Women of MACo Shine Light on Each Other’s Stories


At this year’s Women of MACo Lunch, Maryland’s female county elected officials joined in round table discussions about their careers, and recent challenges and breakthroughs they have experienced.

County Executive Jan Gardner kicked-off the event with a short keynote about her political career. Gardner is the First Frederick County Executive. Before winning that historic election, she served for 12 years as a Frederick County Commissioner, including as President of the Board of County Commissioners from 2006 to 2010.

She served as MACo President in 2007 and is currently a member of the MACo Board. Jan has been named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by the Daily Record three times and is a member of the Circle of Excellence.

Following the kick-off, attendees spoke with others about what brought them to public service, and their future plans. At my table, Charles County Commissioner Debra Davis shared her recent decision to file for state office, for a seat in the House of Delegates representing Legislative District 28.

Talbot County Council Member and MACo Board Member Laura Price moderated the event. Price shared how she decided to pursue elected office from her background as a small business owner.


From left to right, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, Charles County Commissioner Debra Davis, and Talbot County Councilwoman Laura Price.


2017 Winter #MACoCon Photo Recap

MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference – “The Power of Partnership” – on December 6-8 focused on how counties can work with partners from all levels of the private and public sectors to provide excellent service for Maryland’s county residents.

The full conference schedule and program of events can be viewed online.

Save the date for MACo’s next Winter Conference: January 2 – 4, 2019, at the Hyatt in Cambridge, MD (held in January to allow newly elected officials from the November 2018 elections to settle in and be able to attend the conference).

Don’t miss the 2018 Summer Conference: “Water, Water, Everywhere” on August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD.

Photography was sponsored and provided by Grant L. Gursky Photography

Summer #MACoCon to Focus on Water Issues

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will focus on all the ways counties work with water.

SC18 Brochure Cover - finalFrom the health of the Bay and Maryland’s waterways to the infrastructure, treatment, and regulations that ensure safe and healthy water flows through our pipes, county governments are keeping our residents afloat. Conference sessions will discuss the Bay, water infrastructure, watermen and oyster/fishery/habitat issues, floods and other natural disasters, and ways to put the wind back in the sails of a tight budget.

Mark your calendars and join us on August 15-18, 2018 to discuss “Water, Water Everywhere.”

To submit a proposal, please see our Speaker RFP. Proposals are due April 13, 2018.

For more info on MACo’s Summer Conference, please visit our conference page.

#MACoCon Panel Showcases Successful County Collaborations

At the 2017 MACo Winter Conference general session “We’ve Got Your Back: Counties Collaborate” attendees learned about how counties are leveraging intergovernmental and private sector partnerships to achieve the best results for county residents.

The panelists discussed a range of challenges counties grapple with — responding to natural disasters, ensuring public safety, maximizing purchasing power and investments — and the ways counties can use partnerships to overcome those challenges.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman kicked off the panel with a presentation on the recovery efforts after the 2016 Ellicott City flood. He noted that neighboring counties, state agencies, and responders from across the country were crucial in the successful response and recovery to the flood. Partners sent people to help with operational support, including an Incident Management Team from Pennsylvania as Maryland did not have such a team. They also sent equipment such as VAT trucks from Anne Arundel County, SHA trucks, and a helicopter. County Executive Kittleman stressed the importance of a united front while working together and of patience throughout the long-term process of recovery. He concluded sharing that 96% percent of business are back up and running 16 months after the flood — exceeding SBA’s estimate that only 20-30% of businesses would return.

Jim Alfree, Assistant Chief in Queen Anne’s County’s Department of Emergency Services presented on a 911 call overflow partnership between Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline, Queen Anne’s, and Kent counties. Prior to the partnership if you called 911 and the line was busy, you would get a busy signal until the line opened. He likened it to “playing Russian Roulette until you can get through to 911”. To fix this they developed a call flow. When one county 911 center is being inundated by calls, instead of receiving a busy signal the call will be sent to one of the neighboring county call centers. The counties developed a PSA and their public information officers helped with the campaign to get the message out.

Debbie Groat, Regional Purchasing Coordinator for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council presented on the benefits of aggregating county purchases to generate better prices and better services. Generally the greater the volume of purchases the greater the benefits. She noted that 60% of contracts that counties use are the same and that cooperative purchasing can save counties 3-15%. Groat explained the Baltimore Regional Cooperative Purchasing Committee’s lead buyer model which helps member counties piggy back on lead buyers contract. And how the committee provides a platform for sharing information on standard cooperative language and best practices that counties can use.

From left to right: County Executive Kittleman, Jim Alfree, Debbie Groat, Chris Dellinger, Joseph Mason
From left to right: County Executive Kittleman, Jim Alfree, Debbie Groat, Chris Dellinger, Joseph Mason

Chris Dellinger, Public Sector Solutions Energy & Sustainability Services for Schneider Electric, spoke about a public-private-partnership between Schneider Electric and Montgomery County to develop a microgrid to protect critical departments in the face of environmental disasters power outages. This partnership arose from a snow storm that hit Montgomery County and significantly knocked out power across the jurisdiction. The microgrids help ensure the county can continue to provide critical services in the face of such storms. The microgrid can power important systems and maintain functionality of a building while the electric grid is down and being worked on. Currently the Montgomery County Correctional Facility and Public Safety Headquarters now have microgrids.

Last but not least, Joseph Mason, Senior Vice President for Davenport & Company gave an overview of the MACo Pooled OPEB Investment Trust Fund. The OPEB trust helps local governments invest current funds toward future obligations for retiree health insurance. By pooling money together counties can reduce overhead and legal costs, as well as gain access to better investments.

This session was moderated by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and held on Thursday, December 7. The MACo Winter Conference was held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was “The Power of Partnership.”

State Development Plan Perspectives Offered at #MACoCon

County officials received and update on the pending State Development Plan on December 7 at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The panel was called “Planning Ahead: Preparing for the New State Development Plan” and was moderated by Wicomico County Council Member Matthew Holloway.

From Left to Right: John Campagna, Gerrit Knaap, Council Member Matt Holloway, and Special Secretary Wendi Peters

Maryland Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters stated that the new State Development Plan, called “A Better Maryland,” would be built on local comprehensive plans and focus on: (1) identifying local priorities; (2) improving communication between state agencies; and (3) assessing information needs at both the state and local levels. Peters noted that as part of the plan development process, other planning tools, such as the Maryland Transportation Plan and infrastructure funding, would also be reviewed for potential changes. Peters also provided an update on the listening session that are occurring in each county and stressed that the Maryland Department of Planning would also be meeting with regional councils and other stakeholders as well.

National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education Director Gerrit Knaap noted that only about a half-dozen states attempt a statewide plan and that statewide planning can be a useful exercise. Knaap stated that PlanMaryland, the previous and now rescinded State Development Plan, did not take into account planning trends occurring in Europe, which included planning becoming more decentralized from the state/nation level and more invested at a regional level. There was also a movement towards incentives and away from regulations to encourage local compliance with state/national goals. Knaap urged that “A Better Maryland” should be an amalgamation of local plans and Maryland can then flag areas of contention and conflict (similar to  what Maryland does for Priority Funding Areas). Knaap noted that the state can then layer other issues (transportation, enviornemntal, etc.) on top of the local “base layer.”

1000 Friends of Maryland Executive Director John Campagna stated that A Better Maryland needed three key components: (1) a partnership committment by the State; (2) solid metrics; and (3) inclusion of all stakeholders in the development process. Campagna stressed that all voices needed to be heard – urban, rural, and suburban.

Maryland’s Climate Change Strategy Discussed at 2017 Winter #MACoCon

Representatives from the Maryland Commission on Climate Change (MCCC) discussed the the current and future status of climate change efforts in Maryland at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The  panel was called “Rising Tides: Charting Maryland’s New Climate Change Path” and was moderated by MACo Legal & Policy Counsel Les Knapp.

From Left to Right: Secretary Ben Grumbles and Mike Powell

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Co-Chair and Gordon Feinblatt LLC Member Michael Powell provided the background of the MCCC. Powell noted that in 2012, Maryland adopted a greenhouse gas

reduction goal of 25% of 2006 emissions by 2020 and recently adopted a new goal of a 40% reduction by 2030. The draft action plan for the new 40% goal is due in 2018. Powell stated that Maryland’s goals are basically same as those found in the Paris Accords and that the state is on track to meet the 2020 goal. Powell noted that if current trends undertaken for the 2020 goal continue and no federal climate change programs are repealed, then the state will also be close to meeting the 2030 goal.

Powell assumed that electric vehicles, a green energy grid, healthy soils, zero waste efforts, and transportation improvements would all be part of the State’s new plan for the 2030 goal. Powell also noted that there were some other proposals not currently in the plan but would be reviewed, including: a carbon Tax, including greenhouse gas emissions in all governing decisions, requiring 2% incremental energy efficiency improvements, increasing Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), tighter caps under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), restricting methane emissions from landfills and wastewater treatment plants, a “vehicle miles traveled” tax, adoption of electric school buses, strengthening building codes, prohibiting new landfill capacity after 2019, increasing local government recycling rates to 60%, and requiring more aggressive compact development.

Powell noted that Maryland did not have to undertake all of these policies and could be selective. Powell also stressed the importance of tracking economic impacts stemming from these policies.

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Working Group Co-Chair and Chesapeake Climate Action Network Executive Director Mike Tidwell argued that  time is running out and that both the state and local governments must be aggressive in responding to climate change. Tidwell cited extreme weather examples and a projected 6-9 foot sea level rise by 2100.

From Left to Right: Mike Tidwell and Secretary Ben Grumbles

Tidwell stressed the need to adopt renewable energy within 15 years and keep 80% of all know reserves of fossil fuels in the ground. Tidwell disagreed with Powell’s assessment that the state is on track to meet the 2030 goal. Tidwell also complimented Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on his support for the 2030 goal, the 2017 EMPOWER Act, and the recently enacted ban on natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Maryland. Tidwell criticized Hogan for his recent veto of legislation that increased the RPS to 25%.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment and Commission Chair Benjamin Grumbles described how the MCCC has taken a consensus-based approach to the new plan. Regarding mitigation, Grumbles noted that RGGI and better interstate cooperation on electric vehicles and transportation issues will be critical. Regarding adaptation, Grumbles stressed that Maryland is at risk from both sea level rise and subsidence and needs to strengthen our infrastructure to make it more resilient and avoid locating it in severely affected areas. Grumbles state that this must be done collaboratively with the counties and not “be dictated from the top down.” Finally, Grumbles briefly touched on how climate change will factor into the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

Saving Lives at #MACoCon

Attendees to the 2017 MACo Winter Conference learned critical first aid skills during the “‘Stayin’ Alive’ – Learn to Save a Life with Naloxone Training for Opioid Overdoses and Hands-Only CPR” panel on December 7.

Hands-Only CPR Training

Participants first learned hands-only CPR and related first aid on training dummies. The CPR training was provided by a qualified life guard employed by the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake. Participants then learned how to administer Naloxone to someone who has overdosed on opioids and tend to that person until help arrives. The Naloxone training was conducted by Charles County Health Officer Dianna Abney.

The HOPE House

Finally, representatives from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office gave a brief overview of their Heroin Overdose Prevention Effort (HOPE) House, which was on display for conference attendees. The HOPE House is a trailer that duplicates a young person’s bedroom and bathroom and teaches people to recognize signs that suggest the young person is using drugs. The HOPE House is a mobile education tool, targeting the heroin epidemic, conceived by the HOPE Workgroup, a partnership between Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler and members of the Harford County Community.

#MACoCon Panel: Including Health Decisions in All Policy Decisions

From Left to Right: Robert Stephens, Bridget Kerner, & Senator Addie Eckardt

Health experts discussed how to incorporate public health impacts into a county’s decision making process for all kinds of policies – not just those traditionally associated with health – on December 7 at the 2017 MACo Winter Conference. The panel was called “Health in All Policies” and was moderated by Maryland Senator Addie Eckardt. In her opening remarks, Senator Eckardt stressed that almost any decision a county makes can affect the public health.

National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Senior Program Analyst Bridget Kerner discussed various Health in All Policies (HiAP) initiatives and the strategies needed successfully implement HiAP at a county level. Kerner noted that HiAP implements health determinations in all policy decisions and is designed to ensure that all policies have either a neutral or positive effect on public health. HiAP can cover policies relating to the built environment, economic development, comprehensive planning, and public safety. Kerner noted that HiAP began in 1999 in the European Union and is now an emerging health trend in the United States. According to Kerner, NACCHO will unveil a HiAP technical assistance program starting January 1, 2018.

Garrett County Health Officer Robert Stephens discussed the County’s recent receipt of a 2017 Culture of Health Prize. Prize Communities throughout the nation focus on better health outcomes through HiAP. Prize communities excel in six criteria: (1) defining health in broadest possible terms; (2) committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions; (3) cultivating a shared and deeply held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health; (4) harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members; (5) securing and making the most of available resources; and (6) measuring and sharing progress and results. Stephens noted Garrett County is not seeing growth so its health focus is more on preventative health practices, public education, and aging in place.

Better Foster Care for Kids, Counties, and Communities

At the 2017 MACo Winter Conference session, Breaking the Mold: Foster Care Collaborations That Work!, attendees learned how counties are forming innovative partnerships to deliver the best programs for children in foster care.

The session began with a presentation by Shalita O’Neale, Foster Care Ombudsman for the Maryland Department of Human Services. Shalita discussed the importance of using the youth engagement model to engage the voices of foster kids and alumni of the foster care system into the development of programs that are intended to assist or serve them. She advocated for boosting their social capital and helping to connect them to the networks needed for them to succeed once they age out of the system.

From left to right: Shalita O'Neale, Dina Daly, Linda Webb, Deborah Harburger
From left to right: Shalita O’Neale, Dina Daly, Linda Webb, Deborah Harburger

Dina Daly, Director of the Caroline County Department of Social Services, Linda Webb, Director of the Talbot County Department of Social Services, and Deborah Harburger, Clinical Instructor for The Institute for Innovation & Implementation at the University of Maryland School of Social Work jointly presented on a partnership between the mid-shore counties (Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot) for the Thrive@25 program.

The goal of the Thrive@25 program is to end and prevent homelessness among youth and young adults currently or previously involved in the foster care system. The mid-shore counties were one of 18 grantees nationwide to receive a planning grant and only one of six to receive the 3-year, $2 million implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children and Families, Children’s Bureau for the program.

The presenters discussed how they decided to take a rural look at youth homelessness and worked with community organizations to reach out to foster youth in their early 20s. They found that while the state did not discharge youths into homelessness, their transition plans were deficient. Using a youth engagement model to work from the inside out, they worked to develop a program to help transition these youths into sustainable adult hood. Accomplishments included Achieve My Plan, Thrive House, and expanding a summer employment program into a year-long program for some positions.

The panel stressed communication as a key to collaboration. While they discussed some of the bumps they encountered along the way, the also provided some tips and lessons learned for successfully working together to implement a program.

This session was held on Thursday, December 7, 2017. The MACo Winter Conference was held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was  “The Power of Partnership.”

How to Shape Partnerships to Solve Problems for Servicing Seniors

At the 2017 MACo Winter Conference attendees learned about how counties are working to administer limited resources and  leverage public and private partnerships in order to improve care coordination and achieve better outcomes for their senior residents.

Joanne Williams, Director of Aging for Baltimore County, started her presentation by noting that “necessity is the mother of all invention” and how a change in the funding climate over the years, paired with a growth in the number of seniors to serve, has taxed the limited resources and forced them to look towards inventive solutions.

She then launched into a discussion about how Baltimore County is working outside of the box partnering with internal, departmental, and external stakeholders to provide innovative services to their residents. Joanne also presented on the county’s Hospital to Home program as an example of one of a successful partnership.

From left to right: Joanne Williams, Morgan DeWeese, Linda Willis, Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes
From left to right: Joanne Williams, Morgan Deweese, Linda Willis, Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes

Linda Willis and Morgan Deweese, Director and Resource manager for the Cecil County Department of Aging respectively, jointly presented on the importance of partnerships in applying for grants and deep-dived into a case study of Cecil’s Hospital to Home program.

Linda stressed that forming and solidifying relationships with local stakeholders is essential before grant opportunities or unexpected complications in the field arise. She then highlighted a community crisis that brought the Department of Aging and Emergency Management together to generate and execute a solution.

Morgan continued the discussion by focusing on the county’s Hospital to Home program. She walked through how the partnerships were formed and how the stakeholders worked together in a short amount of time to apply for and execute the grants noting the key steps along the way required for shaping the program, targeting the participants, and tracking the outcomes.

A note on the Hospital to Home grant program: while many counties took advantage of the state administered grant opportunity each did so in a way that would work best with their residents.

Joanne shared that in Baltimore County the program helps target frequent flyers for hospital service and includes a coordinator on site at Northwest Hospital to meet with each patient to determine their service needs following discharge back to his or her community. The hope is that once the state grant funding ends the hospital will find the program beneficial enough to continue though a funding partnership with the county.

Morgan shared that in Cecil County the Hospital to Home partnership was formed with Union Hospital and targets the Medicaid and dually-eligible populations. There are staff members co-located at the hospital three days a week to provide hands on help with the individual and warm hand-offs to community services.

This session was moderated by Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes. The MACo Winter Conference was held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was  “The Power of Partnership.”