On what should have been Day 2 of our session in Western Maryland, we asked a few of our members from the region to comment on how the pandemic is impacting their sector:
Barry P. Ronan '97, President, UPMC - Western Maryland, on health care:
Even though it has been over twenty years since I was a member of the LMD Class of 1997, I continue to reflect on what I gleaned from my year with Leadership Maryland. Most notable was experiencing the roles that the Greater Hagerstown Committee, the Greater Salisbury Committee and the Greater Baltimore Committee played in their respective regions. As a result, I, along with several other graduates of LMD from western Maryland, formed the Greater Cumberland Committee. TGCC has been serving Allegany and Garrett Counties in Maryland and Mineral County in West Virginia for the last twenty years. The accomplishments of TGCC throughout our region have been many and probably would not have happened without the foresight of a handful of LMD graduates.
The first wave of the COVID pandemic that began in March 2020 for the most part was manageable for my health system. The highest number of COVID-positive patients in our COVID ICU at one time was 19 with over half of them on ventilators. We continue to treat patients who are positive, but the majority are from local nursing homes. At the peak, our staff responded amazingly in the care of these patients; at no time was there any refusal to care for and treat these patients. We learned a great deal from the experience and are now much better prepared for the next wave. New opportunities grew out of the COVID experience such as greater acceptance of telemedicine, the creation of virtual everything from appointments, to waiting rooms, to staff working remotely. Much of what was created during the COVID crisis will be with us for a long time to come.
As it relates to challenges and needs for the region of western Maryland, although we are making progress, health status continues to be a challenge. UPMC Western Maryland has been focused on population health initiatives and addressing the social determinant of health for the last ten years. We are truly making a difference in the lives of so many, especially the poor and disenfranchised. In addition, we continue to deal with poverty and an increase in crime of which much is directly related to drugs. Over the last several years, the drug trade has found its way west of Baltimore. We formed a multi-disciplinary task force to deal with the opioid crisis. We have representation from the health system, health department, law enforcement, pharmacies, religious community, emergency medical services, education, corrections, courts, and social services. Everyone is very much aware of every aspect of this drug crisis and its impact on each discipline as a result of this task force. We are very fortunate to have Frostburg State University and Allegany College of Maryland in western Maryland. Health care is the region’s largest industry; both the college and university support health care through their commitment to the many allied health programs. These programs greatly benefit the hospital, the region’s clinicians as well as other providers.
Although, we have our challenges in western Maryland, I wouldn’t trade my last 30 years living and working here for anything.
Andrea E. Chapdelaine '19, President, Hood College, on higher education:
All of the institutions of higher education in this region had to cease on-campus operations in March and none of us have resumed campus operations since, although I believe most are offering a “hyflex” model in the fall, with some courses in person, others online but most in some hybrid or bimodal model, with some elements online and others in person.
We have had to revisit every facet of our operations and determine how to serve our students while mitigating the risk of spread of the virus on our campuses. These are complex and ever-changing plans that have demanded an enormous amount of time and resources.
That said, speaking for Hood, we have not seen a decrease in enrollment, as one may have predicted, although we are seeing an increased need for financial assistance as our students and their families are facing economic hardship due to the pandemic.
In terms of financial impact, we anticipate as much as a 20% loss of revenue (from auxiliary services – housing, dining, campus rentals, etc.) and additional costs of approximately $1,000 per student to prepare the campus for fall reopening. This has necessitated furloughs and reductions in salaries and benefits. As non-profits, we were excluded from most of the relief programs (e.g., PPP) so the relief for us has been negligible (less than 10% of expected losses). And of course, as one of the major employers (if not the major employer for some other Western Maryland colleges and universities) in our communities, this has a ripple effect as we have generated less consumer purchasing and income taxes.
That said, we know a college degree is one of the best ways to avoid unemployment and given the market right now, I know higher education as an industry will survive, although there will certainly be bumps along the way.
James F. "Jim" Kercheval '15, Executive Director, Greater Hagerstown Committee, Inc., on the economy and local business community:
GHC became a member of our county’s business response team instituted as part of our emergency operations plan for COVID-19. The majority of my time has shifted to a relief and recovery effort for our business community and local economy. We are actively engaged in business outreach, promotion of resources available, and advocacy with local, state, and federal officials. The rural nature of our community has shielded us from significant infection rates, and we barely have utilized our capacity for treatment.
However, the shutdowns have taken a significant toll on our local economy which has a high percentage of retail and industries dependent on tourism. We anticipate a long road to recovery and are planning for a world that will likely look very different – identifying the “sugar” needed to turn our lemons into lemonade.
To put it mildly, 2020 hasn’t gone as we planned. In just a few short months, the pandemic has forced us all to reschedule, rearrange, and rethink almost every aspect of our lives and ways of doing business. However, with all the challenges this crisis has created, there have also been a few simple, yet pleasant surprises – including the gift of found time to explore new interests and projects.
For Leadership Maryland, our greatest challenge has been postponing our Class of 2020 until 2021. But, not having a class this year has also gifted us with time to really dig into our organization’s strategic plan and explore new ways to promote our driving strategies – two of which are “alumni engagement” and “thought leadership.” This week we are merging these two notions with the premiere of Engaging Leaders: A Leadership Maryland podcast, brought to you by BEACON at Salisbury University and BFG Financial Advisors.
Brought to fruition by lifetime members and past board chairs Eric Brotman ‘09 and Memo Diriker ‘12, this new podcast will highlight the incredibly talented members of our Leadership Maryland community as they converse with our hosts on their professional experiences and approaches to leadership in times of turmoil. Available online or on your preferred podcast streaming platform, a new episode of Engaging Leaders will release on the third Thursday of each month.
“My goal for this podcast is to reach an audience of decision-makers and general movers-and-shakers in Maryland and to highlight the diverse talents and backgrounds of our membership,” says series host Eric Brotman. “I hope listeners will come away with lessons shared by engaged leaders across the state which will be actionable, and as a result more connections will be made to enhance our communities, businesses, and non-profits.”
The first two episodes of Engaging Leaders are available now and feature candid conversations with lifetime members Freeman Hrabowski III ’93 and Jim Brady ’93.
“I can’t think of a better way to start a new podcast than by interviewing these two giants of the region,” says Eric. “Freeman Hrabowski is one of the most respected leaders in the country and has a unique perspective on both historical and current affairs. Jim Brady has experienced leadership challenges in turbulent times like few others and has worn many hats in the region – making an enormous difference in each organization he’s touched.”
Co-host Memo Diriker agrees. “These two giants have provided leadership in an incredible variety of fields. The breadth and depth of their thought leadership in Maryland makes them the ideal guests as we start our podcast journey.”
As our host, Eric is looking forward to lively and fun conversations that will be both informative and entertaining for listeners.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to interview some of the most influential and interesting people in Maryland, and I know that I’ll learn from each one of them,” he says. “I’m looking forward to challenging our guests to stretch out of their comfort zones much like members of the Leadership Maryland class do each year.”
You can listen to the first episodes of Engaging Leaders HERE. And check back on the third Thursday of each month for new episodes!
We asked a few of our members from Maryland's health care sector to share their biggest concerns as surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, or to reflect on what they've learned as they've led their organizations through this challenging time.
Jean C. Accius, Ph.D. '14 (LM), SVP, Global Thought Leadership, AARP:
We are bearing witness to the tragic impact of this pandemic on the health of older adults and simultaneously a deep public outcry across the nation over racial injustice. We now have a choice: accept the life-and-death consequences of the status quo or seize this moment to not just rebuild but rebuild our communities better so all are able to enjoy a long and healthy life. We must usher in a bold future that embraces equity and innovation. We must be bold and courageous and create a new path forward that affirms our interconnectivity. Maryland, we can and must lead the way.
Brian D. Pieninck '16, President & CEO, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield:
After months of isolation and mounting economic pressures, households and businesses across the country are anxious to restart and reclaim some sense of normalcy. But it’s important to understand this deadly pandemic is far from over. In fact, we’re still in the first wave. Without a vaccine or effective drug therapies, we must remain vigilant. Every leader making decisions about reopening and returning to work will need to consider the risks, taking great care to safeguard the health of employees, customers and communities. As we navigate these challenges, we have an opportunity to emerge stronger, but it will be critical that we confront the persistent shortcomings of our healthcare system, progressively moving toward a focus on value and outcome-based care that equitably addresses the social and healthcare needs of our communities.
Melanie M. Heuston, D.N.P., RN, NEA-BC '19, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Meritus Medical Center:
As a healthcare leader, I always have two primary concerns; the front line care giver staff and the patients we serve. As a state, I feel that Maryland has been very proactive and thoughtful to the approach of COVID-19. I continue to be concerned about personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies being in short supply and the cost of these important resources. As we continue to move through the phase of recovery, it is paramount that patients continue to seek healthcare resources and to not ignore conditions out of fear. The strategy of recovery needs to be ongoing good hygiene practices, social distancing, screening for airborne illness and utilization of masks as a culture change. We are continuing to heal the wounds of this pandemic by acknowledging the loneliness and solidarity of health care workers while treating patients with COVID-19 and the families that are struggling with loss of a loved one or the inability to visit during hospitalization.
Joseph "Joe" DeMattos, Jr. '08, President and CEO, Health Facilities Association of Maryland:
You are a leader and your primary objective is to work with others to navigate change. Leadership is an activity of action rooted in listening, guided by vision, and fueled with collaboration. Effective leaders have vision, communicate effectively, build winning teams, and value diversity and inclusion.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, we are reminded that effective leaders adapt, innovate, and place high value on engagement.
Now more than ever, I am reminded of our shared time and experiences in Leadership Maryland, and that I am a leader not alone but part of a community of passionate and gifted leaders.
And I am also reminded of what I learned in my personal work with Jack Canfield: E + R = O. That is the Event + Response = Outcome. We don’t control the challenging events we face but we are not without power. Our response to these events, which are in our control, are half of the equation in the outcome we secure with our leadership.
On what would’ve been education day for the class of 2020, we asked a few of our members from Maryland's education sector to offer their best advice for educators and parents adjusting to virtual learning:
Dr. Michael J. Martirano '07, Superintendent, Howard County Public Schools:
Work Hard and be kind - This mindset has driven me during my time as an educator, administrator and Superintendent and exemplifies the way Americans are coming together during this pandemic.
To Teach a Child Well, You Must Know a Child Well - Every student has different backgrounds, perspectives, needs, and motivators. The key is to understand what those are for each student and leverage that knowledge to make a difference as an educator.
William "Rob" Hair '21, Superintendent, Maryland School for the Blind:
Establish a schedule. Make the day predictable and keep sleep routines in place. This is very important for kids and adults and helps to keep behaviors at a minimum in kids and adults.
Give kids choices throughout the day. Build in exercise, playtime and remain flexible.
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Ignore the baskets of unfolded clothes or if things are not as tidy as you like or if the kids have more screen time than you prefer under normal circumstances. There is no need to be perfect in housekeeping or parenting, at any time, but certainly not in this period of quarantine.
Take care of yourself. We’re all anxious right now. Sometimes we get so focused on taking care of our families that we ignore the impact that this crisis is having on us personally. Gardening, exercise, arts and crafts, jigsaw puzzles or going for long walks can help us to maintain a healthy outlook.
Dr. Patricia W. "Patty" Saelens '19, Superintendent, Caroline County Public Schools:
The Do's and Don’ts of At-Home Learning:
During these unprecedented times of home learning, families will inevitably be faced with many challenges. Remember, the role of the parent is to ‘support’ learning opportunities. Families should not feel pressured to ‘teach’ their child, but instead support access to opportunities. Below are some Do’s and Don’ts of home learning to assist in setting yourself up for a successful and productive experience.
Focus on the basics
Take movement breaks
Allow for mistakes
Know that most of the time, you’re doing the best you can (and forgive yourself the rest of the time)
Beat yourself up
Stay idle for long periods of time
Give up too early
Focus on the negative
Set unattainable expectation
Leadership Maryland Alumni Bring St. Mary’s County Students to National Harbor
Each year, Leadership Maryland dedicates its Southern Region Session to trends and issues impacting education across the state. Day Two of the session is traditionally hosted at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center (FCTC), which affords public high school students in St. Mary's County the opportunity to learn the information and skills used in one of twenty-four specific career areas.
“Our center has programs in nearly all areas—hospitality and tourism, nursing, automotive repair, dental assisting, engineering, and others—for students in their sophomore year or higher in St. Mary’s County,” says Bonnie Kelly, FCTC hospitality and tourism program instructor. “Leadership Maryland uses our conference center each year for their Education Day, and my students, along with the culinary students, manage the whole event from the set up and break down to the catering of lunch.”
Chris Borgal ’16, Leadership Maryland board member and assistant vice president of operations and management for the Peterson Companies, first visited FCTC as a part of Leadership Maryland’s class of 2016, and was very impressed by the professionalism of the hospitality students.
“I work for the company that’s been developing National Harbor since the beginning,” says Chris. “Because we have such a presence in the hospitality field with the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center and MGM National Harbor, I wanted to connect with Bonnie and offer any type of opportunities I could for her students.”
The connection they made that day rekindled a long-time professional relationship between FCTC and National Harbor that had recently dissipated due to staff turnover. Now Chris and his team host the students of the hospitality and tourism program each year and show them the ins and outs of every aspect of the business.
“I wanted this to be a hands-on and inclusive experience for the students,” explains Chris. “Each student has unique interests, so it was important to cover as much of the industry as possible.”
During their visit, Chris provides a grand overview of the development of National Harbor, including their vision for the future and plan to keep growing. The students also get to tour the property’s two major hotels, MGM National Harbor and the Gaylord National Resort. While at Gaylord National Resort, they are able to see all aspects of operations, including both the “front of house,” including seven outlets, nearly 2,000 guestrooms and more than 600,000 square feet of meeting and event space; and the “heart of the house,” including behind-the-scenes peeks at the kitchens, housekeeping areas, offices and more.
“The goal of this tour is to expose them to as much as possible so each student can get a feel for what role in the hospitality industry they want to play in their future,” continues Chris. “Plus, it’s an opportunity to expand their views and perceptions of Prince George’s County and see other parts of the state in a way that Leadership Maryland afforded me.”
Monroe Harrison ’18 is director of public affairs at Gaylord National Resort and had originally connected with Bonnie years ago. After visiting FCTC with his own Leadership Maryland class and seeing the passion with which the teachers spoke to their classes and how engaged the students were, he was happy to see the relationship between the school and National Harbor begin again.
“We have been working with Bonnie for more than five years, and her passion for educating young people and introducing them to the tourism industry is admirable,” says Monroe. “Gaylord National Resort always seeks the best talent and by providing tours to students we help educate them about the numerous career opportunities a property of our size has to offer. From traditional lodging positions to human resources, accounting and finance, event managers, sales and marketing, and more – we want them to see there is something for everyone to excel in.”
It is connections like this that make Leadership Maryland such a valuable resource for the community. According to Bonnie, the difference that National Harbor has made within her program is immeasurable.
“Some of my students have traveled in the past, but many may not have ever left St. Mary’s County,” says Bonnie. “We have some small hotels in the area where the students can shadow, but nothing like the expansive and diverse opportunities at National Harbor. This relationship with Chris and his team has been life-changing and really opened up new doors for my students and showed them where a career in hospitality can take them.”
“One of the biggest takeaways from my time in Leadership Maryland is the notion of how I can be significant within my community,” explains Chris. “This partnership was a very small way of having significance, particularly in a part of the state I’d never really see or touch otherwise. Without this program, I certainly wouldn’t have been in a position to offer any help at all, so I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
To learn more about National Harbor, please visit nationalharbor.com. To learn more about FCTC, please visit https://schools.smcps.org/tech/. To learn more about Leadership Maryland, please visit leadershipmd.org.
Leadership Maryland alumni contribute significantly to influential community awareness program
One of the keystones of our mission at Leadership Maryland is to inform leaders on the vital issues impacting our state and empower them with the information and connections they need to become forces for meaningful change. So it’s no surprise that when a community on Maryland’s Eastern Shore launched a county-wide awareness campaign aimed at combating the opioid epidemic, many of the individuals behind its powerful impact were Leadership Maryland alumni.
The initiative is known as Talbot Goes Purple, and it was spearheaded by Lucie Hughes ’17, past president of the Tidewater Rotary Club in Easton, and Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble. The idea was born in 2017, when Sheriff Gamble presented to the Tidewater Rotary Club about opioid abuse and its devastating effects on families in Talbot County, throughout Maryland and across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overdose deaths per year involving opioids increased six times over between 1999 and 2017 nationwide.
Sheriff Gamble stressed the importance of educating people, especially parents and children, about the dangers of opioids, and how the path to addiction most often begins with prescription medications. Inspired by his impassioned speech, the Tidewater Rotary Club felt compelled to help address the issue in their own community.
“When Joe came to speak to us, I had just been elected president and wanted our club to have a cause to focus on for the year. After hearing him speak, I approached our executive board and suggested we do something around addiction and the opioid epidemic and they agreed,” said Lucie. “I knew Joe personally, and I went to him and offered money from the Tidewater Rotary Club to buy a new drug dog for the county. And he said, ‘I don’t need another drug dog, what I need is an awareness and education campaign around substance abuse and the opioid epidemic.’ So we agreed to do that.”
“I needed people who were willing to do the hard work and help me pull this campaign off,” said Sheriff Gamble. “Lucie stepped up immediately, and her Rotary Club was all in, and it just started from there.”
Together Lucie, Sheriff Gamble and the Tidewater Rotary Club came up with a campaign based on THP Purple Project, a high-school substance-abuse awareness initiative founded by former NBA player Chris Herren. The mission of Talbot Goes Purple was simple: to engage the community in turning the entire county purple for the month of September and to raise awareness and inspire informed conversations about prescription pills and opioid addiction.
To get the initiative off the ground, Sheriff Gamble and Lucie began soliciting support from key business owners in the area, many of whom happened to be Lucie’s fellow Leadership Maryland members. One of the first organizations she approached was the local electric distribution company, Easton Utilities, led by CEO Hugh Grunden ’03 and CFO Steve Ochse ’18.
“Lucie came to us and asked how we could help elevate the visibility of this project to garner more awareness and start more conversations,” said Hugh. “We do a lot of Christmas decorating during the holiday season, so we knew we had a core competency to illuminate the downtown streets and businesses,” said Hugh. “So, we got to work, but instead of Christmas colors, we used purple.”
“Hugh and I happened to be at a meeting where Lucie spoke about the concept of Talbot Goes Purple, and we turned and looked at each other and realized we could help turn the town purple, literally,” said Steve. “The lightbulb went off, pun intended, that we could participate in a big way and with Hugh’s leadership, we pulled together the resources we needed to make it happen.”
David Fike ’16 (LM), then the publisher of Talbot County’s daily newspaper, The Star Democrat, was also quick to offer his support for the project.
“Once Lucie and Joe explained what they were trying to accomplish and the movement they were trying to create in our town, it was an easy ‘yes’ for me,” said David. “I have seen how opioid abuse has affected families in our community, either through people I’ve known or people I’ve read about. It’s devastating what it does to families – not only to the individual who is addicted, but the rest of the extended family as well. So I put my thinking cap on as to how we could assist the process and get the message out there even more.”
Talbot Goes Purple launched in September 2017. The month began with a special edition of The Star Democrat on newsstands featuring a purple masthead and dedicated entirely to news related to opioid abuse in the community, local initiatives to curb it, and educational information on addiction and recovery. The paper followed with a front-page story each day of the month that told the story of someone in the community who had overcome substance abuse or had experienced its negative effects. The paper also waived its online paywall for the month so more people could access the Talbot Goes Purple content.
In addition, a public lighting ceremony was held at the Talbot County Court House in Easton. Local dignitaries, community leaders and neighbors gathered as Easton Utilities flipped the switch on 14,000 purple lights and 75 purple spotlights illuminating the historic downtown district.
“We could not have done this without Hugh and Dave’s support – the visibility they gave us with the streetlights and the newspaper coverage was really our tipping point,” said Lucie. “We spoke to more than 100 clubs, businesses and organizations, and everywhere we went, there wasn’t anyone in the room who had not been touched by substance abuse. Everyone had a story and wanted to get on board. We have a large recovery community here in Easton and Talbot Goes Purple gave us a platform to talk about it and everyone embraced us.”
Talbot Goes Purple quickly gained momentum as more and more people joined the effort to turn the town purple. There were no set instructions for how local businesses and organizations should support the movement, they were simply given educational messaging and asked to share it in any way they could. Restaurants offered purple dessert specials, jewelry stores created purple window displays, and nail salons offered discounts on purple nail polish. Schools held “Purple Fridays” and a local electric supply company sold purple lightbulbs so neighbors could show their support with their home porch lights. Senator Addie Eckhardt ’01, representing the local district, even traded in her signature pink wardrobe and wore purple throughout the month.
Mike Hiner ’16, president of Willow Construction, was one of many local business leaders and Leadership Maryland alumni who joined the effort, changing his company’s exterior lights to purple and purchasing purple t-shirts for his workers to wear on job sites.
“We are in a business where there is always a threat of drug use, so we have especially taken on this cause for the sake of our own employees to make sure they’re safe and aware. We encourage them to follow Sheriff Gamble’s advice to only take opioids exactly as prescribed, dispose of them properly, and keep them away from their kids,” he said. “And we’re trying to keep that conversation going all year long in our safety meetings. We also recently invited Lucie and Sheriff Gamble to one of our jobsites to speak with all of our subcontractors.”
The first campaign was so successful, it returned in September 2018 with expanded messaging and reach. Neighboring counties Dorchester, Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, and even Sussex County in Delaware and Washington County in Western Maryland joined the movement and turned purple for the month. And Lucie and Sheriff Gamble are looking forward to even more people joining the movement in 2019.
“It has grown beyond our wildest belief,” said Sheriff Gamble. “And it’s not about me or Lucie; this is about communities rising up and doing something and fighting back against this epidemic, and the best way to do that is through education. And statewide, prescription opioid deaths dropped in 2018, and locally, our drop boxes are overflowing with prescription pills that people are turning over, so we know people are hearing the message and beginning to get it.”
“One father reached out to Joe to tell him he was driving his teenage son home from school, and his son said he didn’t understand all this ‘purple’ stuff and how it was supposed to make any difference at all. So they started talking about it, and an hour and a half later, they were still talking about it. We have given people the platform to be able to have this conversation,” said Lucie.
Hugh believes the success of Talbot Goes Purple speaks to the spirit of the Talbot County community. Easton Utilities has donated more than 500 manhours to date to lighting a portion of the county’s streets in purple.
“Talbot County is a community where volunteerism has always run strong,” he said. “I was born and raised here, and it has always been a community that will address a problem head on, and I think we really did that. We were thrilled to be invited to participate in such an important project, and we brought something to the table that I don’t think others could have offered. It was a huge team effort.”
Sheriff Gamble is not surprised that many of the key players in this movement are Leadership Maryland alumni.
“The people who I know who have gone through Leadership Maryland are the movers and shakers in our community. Lucie, Hugh, David - they get stuff done and are community-minded people. They don’t just talk about being a part of the community, they are a part of the community,” he said.
“Hugh and I both went through Leadership Maryland, and a big focus is working together with partners in the community, and that’s what happened with this project,” said Steve.
“Leadership Maryland makes you aware of issues around the state, and opioids were a main topic when we talked about inner city issues, judicial issues, just social issues in general,” said Mike. “Everyone can recognize that the opioid issue is at the root of many of our problems, and as Leadership Maryland graduates, we are compelled to be problem-solvers and help spread this message that people need to be aware of how dangerous this substance is.”
Lucie agrees that her Leadership Maryland experience contributed to Talbot Goes Purple’s success.
“Leadership Maryland exposes you to different ways of doing things and different ways to approach things. That helped me look at Talbot Goes Purple from different angles and frame my questioning in a good way,” she said. “It was amazing to me when I looked back and saw how many people from Leadership Maryland supported us and were involved.”
To support Talbot Goes Purple, Lucie encourages everyone to follow @TalbotGoesPurple on Facebook, share the educational information and begin their own conversations about opioids. Donations are also accepted at talbotgoespurple.org, and purple t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and lights are available for those who would like to turn their own communities purple.
To learn more about Leadership Maryland, please visit leadershipmd.org.
Member Story: Conversation Turned Collaboration: '05 Classmates Join Forces to Create a Green Workspace
When the lease ran out on her company’s building, Eileen Straughan ’05, knew it was time to move. As CEO of Straughan Environmental, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in helping public and private companies achieve environmental compliance and improve sustainability, Eileen was ready to leave her old inefficient building behind and ensure that her own company was adhering to the same high standards she held for her clients.
“I felt as an environmental firm, we really wanted to walk the talk, and have a space that is more reflective of what we value,” she said. “In all our projects, we give our clients the ability to work within infrastructure which is necessary for a growing society, but in a way that preserves and protects the natural environment on which we all depend.”
After purchasing a new building less than two miles from Straughan Environmental’s old location, Eileen knew she would need help from an experienced architect to help convert the one-story, brick-on-block space into a model of sustainable design. That’s when she turned to Charles Alexander ‘05, president of Alexander Design Studio and Eileen’s classmate from Leadership Maryland’s Class of 2005.
“While we were going through Leadership Maryland together, Eileen and I had struck up conversations just because we were in related fields and complimentary professions,” said Charles. “When she reached out to me about needing help to create the environment in which her staff would be working, it was an easy project for our team to be interested in. We want projects that are different and that are about something, and to Eileen, this was about getting at the heart of how they operate and achieving a higher level of sustainability to align with their corporate philosophy.”
Alexander Design Studio was experienced in green design, having previously worked on Overlook at Clipper Mill, a modern duplex housing development that had achieved LEED Gold status.
“With Straughan Environmental, it was new for us to be looking at a renovation project within an existing building, as opposed to a fresh build,” said Charles. “We sat down with Eileen and discussed what made sense and what didn’t, what was doable and what wasn’t, and set objectives for the organization and the efficiency of the space.”
Charles’ team incorporated many innovative elements into the design to make the building more sustainable and green. The existing black roof was replaced with a white membrane roof that is reflective and doesn’t trap heat in the summer. A ventilation system and high-efficiency mechanical units ensure a healthy comfortable environment. Nine solar tubes were installed in the roof, in conjunction with pale wall colors and an adjustable lighting system, to maximize the natural lighting of the space. The open floorplan features all Energy Star® -rated appliances and workstations made with refurbished and recycled materials. The layout was designed to maximize views to the outside, which was landscaped with native plants that don’t require much fertilizer or watering.
“We placed a high value on indoor air quality,” said Eileen. “We were very careful in every choice that we made, and our architects helped us achieve that.”
Straughan Environmental moved into its completed new headquarters in July 2010. Eileen and Charles had initially targeted LEED Silver certification, but ultimately achieved LEED Gold – one of the industry’s highest standards for sustainable design. And Straughan’s employees have continued to implement new green practices.
“Our employees have enjoyed getting into new sustainable activities. Since moving in, we’ve started a composting program and compost all our plant-based kitchen waste here on site. We have a beehive and make our own honey now, too,” said Eileen. “We measure our energy and water consumption, and our waste generation and recycling and set green key performance indicators (KPIs) annually so that we continuously improve our sustainability performance as a company.”
“It’s amazing to look back at this project, because sustainable products and technologies have become much more mainstream now and much of what was innovative then has become, thankfully, more prevalent now,” said Charles. “This project has stood the test of time.”
Collaborating on this project was a fortunate result of Eileen and Charles having met and discussed their common interests while participating in Leadership Maryland, and both say they are grateful for their experiences in the program.
“I never looked at Leadership Maryland as a marketing tool, so much as an opportunity to look holistically at the State where I do business and understand the connections between the business world and government world,” said Charles. “From that standpoint, it was incredibly valuable and I enjoyed meeting people from such a different cross-section of professions and experiences.”
“The first thing I would say about my Leadership Maryland experience is that it gave me so much insight into different areas of the state and their economies and what’s important both economically and socially in each region,” said Eileen. “Plus, I know I can pick up the phone and call anyone in my Leadership Maryland class and we will always have the common experience of being in the class of ’05.”
To learn more about Straughan Environmental, please visit straughanenvironmental.com. To learn more about Charles Alexander design studio, please visit brokenboxes.com. To learn more about Leadership Maryland, please visit LeadershipMD.org.
As president of her student government, 17-year old Kelly Robertson-Slagle was eager for an opportunity to grow and develop her leadership skills. When she was introduced to Maryland Leadership Workshops (MLW) in 1991, she knew that it was just the opportunity she was looking for.
“I had that leadership bug,” says Kelly, now the Director of Economic Development for Calvert County. “When I went through MLW, I was surrounded by other high school students that were just as excited and energized about leadership as I was. That was one of the really great aspects of the program for me.”
For Kelly, being surrounded by her peers—not only those participating in the program but also those leading it—was what made the experience something she’d continue to draw from throughout her academic and professional career.
“I believe that being peer led is what makes MLW successful,” says Kelly. “You’re surrounded by people like you, people of the same generation. Being led by staff that isn’t much older than you makes a huge difference. They talk about their experiences and what’s worked for them, and it’s incredibly relatable. That’s what drew me back to apply to be staff the following year—my personal experience. I saw how it worked for me and I thought, ‘wow, what a great example I could set for the next group of participants.’ It felt like a great opportunity to pay it forward.”
As a participant in the program, Kelly learned lessons that she continues to employ today in her work with the Calvert County government.
“As a staff member, I was given the opportunity to lead a class about conflict resolution, which had taught me the most impactful lessons when I went through it the previous year. Even as an instructor, I learned so much about myself, about leadership, and about my community. At the end, I knew I wasn’t finished learning.”
Kelly went on attend the College of Southern Maryland and the University of Maryland. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, while still holding onto the passion for leadership she forged when she was young.
Eager to find new ways to hone her leadership skills, Kelly joined Leadership Southern Maryland’s Class of 2010 to learn more about what goes on within her region and, in 2018, applied for Leadership Maryland.
“I was grateful to have gone through Leadership Southern Maryland before pursuing the statewide program,” said Kelly. “It armed me with a deep understanding of my region—our healthcare, education, workforce development, economic development, housing—which made me a more effective and involved member of Leadership Maryland.”
While her previous leadership program experience prepared Kelly for the structure of the programming and deep, sometimes difficult conversations, Leadership Maryland still managed to surprise her.
“I didn’t expect it to be, but it’s been a stress reliever,” she said. “Being able to shut off my day-to-day, leave my desk, and truly immerse myself in whatever the topic is and wherever we are has been a blessing. The events themselves have been eye-opening beyond my expectations. Our trip to western Maryland, where we toured the detention center, was one of the most impactful days. Seeing how different real life inside of a jail is from what we see on television, learning the struggle of life after incarceration, and how high the rate of recidivism truly is has put a completely new perspective on that situation and that challenge within the criminal justice system in Maryland. I never would have seen that side of life without this program.”
Kelly started as an eager high school junior destined to be a leader and worked her way to a position in government where she is able to create real change within her community. Having gone through both MLW and Leadership Maryland, she sees true value in the partnership between the programs.
“Merging MLW with Leadership Maryland is just raising the bar,” said Kelly. “It’s so awesome and extremely valuable that now middle school and high school students know that if they want to truly stay connected with leadership, there’s a pathway that will lead them through a lifelong experience of constantly learning and developing their leadership capabilities. These programs are so unique and influential and having merged them together will only make the pathway to leadership that much clearer.”
To learn more about Maryland Leadership Workshops, visit MLW.org. To learn more about Leadership Maryland, visit leadershipmd.org.
Member Story: Driven By Passion and Purpose: How a Leadership Maryland Alum is Changing the Perceptions of Maryland’s Eastern Shore
When Dion Banks ’12 returned to Cambridge, Maryland in 2001, he began to see his hometown in a new light. He had moved away years earlier to pursue his education and career, discouraged by the lack of opportunities Cambridge offered. When he returned home to be near his father who was ill, he found the town still struggling with the same social and economic issues he remembered from his adolescence. But Dion’s perspective had changed.
“When I moved back home, all the reasons that had caused me to leave the Eastern Shore of Maryland were all the same reasons why I now felt like I really needed to dive in and help the community,” he said.
Dion, who works as the Director of Government Affairs & Business Development for Cambridge International, joined a City of Cambridge task force led by Natalie Chabot ’05, and began working closely with the City and the Dorchester County Department of Economic Development. In a few years’ time, he became campaign manager for Victoria Jackson-Stanley, who was running for her second term as Mayor of Cambridge.
“In 2012, I was volunteering on the economic steering committee for the City of Cambridge, plus I was campaigning for the mayor, which was opening my eyes to all the needs of our community that the City wasn’t meeting,” says Dion. “I saw how many people in our community were disenfranchised for different socioeconomic reasons. Professionally, I was seeing all the same issues, but from a different perspective. People weren’t employable in Cambridge. I began to see all these issues as personal challenges, and I love challenges. And that’s when Leadership Maryland happened.”
Nominated by Natalie Chabot ‘05, Dion joined Leadership Maryland as part of the Class of 2012. And when the class first gathered for its orientation retreat at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, it didn’t take long for Dion to realize the program was going to be a life-changing experience.
“On our first day, [program facilitator] Eliot Pfanstiehl sat all 52 of us down, and then directed us to a board at the front of the room where he had listed all the regions of Maryland. He then asked us to write down our perceptions of each region. And when our conversation turned to the Eastern Shore, I just wanted to die! After hearing all the negative things my classmates, who had come from all across the state, thought about my hometown, I just wanted to shout ‘we’re not that bad! This is a great place to live!’ I knew then that my personal mission in Leadership Maryland was to show my class how great Cambridge, and Dorchester County are. That was the biggest eye-opening moment for me.”
Inspired by his Leadership Maryland experience, Dion and friend Kisha Petticolas began researching Cambridge’s history and reputation. It was no secret that Cambridge had been through a dark time in it past. During the summer of 1967, when racial tensions were causing protests and riots in neighborhoods across the country, the City of Cambridge became the center of national attention on July 24 when a protest resulted in fires that destroyed two city blocks and 20 buildings, including the local Pine Street Elementary School. In their research, Dion and Kisha came to learn just how much the Cambridge community was still feeling the effects of these events and their aftermath.
“In 1968, the Kerner Commission established investigations to learn why these riots were taking place across the country, and they published their findings in a series of reports,” says Dion. “They discovered that people in these areas were living in despair, and identified all of the socioeconomic issues that were contributing to the problem. These reports continued to come out every five to 10 years, and I when I found the most recent Kerner Report on Cambridge in 2012, it described our city as ‘Maryland’s Mississippi.’ That’s when Kisha and I realized that we needed to get in front of this. We are products of this great city and this great county, and we need to find a way to tell our own story about Cambridge.”
In 2012, Dion and Kisha hosted a town hall meeting at the Bethel AME Church in Cambridge – the original meeting place of the local civil rights movement. The meeting drew a diverse crowd of 150 residents.
“When the conversation got heated, we realized that there hadn’t been a public conversation about race in Cambridge since 1967. We then felt like this was our cross to bear. Our mission became to pay homage to the people who fought the fight back then, and create a picture that says ‘we’ve healed from this, we’re growing from this, and we’re better than what you think of us.’ It was time to change the perceptions of the City of Cambridge,” says Dion.
To begin this work, Dion and Kisha founded the Eastern Shore Network for Change (ESNC) – a non-profit organization that is, as stated in its mission, “raising awareness of issues affecting Dorchester County and working creatively with the community to inform, educate and foster change that leads to social and economic empowerment.” Since 2012, ESNC has introduced many initiatives to help inspire and prepare the local workforce – including resume writing, job placement, motivational speaking at local schools and universities, hosting business writing courses, grant writing, business counseling, and even The Expungement Project, which twice a month helps people expunge misdemeanors from their criminal records.
“At ESNC, we are driven by passion and purpose. Right now, we’re mentoring about five other non-profit organizations in the area who are doing amazing things in our community,” says Dion. “We have started a grassroots movement within the City of Cambridge to identify kids in the community who we can help, and we’re grooming them to become our future leaders, and hopefully future Cambridge City Council members.”
In 2017, ESNC is taking on its biggest challenge to date as it honors the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement. On February 11, ESNC will be facilitating a Black History Month program in Cambridge for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. The special guest will be Gloria Richardson, a local activist who was the face of the civil rights movement in Cambridge.
And this summer, ENSC will commemorate the anniversary of the infamous riots with four days of special programming. “50 Years After the Fire: A Commemoration of Our History,” will take place July 21-24 in Cambridge.
“We felt like, in order for us to really put down a marker that says ‘we’re moving forward,’ we had to host a city-wide celebration that would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement and be inclusive in all areas of our community. So we’re planning four days of very diverse events that cross the spectrum of everyone in Cambridge socially and economically,’ says Dion.
Plans for the celebration are still rapidly growing, but will include a gala, walking tours, lectures from local authors, the unveiling of a traveling museum exhibit dedicated to Cambridge’s history, a 5K race and one-mile family walk, jazz festival, gospel music concert, and a city-wide church service to be held at the local high school.
“To ensure we’re successful, we are getting local experts involved to take charge of these events and run with their passions,” says Dion. “We just received grant money for a local radio station to collect oral histories from our community members, and Dorchester County has awarded us money to create a 90-minute documentary to tell Cambridge’s story. And to ensure that we’re keeping the faith-based spirit that made the civil rights movement successful, we are bringing our entire religious community together for a prayer service Sunday morning.”
Dion hopes that this event will not only celebrate how far Cambridge has come, but empower his community to see how much is still possible.
“My personal goal is to make sure that everybody knows that despite who you are, or where you come from, you have the right to a shot at achieving social and economic prosperity, providing that you do what every other productive citizen does,” he says. “Cambridge is a hotspot for development and gentrification that is taking place in neighborhoods across the country, and I want our community to take a shot at getting ourselves together and making ourselves more employable so that we are ready to take this next step.”
Dion credits Leadership Maryland with giving him the inspiration and tools he needed to create these changes in his community.
“Leadership Maryland changed my perspective and it changed my thought process when I look at the issues affecting our state and our communities. Now when I come across a problem, or someone struggling with something, instead of offering sorrow or pity, I ask myself how I can get involved and help fix it. I’ve become this problem solver! I keep my Leadership Maryland class binder on my desk at home, and I’ve been using it since 2012 to help me navigate through our issues in Dorchester County and to bring resources here to Cambridge and it’s just been amazing.”
Looking ahead, Dion is seeking support from anyone who can contribute financial donations or other resources to ESNC and the Cambridge community.
“We are looking for anyone who can come here and empower us through discussion, kind acts, and any kind of resources,” he says. “Connect with me. Come down here and spend a day with me in Cambridge and let me show you our obstacles, and the good stuff we have as well. We are doing this to tell a new story about the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the City of Cambridge. It’s not about identifying what happened in the past, but about creating a city and county that we can take pride in. And hopefully, that pride becomes infectious, which leads to investment, ownership, and a better, productive and socially-viable area for us all to live in.”
To learn more about the Eastern Shore Network for Change and the “50 Years After the Fire” celebration, please visit ESNCCambridgeMD.com. To learn more about Leadership Maryland, please visit LeadershipMD.org.
Member Story: Promoting Solar Panel Safety: How a fortunate meeting through Leadership Maryland led to improved training for Maryland’s firefighters
Each year, Leadership Maryland escorts a class of up to 52 business, government, education and non-profit leaders on an eight-month educational journey across the state. A regular stop on the curriculum is the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI), the state’s fire and emergency services training agency, headquartered at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
Tim Delehanty, facilities supervisor, gives each Leadership Maryland class a tour of MFRI’s facility and explains how the organization is responsible for providing training to firefighters and emergency medical service providers all across the state.
“Basically, I like to explain what MFRI does, and why our training is important,” says Tim. “As the people who train fire emergency first responders, our work impacts everyone in our state.”
In 2014, Tim was in the middle of his presentation to Leadership Maryland when a member of the class raised his hand to ask a question:
“What do you tell firefighters about solar roof panels?”
The question came from Brian Lazarchick, who happens to be the safety director at Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), a customer-owned electricity provider to more than 160,000 services across Southern Maryland. Like Tim, Brian also provides safety training to the local public, including volunteer firefighters.
“Volunteer firefighters are often the ones responding to house fires, and they also might be the first people on the scene for downed power lines, so the SMECO safety team always tries to get to them to make sure they’re safe,” says Brian.
But over the previous year, as Brian and his team visited local volunteer fire departments throughout Southern Maryland, they often found themselves asked the same question: what should firefighters do when they respond to a house fire and encounter solar panels on the home’s roof?
“I had already started researching solar panels and working with my network to try to warn volunteer firefighters of the safety hazards they pose,” said Brian. “The fact is, there is no way to de-energize a solar panel. If a solar panel is exposed to any bit of light, it is going to generate electricity, and firefighters have been electrocuted and killed when they’ve come into contact with a solar panel while responding to an emergency.”
When Brian posed the same question to Tim, he acknowledged that while solar panels are becoming a pressing issue as more local homes install the technology, MFRI lacked the information they needed to properly teach firefighters about the hazards of solar roof panels and how to safely work around them.
“When firefighters respond to a house fire, they often climb onto the home’s roof to cut a hole to vent the fire. If there are solar panels on the roof, that’s going to affect how a firefighter works. Also, firefighters are always concerned about how much weight is placed on a roof, and the risk of that roof collapsing, and we weren’t sure how much weight solar panels typically add to a roof,” said Tim. “When Brian mentioned that his team had been working on similar training, I said that we needed to talk because maybe together we could put together a viable program.”
A few weeks later, Tim – who also happens to be a resident of southern Maryland – visited Brian and his team at SMECO. He toured SMECO’s new 5.5 megawatt solar farm and spent several hours learning about the typical structural features of solar panels and how solar energy systems work. Tim then took all that he had learned back to MFRI’s Institute Development Section, who put together an educational program that is now offered to firefighters across the state.
“Essentially, we learned that as long as there is any kind of light getting to solar panels, they are collecting energy. As firefighters, the only way we can really safeguard ourselves is to stay away from them while we’re operating, and make sure we don’t do anything that adversely impacts the system,” Brian says. “We’re teaching firefighters to be ever mindful of the weight solar panels pose on the roof structure, and if there is any way possible, to leave solar systems alone and keep ourselves removed from them.”
“Together, we’ve created awareness training on the dangers of rooftop solar cells,” says Brian. “Tim is currently providing this training to fire departments throughout Maryland, and we are in the process of making the information available on the SMECO public website.”
Thanks to a fortunate meeting facilitated by Leadership Maryland, firefighters across the state are now receiving improved training to better ensure their safety as they respond to emergencies.
To learn more about MRFI, please visit: www.mfri.org.
To learn more about SMECO, please visit: www.smeco.coop
To learn more about Leadership Maryland, please visit: www.leadershipmd.org.