOOLS MADE PROGRESS IN SO MANY AREAS THIS PAST YEAR. WE OPENED THE FIRST SCHOOL-BASED WELLNESS CENTER, AT BOLLMAN BRIDGE ELEMENTARY, TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF OUR STUDENTS. WE IMPLEMENTED RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SCHOOL SAFETY TASK FORCE, AND LAST SUMMER, AS YOU JUST SAW, WE OPENED OUR NEWEST SCHOOL, DUCKETTS LANE ELEMENTARY IN ELKRIDGE – ANOTHER MODEL OF LEADING EDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN.


I WAS IMPRESSED, BOTH BY THE FACILITY, AND THE PEOPLE WORKING THERE.


INCLUDING MATHEW WINNER, A MEDIA SPECIALIST WHO WAS JUST NAMED BY THE WHITE HOUSE AS ONE OF 12 “CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE,” RECOGNIZING HIS USE OF TECHNOLOGY TO INSPIRE STUDENTS TO SEE LEARNING AS CHALLENGING YET FUN.


MATTHEW THANK YOU FOR YOUR ENERGY AND PASSION. WE ARE PROUD TO INVEST IN YOU, AND IN EDUCATORS LIKE YOU IN EVERY ONE OF OUR SCHOOLS. PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO STAND AND BE RECOGNIZED, ALONG WITH YOUR PRINCIPAL HEIDI BALTER.


MATTHEW WORKS WITH HIS COUNTERPARTS IN THE HOWARD COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM THROUGH OUR GROUNDBREAKING A+ PARTNERSHIP, WHICH LINKS SCHOOLS AND THEIR NEAREST LIBRARIES, CREATING A SEAMLESS WEB OF RESOURCES.


PROGRAMS LIKE A+ LED THE LIBRARY JOURNAL TO NAME HOWARD COUNTY AS THE NUMBER ONE LIBRARY SYSTEM IN ALL OF NORTH AMERICA LAST YEAR. THANK YOU TO OUR DYNAMIC CEO, VALERIE GROSS.


THERE ARE SO MANY STATISTICS AND RANKINGS THAT THE TELL THE STORY OF OUR LIBRARIES, BUT IT’S THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE NUMBERS THAT REALLY MATTER.


I’D LIKE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO CORA LIU LAM. CORA AND HER FAMILY CAME TO THE UNITED STATES FROM HONG KONG IN 2002, IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE. SHE ENROLLED IN THE LIBRARY’S PROJECT LITERACY TO IMPROVE HER LANGUAGE SKILLS AND GET A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA. THEN SHE WENT FURTHER, ENROLLING IN A MEDICAL CODING PROGRAM AT HOWARD COMMUNITY COLLEGE, WHERE OUR GREAT PRESDIENT, KATE HEATHERINGTON, IS ALWAYS THINKING OF THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS AND BUSINESSES. THANK YOU, KATE, FOR ALL YOU DO.


I’M PLEASED TO TELL YOU THAT CORA JUST PASSED HER LICENSING EXAM, AND IS NOW A CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL CODER – A HIGH-DEMAND SKILL THAT WILL PAY BENEFITS TO HER AND HER FAMILY FOR YEARS TO COME. CORA, PLEASE STAND. I AM SO PROUD OF ALL YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED. THIS IS A TRUE SUCCESS STORY OF HOW OUR COMMUNITY IS ABLE TO INVEST IN YOU JUST AS YOU ARE INVESTING IN YOURSELF.


INVESTING IN EDUCATION MEANS WE ARE CREATING THE WORKFORCE FOR TOMORROW, AND MAKING SURE HOWARD COUNTY IS ON SOLID ECONOMIC FOOTING FOR YEARS TO COME.


EVEN MORE, WE ARE STRENGTHENING THE WAY WE INTERACT WITH BUSINESSES – INVESTING TO BUILD A CULTURE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATION.


OUR VISION IS TO CREATE THE BEST CONDITIONS POSSIBLE FOR THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO GROW AND THRIVE, AND CREATE THE ECOSYSTEMS THAT WILL NURTURE AND ACCELERATE GROWTH.


THAT’S THE MISSION OF OUR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, AND OUR MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP.


THE NUMBERS BACK UP OUR STRATEGY AND OUR SUCCESS. OUR UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IS THE LOWEST IN THE STATE, AND IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS, MORE PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS HAVE BEEN ADDED HERE THAN IN ANY OTHER COUNTY IN MARYLAND.


OUR GOAL IS TO HELP THE BRILLIANT ENTREPRENEURS IN HOWARD COUNTY TURN THEIR IDEAS INTO GREAT COMPANIES.


IN THE PAST YEAR WE TOOK A MAJOR STEP AND SIGNED THE FIRST-EVER MOU WITH THE APPLIED PHYSICS LAB – BRINGING APL INTO ONE OF OUR MOST EXCITING AND SUCCESSFUL VENTURES, THE MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND ARE WORKING WITH THREE YOUNG COMPANIES HELPING BRING THEIR PRODUCTS TO MARKET.


WE HAVE HIGH HOPES FOR EACH OF THEM. WE NEVER KNOW WHICH COMPANY IS GOING TO BECOME THE NEXT UNDER ARMOR, HONEST TEA OR SOURCEFIRE. THAT’S WHY THEY ALL DESERVE OUR SUPPORT.


OUR CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP FEATURES A DIVERSE MIX OF COMPANIES, SUCH AS NUTRIGROWN.

FOUNDER WAYNE SWANN JOINED THE MCE IN 2010 WITH FUNDING FROM TEDCO TO COMMERCIALIZE A USDA TECHNOLOGY FOR A SLOW-RELEASE, BAY-FRIENDLY FERTILIZER. THEY HAVE GRADUATED FROM THE MCE, MOVED INTO SPACE ON ROUTE 1, AND YOU WILL FIND THEIR PRODUCTS IN LOCAL STORES LIKE RIVER HILL GARDEN CENTER, ROOTS AND KENDALL’S. WAYNE, PLEASE STAND AND ALLOW US TO THANK YOU FOR DOING WELL WITH YOUR COMPANY, AND DOING GOOD FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT.


WE HAVE FORGED A PROACTIVE AND HANDS-ON APPROACH TO BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, AND WE HAVE SEEN THAT STRATEGY PAY OFF.

EVERY YEAR, OUR TEAM VISITS DOZENS OF COMPANIES DURING BUSINESS APPRECIATION WEEK, TO TAKE THE PULSE OF THEIR ACTIVITIES AND FIND OUT IF WE CAN HELP. DURING ONE VISIT A YEAR AGO, OUR TEAM STOPPED BY A LEADING CYBER-SECURITY COMPANY CALLED AIRPATROL. WE DISCOVERED THAT THEY WERE GROWING RAPIDLY, AND WERE CONSIDERING MOVING TO TYSONS OR BETHESDA.


I LEARNED ABOUT THE POSSIBLE MOVE ON A FRIDAY. ON MONDAY, I MET WITH THEIR TOP OFFICIAL, TO CONVINCE HIM TO STAY AND GROW IN HOWARD COUNTY.


THEY LISTENED. AND JUST FEW WEEKS AGO, WE HAD A RIBBON CUTTING AT THEIR NEW MAPLE LAWN HEADQUARTERS, WHERE THEIR CTO, GUY LEVY-YURISTA SAID SOMETHING I’LL NEVER FORGET. “HOWARD COUNTY FOUGHT FOR US….BEING IN HOWARD COUNTY IS AMAZING.” GUY, PLEASE STAND. THANK YOU FOR INVESTING IN HOWARD COUNTY.


THIS IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF HOW HOWARD COUNTY HAS BECOME A NATIONAL HUB FOR THE CYBER INDUSTRY, AS WE HEARD REPEATEDLY DURING OUR RECENT TRIP TO SAN FRANCISCO FOR RSA, THE COUNTRY’S LARGEST CYBER-SECURITY CONFERENCE.


WE HAVE SO MANY CYBER SUCCESS STORIES HERE IN HOWARD COUNTY. ONE OF THEM, COLUMBIA-BASED TENABLE NETWORK SECURITY, RECENTLY RECEIVED $50 MILLION IN VENTURE CAPITAL FUNDING, ALREADY HAS MORE THAN 300 EMPLOYEES AND IS ADDING JOBS HERE AT A RAPID PACE. FOUNDER AND CEO RON GULA IS HERE WITH US. PLEASE STAND, RON. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO FOR OUR COMMUNITY.


ONE OF THE NEWEST EFFORTS OF OUR MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS 3D MARYLAND, WHICH IS PUTTING US ON THE FORWARD EDGE OF A MANUFACTURING REVOLUTION.


WE BOUGHT THE LATEST MACHINES THAT ARE CREATING PRODUCTS AND PROTOTYPES ON DEMAND, WHILE BRINGING TOGETHER ENTREPRENEURS AND BUSINESS LEADERS FROM ALL OVER THE STATE TO INNOVATE AND GROW.


ONE COMPANY USING 3D MARYLAND IS BEAUCOUPDEFORCE SOLUTIONS, LLC, FOUNDED BY THOMAS HARRIS, WHO IS HERE TODAY. THOMAS DECIDED TO TACKLE A PROBLEM THAT FEW OF US LIKE TO TALK ABOUT: DIRTY RESTROOMS. SO HE CAME UP WITH AN IDEA FOR A SMALL CONTAINER WITH A DISPOSABLE SEAT COVER IN ONE END, AND WET WIPE IN THE OTHER. AND THE TIDYPOTTY WAS BORN.

THOMAS WAS READY TO HAVE A COMPANY IN CHINA CREATE HIS PROTOTYPE WHEN HE HEARD ABOUT 3D MARYLAND. BECAUSE OF 3D MARYLAND, THOMAS SAVED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS -- FROM BEING FLUSHED AWAY, SO TO SPEAK -- AND GREATLY SHORTENED THE TIME FROM PROTOTYPE TO PRODUCTION.

TIDYPOTTY IS PROOF THAT INNOVATION COMES IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES. THOMAS, PLEASE STAND. THANK YOU FOR TAKING YOUR IDEAS TO 3D MARYLAND.

YES, WE HAVE THE STRONGEST ECONOMY IN MARYLAND, AND THAT’S GREAT. WE HAVE THE BEST SCHOOLS, THE MOST INVITING PARKS, AND THE NUMBER ONE LIBRARY SYSTEM. BUT NONE OF THAT MATTERS IF WE, AS A COMMUNITY, AREN’T SAFE.

 

NO INVESTMENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ONE WE MAKE IN PUBLIC SAFETY. DURING MY ADMINISTRATION, WE HAVE ADDED MORE THAN 70 POLICE OFFICERS, AND WE HAVE TARGETED AREAS SUCH AS MENTAL HEALTH, REPEAT OFFENDERS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, WHILE DRIVING VIOLENT CRIME DOWN TO NEW LOWS.


WE MAKE SURE OUR FIRST RESPONDERS HAVE THE TRAINING AND RESOURCES THEY NEED. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN THE UNTHINKABLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN.


IT WAS A SATURDAY, LESS THAN TWO MONTHS AGO, WHEN WE LEARNED THAT SHOTS WERE FIRED INSIDE THE MALL IN COLUMBIA, AND THAT THOSE SHOTS RESULTED IN FATALITIES.


WE LEARNED FIRST-HAND THAT NO PLACE IS IMMUNE FROM GUN VIOLENCE.


ARRIVING ON THE SCENE AND SPENDING DAYS AT THE MALL, I SAW THE BRAVERY AND SKILL OF OUR FIRST RESPONDERS, THE SELFLESSNESS AND COURAGE OF MALL EMPLOYEES AND PATRONS, AND THE STRENGTH OF A COMMUNITY VOWING TO COME TOGETHER AND MOVE FORWARD.


I COULD NOT BE PROUDER OF HOWARD COUNTY POLICE CHIEF WILLIAM MCMAHON AND THE LEADERSHIP HE SHOWED DURING THIS CRISIS.


AND I WANT TO THANK ASHLEY VENABLE, THE MANAGER OF THE MALL IN COLUMBIA, WHO IS HERE TODAY. ASHLEY, THANK YOU AND YOUR TEAM FOR ALL YOU DID AND ALL YOU ENDURED.


SMALL ACTS OF COURAGE AND COMPASSION ABOUNDED AT THE MALL. ONE SWAT TEAM MEMBER ARRIVED AT THE DISNEY STORE, AND, FINDING DOZENS OF CHILDREN HIDING IN A STOREROOM WITH THEIR PARENTS AND EMPLOYEES, ANNOUNCED HE WAS ENLISTING THEM IN ANDY’S ARMY, LIKE IN THE MOVIE TOY STORY. THEY HEADED TO SAFETY TOGETHER, A LITTLE LESS AFRAID.


WE SOMETIMES FORGET THAT THOSE UNIFORMED OFFICERS ARE REAL PEOPLE, WITH FAMILIES OF THEIR OWN. BUT WHEN WE NEED THEM, THEY ARE THERE – FOR US.


I WANT TO TAKE A MOMENT TO RECOGNIZE SEVERAL MEMBERS OF OUR PUBLIC SAFETY TEAM WHO ARE HERE TODAY, ALL OF WHOM WERE CALLED TO SERVICE ON THAT CHILLY JANUARY DAY, RUNNING TOWARD DANGER INSTEAD OF AWAY FROM IT.


SERGEANT DARYN TROUT IS A PATROL OFFICER WITH 13 YEARS ON THE FORCE. HE ARRIVED AT THE MALL TO COORDINATE RESPONDING OFFICERS, DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE WAS UNABLE TO REACH HIS WIFE AND TWO YOUNG SONS WHO WERE SHOPPING INSIDE WHEN THE SHOOTING TOOK PLACE.

 
EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS SUPERVISOR KIM SIKALIS CALMLY MANAGED DISPATCHERS FIELDING HUNDREDS OF CALLS, WHILE GATHERING INFORMATION FOR OFFICERS AT THE SCENE.


SERGEANT JASON BAKER IS A MEMBER OF THE TACTICAL SECTION, AND WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SWAT TEAM MEMBERS TO QUICKLY ENTER THE MALL TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE SCENE. IT WAS A PLACE HE KNEW WELL – HAVING TRAINED THERE FOR INCIDENTS.


LT. WILL HUBER OF HOWARD COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE WAS THE FIRST AND ONLY MEDIC INSIDE FOR THE FIRST MOMENTS.


DETECTIVE FIRST CLASS JOSEPH LENICK IS PART OF THE TEAM THAT SPENT WEEKS PIECING TOGETHER THE CHILLING NARRATIVE TO HELP US BETTER UNDERSTAND THIS SENSELESS VIOLENCE.


DARYN, KIM, JASON, WILL, JOSEPH – THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE TODAY, REPRESENTING THE DOZENS OF MEN AND WOMEN WHO HANDLED ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING ASSIGNMENTS IMAGINABLE WITH PROFESSIONALISM, COMPASSION AND CLASS. THE EYES OF A NATION WERE UPON YOU, AND YOU PERFORMED BEYOND EXPECTATIONS. THANK YOU.


EACH YEAR, AFTER THIS SPEECH, THE HOWARD COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, MAKES A DONATION TO A CHARITY ON MY BEHALF.


THIS YEAR, I AM PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT THE CONTRIBUTION WILL BE MADE TO THE FOUNDATIONS ESTABLISHED ON BEHALF OF TYLER JOHNSON AND BRIANNA BENLOLO – TWO BLOSSOMING LIVES WHO WERE TAKEN FROM US TOO QUICKLY AT THE MALL THAT DAY. TYLER’S STORY IS COURAGEOUS – BATTLING ADDICTION, BECOMING CLEAN AND DEDICATING HIS TIME TO HELPING OTHERS. BRIANNA WAS A VIBRANT SPIRIT AND CARING MOTHER TO A YOUNG SON, AND HER KINDNESS AND ENERGY WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN.


IN THE END, WE CANNOT LET THIS BECOME THE NEW NORMAL. WE MUST LEARN LESSONS FROM THIS EVENT AND WORK TO PREVENT FUTURE VIOLENCE.


HERE’S WHAT IS MOST STRIKING ABOUT THE MALL SHOOTING. A YOUNG MAN KNEW HE WAS ILL, BUT DID NOT WANT TO TELL FAMILY OR FRIENDS OR EVEN A TEACHER WHO COULD HAVE HELPED. ALTHOUGH WE WILL NEVER KNOW EXACTLY WHY HE DIDN’T SHARE HIS STRUGGLE, I DO KNOW THAT IN OUR SOCIETY, THERE IS STILL TOO MUCH STIGMA ASSOCIATED WITH MENTAL ILLNESS.


STIGMA TAKES HOLD WHEN WE ARE SILENT ABOUT AN ISSUE. ITS GRIP TIGHTENS THROUGH A LACK OF AWARENESS ABOUT AVAILABLE RESOURCES, OR EVEN HOW TO ASK FOR HELP.


SO IN MY UPCOMING BUDGET, I WILL INCLUDE FUNDING FOR MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID TRAINING, AN IMPORTANT STEP TO TEACH US HOW TO IDENTIFY, UNDERSTAND AND RESPOND TO EARLY WARNING SIGNS.


WE NEED A CRITICAL MASS OF INDIVIDUALS WHO CAN IDENTIFY AND RESPOND TO THESE ILLNESSES. WE WILL BUILD A TEAM OF TRAINERS TO EDUCATE KEY PERSONNEL IN EVERY INSTITUTION, AGENCY AND COMMUNITY GROUP THAT INTERACTS WITH THE PUBLIC, AND ESPECIALLY WITH KIDS AND YOUNG ADULTS.


MY BUDGET WILL BOLSTER OUR COMMITMENT TO OUR MOBILE CRISIS TEAMS AND INCLUDE ADDITIONAL POLICE DEPARTMENT POSITIONS FOCUSED ON MENTAL HEALTH.


EVEN BEFORE THE SHOOTING, WE WERE MAKING STRIDES IN THIS AREA. BECAUSE STUDIES SHOW THAT BULLYING CAN LEAD TO DEPRESSION AND OTHER MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS, WE LAUNCHED THE STANDUP HOCO ANTI-BULLYING CAMPAIGN IN OCTOBER. THIS UNIQUE EFFORT BROUGHT TOGETHER A SPECTRUM OF COMMUNITY GROUPS TO CHANGE OUR ATTITUDES AND ACCEPTANCE OF BULLYING.


I AM PARTICULARLY PROUD OF A PROJECT LAUNCHED THIS WEEK THAT IS PART OF THE CAMPAIGN. WE KNOW THAT GIRLS ARE MORE LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE CYBER-BULLYING, RUMOR SPREADING AND SOCIAL EXCLUSION.

 
THE HOCO BLUE PINKY PROJECT ENLISTS PEOPLE TO MAKE A “PINKY PROMISE” TO PROMOTE RESPECT. BY PAINTING YOUR PINKY BLUE – SOMETHING MY TWO GIRLS HAVE ALREADY DONE -- YOU WILL SHOW THE WORLD THAT YOU WILL NOT STAND BY, BUT STAND UP TO BULLYING.


MY WIFE, JAKI, HAS AGREED TO SPEARHEAD THIS EFFORT, AND IT IS ALREADY MAKING AN IMPACT. THANK YOU, JAKI, AND I’D ENCOURAGE YOU ALL TO GET INVOLVED ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER.


WE LIKE TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR IMPORTANT CAUSES, BUT WE ALSO LIKE TO HAVE FUN WITH IT.


OVER THE PAST 8 YEARS, TECHNOLOGY HAS REVOLUTIONIZED THE WAY WE CONSUME INFORMATION AND INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER. AND IN HOWARD COUNTY, WE HAVE EMBRACED THESE NEW TOOLS – ESPECIALLY IN THE PAST YEAR.


WHEN NEIGBHORRIDE, THE NON-PROFIT TRANSPORTATION PROVIDER, WAS ONE OF 15 FINALISTS – AND THE ONLY ONE IN MARYLAND – IN THE TOM’S OF MAINE “50 STATES FOR GOOD” CONTEST, WE JUMPED INTO ACTION, AND WITHIN WEEKS, WE GENERATED MORE THAN 2,500 LIKES. NEIGHBORRIDE WON $10,000 TO EXPAND THEIR PROGRAM. COLLEEN KONSTANZER IS HERE WITH US….WE ARE HAPPY FOR YOUR VICTORY.


WHEN LIGHTPOINT SECURITY WAS IN THE RUNNING FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’S START UP OF THE YEAR AWARD, HOWARD COUNTY CAME TOGETHER TO SUPPORT ONE OF OUR OWN, CEO ZULY GONZALES. THANKS TO LOTS OF CLICKS AND VOTES, SHE MADE IT INTO THE TOP FIVE.


WHEN ELLICOTT CITY’S MAIN STREET WAS IN THE RUNNING TO BE A SHOWCASE IN BENJAMIN MOORE’S “PAINT WHAT MATTERS” CONTEST, WE USED SOCIAL MEDIA TO PUT THIS CLOSE-KNIT COMMUNITY OVER THE TOP. WE CREATED A FUN VIDEO THAT INCLUDED LOCAL MERCHANTS, KIDS AND EVEN A CELEBRITY IMPERSONATOR.


FOR THOSE WHO CLAIM THEY SAW “PAINT WHAT MATTERS” SPOKESMAN BRAD PITT ALONG MAIN STREET IN THE SUMMER, I’M SORRY TO DISAPPOINT YOU, BUT IT WAS OUR OWN LOCAL CELEBRITY AND HOLLYWOOD HAIR DOUBLE, IAN KENNEDY.


BECAUSE OF OUR ENERGY, ELLICOTT CITY WAS SELECTED AS A WINNER, AND THIS JUNE, STOREFRONTS UP AND DOWN THE HISTORIC DISTRICT WILL GET A FRESH COAT OF PAINT.


AND WHEN MY FRIEND RAJ SURI, CENTENNIAL HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF ’92, CAME UP WITH A CLEVER AD FOR THE DORITOS SUPER BOWL CONTEST, WE REVVED UP OUR OWN SOCIAL MEDIA TIME MACHINE AND PLAYED A SMALL PART IN PUSHING HIS SPOT OVER THE TOP.


RAJ’S COMMERCIAL WAS THE WINNER IN THE CONTEST, AND HE COLLECTED $1 MILLION. WE’RE STILL WAITING FOR OUR CUT.


WE LOVE TO GET INVOLVED IN EFFORTS LIKE THIS NOT TO PAT OURSELVES ON THE BACK, BUT BECAUSE THEY PROVIDE AN IMPORTANT WAY TO FOSTER COMMUNITY PRIDE AND STRENGTHEN OUR CONNECTIONS TO EACH OTHER.


PROMOTING OUR SUCCESS BRINGS ATTENTION TO THE SPECIAL COMMUNITY WE HAVE CREATED, A PLACE WHERE BUSINESSES AND PEOPLE WANT TO LOCATE.


JUST LIKE A MAN NAMED CHRIS BUSH.


YOU KNOW I CAN’T GET THROUGH A STATE OF THE COUNTY SPEECH WITHOUT AN EDEN PRARIE, MINNESOTA STORY. TO RECAP, A FEW YEARS AGO, WE WERE NAMED BY MONEY MAGAZINE THE SECOND BEST PLACE TO LIVE IN AMERICA, BEATEN BY ONLY EDEN PRARIE.


JUST LIKE IN HOWARD COUNTY, WHERE SO MANY OF US PURCHASED THAT MAGAZINE, THEY DID THE SAME IN MINNESOTA.


BUSH WAS LIVING WITH HIS WIFE, IN EDEN PRARIE. HE WANTED TO BE A POLICE OFFICER, AND THEY WANTED TO BUILD A FAMILY IN A GREAT COMMUNITY, BUT EDEN PRARIE WASN’T HIRING.


CHRIS AND HIS WIFE LOOKED THROUGH THE MAGAZINE, TO RESEARCH SOME OTHER GREAT PLACES. HOWARD COUNTY JUMPED OUT AT THEM, AND CHRIS GOT ONLINE AND APPLIED FOR ONE OF OUR OFFICER TRAINING ACADEMIES. HE GOT IN, JOINED A CLASS AND MOVED HIS FAMILY TO HOWARD COUNTY. HE WAS ABLE TO AFFORD A QUALITY HOME BECAUSE OF OUR PROGRESSIVE WORKFORCE HOUSING PROGRAMS, AND CHRIS BUSH IS NOW AN OFFICER HELPING KEEP US SAFE, AND WE’RE GLAD TO HAVE HIM.

 

CHRIS TOOK A FEW MINUTES OFF HIS PATROL DUTIES TO BE HERE TODAY. CHRIS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. EDEN PRARIE’S LOSS IS HOWARD COUNTY’S GAIN.


SO I THINK YOU’LL AGREE THAT WE HAVE SO MUCH TO BE PROUD OF IN HOWARD COUNTY: DURING THE PAST EIGHT YEARS, WE HAVE BECOME BRANDED AS A HOTBED OF NEW IDEAS AND A NATIONAL LEADER IN QUALITY OF LIFE, FEATURING THE MOST VIBRANT LOCAL ECONOMY IN MARYLAND. AND WE STAND POISED FOR FUTURE SUCCESS.


TOGETHER, WE ARE BUILDING THE FUTURE WE WANT AND DESERVE, BY EMBRACING BOLD IDEAS AND BY CONQUERING CHALLENGES.


AND LET ME END ON A PERSONAL NOTE….. HAVING THE CHANCE TO SERVE AS YOUR COUNTY EXECUTIVE HAS TRULY BEEN ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING, REWARDING AND SPECIAL TIMES OF MY LIFE. I AM HUMBLED BY THE SUPPORT YOU HAVE SHOWN ME AND HOW YOU ENCOURAGED US TO BE CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE. I CAN’T THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR TAKING A CHANCE ON ME. WE MADE A GREAT COUNTY EVEN BETTER. AND I AM IMMENSELY PROUD OF WHAT WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED TOGETHER.