MACo Celebrates Leaders in Public Service with 2020 Praisner Award – Winner Announced

MACo’s Marilyn J. Praisner Public Service Award was established to honor the legacy of former Montgomery County Council Member, Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Past President, and beloved public servant Marilyn J. Praisner.

The award recognizes those current or former elected county officials who have demonstrated outstanding service to a county, his or her constituents, and MACo. The award is a collaboration of the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance and MACo, with support from the Local Government Insurance Trust.

Three current or former elected county officials were nominated for the 2020 Praisner Public Service Award, which is issued to one winner each year. All were impressive with long-standing careers in public service and innovative approaches to leading their respective communities. MACo and the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance are pleased to announce our award winner, Frederick County Executive and MACo Past President, Jan Gardner. MACo will honor County Executive Gardner during the 2021 MACo Summer Conference.

“It was my honor to serve with Jan Gardner on the MACo Board for several years,” noted MACo President and Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood. “She is absolutely dedicated to public service, and that is clear in everything she does – both for Frederick County and for the wider county community. I speak for all of my colleagues on the Board in thanking Jan for everything she’s done for our Association and all she continues to do as a leader in education, economic development, and good government.”


Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner

Jan Gardner, Frederick County Executive

County Executive Jan Gardner has served as a leader in Frederick County for more than three decades. She was first elected to the Frederick Board of County Commissioners in 1998, after becoming well known for her strong public advocacy on behalf of school construction needs across the county, first as a parent, then as a leader on her local PTA, and finally, as a member of the PTA Council of Frederick County. She served as a County Commissioner for 12 years (three four year terms, 1998-2010), serving as the President of the Board of County Commissioners during her last four year term. 

She was re-elected in 2018 to a second term as County Executive. Once again, embracing a strategy that had proven successful time and time again, she enlisted the aid of the community to help her set her priorities for her second term. County Executive Gardner convened a leadership conference early in her next term to engage leaders, big picture thinkers and the general public to build on the accomplishments of her first term and to brainstorm new ideas. Business and industry executives collaborated with government officials, alongside leaders from human service non-profits, education, technology and faith-based organizations. The goal was to review what had been accomplished, what remained a work-in-progress, and to identify issues, ideas, priorities and goals for the next four years to ensure Frederick County remains the best place to live, work, and raise a family.

Now more than two years into her second term as County Executive, Jan has consistently reflected in her policy decisions the advice and recommendations of the various stakeholder groups she has convened throughout her time in office to help her address a variety of issues. She has continually worked to ensure that Frederick County embodies effective, efficient and transparent government. She constantly works to identify opportunities, recognize challenges, and take the actions necessary to ensure smooth government operations and the optimal delivery of services to all the citizens of Frederick County.

From the perspective of the Maryland Association of Counties, County Executive Jan Gardner has invested countless hours developing expertise and leadership on public school construction – a top issue facing every jurisdiction across the state. Her high profile on these issues dates back to the Kopp Commission from 2002-2004, where she was the county representative on the group that set the still-referenced standard for new, ambitious goals to address a classroom deficiency across Maryland. Her leadership and experience paid dividends when Maryland went back to work on even more complex school construction issues with the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, where she again stepped up to represent counties, and joined Chair Martin Knott in leading that group to the farthest-reaching set of goals and recommendations of their kind in Maryland history. At each step, she dutifully gathered input from multiple jurisdictions, evaluated policies affecting all counties, and advocated for best practices and incentives to benefit schoolchildren. County Executive Gardner served several terms on MACo’s Board of Directors, from 2007-2010 and then again from 2015-2019.

In 2007, MACo faced an unplanned leadership crisis. The entire queue of Association officers were, in one election year, vacated due to a combination of term limits, retirements, and election losses. MACo suddenly faced a nearly complete vacuum of people in high leadership, and instead of traditionally seeking a nominee to gradually “rise through the ranks,” MACo sought a candidate to step immediately into the Association’s top leadership role as President. Jan Gardner fit the bill, as a tireless advocate and representative on school construction issues, and a member of the Legislative Committee and Board of Directors. 2007 proved to be a uniquely challenging year, with an unexpected four-week special legislative session in October-November, but Jan continued to press county issues well beyond any typical leader. Her efforts to find compromise, and work with legislative leaders, helped guide MACo through fiscal challenges and secure policy partnerships that still last today.

Congratulations, County Executive Gardner and thank you for your tireless dedication to Frederick County and local government priorities across Maryland!

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Useful links: MACo 2020 County Innovation Award Winners Champion Climate Change Preparedness and Health Equity – Conduit Street (