Rawl­ings-Blake dis­cusses her plans for the fu­ture

Mayor means to stay ac­tive, but not to seek of­fice again

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger

Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake will join a pro­fes­sional speak­ers group and fight to keep her lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the na­tional Demo­cratic Party when she leaves elected of­fice next month for the first time in her adult life.

Miss­ing from her to-do list: run­ning for of­fice again.

The 46-year-old mayor — who be­came the youngest per­son ever elected to the City Coun­cil in 1995 — dis­cussed her fu­ture in an in­ter­view with The Bal­ti­more Sun. She said she has no plans to run for any elected po­si­tion, though she did not rule out chang­ing her mind.

Rawl­ings-Blake said she feels “sin­cere joy” about her fu­ture. She couldn’t stop Bal­ti­more Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake, whose term ends Dec. 6, gave few specifics about what she would do af­ter­ward. smil­ing dur­ing a re­cent tour of the city’s new salt barn, where she talked about how the city would han­dle storms this win­ter. Typ­i­cally re­served, Rawl­ings-Blake laughed as she later re­called what she was think­ing.

“I was like, ‘ You know what, this is some­body else’s prob­lem,’ ” she said. “I talked to for­mer may­ors, and they say one of the best feel­ings post their administration was when it snows and they don’t have to get up.”

Rawl­ings-Blake an­nounced in Septem­ber 2015 that she would not seek re­elec­tion. Her last day is Dec. 6, when state Sen. Cather­ine E. Pugh, a fel­low Demo­crat, takes over. Rawl­ings-Blake said she is com­mit­ted to mak­ing the tran­si­tion the “most suc­cess­ful one the city has ever seen.” She hopes Pugh “will build on the things I have been able to ac­com­plish and take the city to higher heights.”

Rawl­ings-Blake plans to con­tinue liv­ing in Bal­ti­more and will seek re-elec­tion as sec­re­tary of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. But the mayor will say lit­tle else about what is next.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts and ob­servers ex­pect her to make reg­u­lar tele­vi­sion and speak­ing ap­pear­ances, of­fer­ing commentary on pol­i­tics, women in lead­er­ship and other top­ics.

“She’s young; she’s dy­namic,” said Todd Eberly, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at St. Mary’s Col­lege. “She has been the mayor of one of the most well-known and big­gest cities in the coun­try. Keeping that vis­i­bil­ity is crit­i­cal.”

Eberly said Rawl­ings-Blake did her­self a fa­vor by pulling out of her cam­paign for re-elec­tion, rather than run­ning for an­other term and los­ing. He said Rawl­ings-Blake’s brand will grow stronger as mem­o­ries fade of the wide­spread ri­ot­ing and loot­ing that fol­lowed Fred­die Gray’s death in Bal­ti­more last year.

The mayor worked as an an­a­lyst for ABC News on elec­tion night and will ap­pear on The Food Net­work, though nei­ther the mayor’s of­fice nor the TV chan­nel has re­leased de­tails. The pro­gram “Chopped” was re­cently cast­ing for “civil ser­vants.”

She is listed as a fea­tured speaker with a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion, WME-IMG Speak­ers, which fea­tures dozens of high-pro­file fig­ures. They in­clude di­rec­tor Tyler Perry and ath­letes Serena Wil­liams and Kobe Bryant. The group says its speak­ers are avail­able for cor­po­rate events, univer­sity en­gage­ments, hos­pi­tal­ity pro­grams and golf out­ings.

Rawl­ings-Blake is billed as a rec­om­mended speaker on cri­sis lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing how to deal with “mul­ti­ple nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, so­cial crises and eco­nomic chal­lenges.” She could also speak about pen­sions and fis­cal man­age­ment and so­cial jus­tice. As a speaker on women in lead­er­ship, she would share lessons on “bal­anc­ing am­bi­tion and ac­count­abil­ity in a male­dom­i­nated world,” ac­cord­ing to the group’s Bal­ti­more Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake opens the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia. She briefly for­got to strike the dais and had to re­turn to the podium. web­site.

A may­oral spokesman said Rawl­ingsBlake is “highly sought af­ter in many arenas,” such as for speak­ing en­gage­ments, commentary, cor­re­spon­dence and me­dia.

Sunny Hostin, co-host of “The View” and ABC News se­nior le­gal correspondent, is Rawl­ings-Blake’s long­time friend. Hostin said the out­go­ing mayor is a “po­lit­i­cal trail­blazer” whose con­tri­bu­tions to Bal­ti­more will con­tinue to be re­al­ized.

“I’m cer­tain that a lot of her ap­pear­ances on ca­ble and net­work news haven’t gone un­no­ticed,” said Hostin, whomet Rawl­ingsBlake about 20 years ago while the two were study­ing for the bar exam. “Her voice is an im­por­tant one, and I think we will be hear­ing more from her.”

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Mary­land Demo­crat, said Rawl­ings-Blake can make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion in me­dia and pol­i­tics, es­pe­cially for the Demo­cratic Party.

He said her ex­pe­ri­ence and skills were high­lighted by sev­eral prom­i­nent on-stage ap­pear­ances dur­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in July, when Hil­lary Clin­ton was nom­i­nated for pres­i­dent.

Rawl­ings-Blake was cho­sen to gavel in the con­ven­tion. The im­age of her hur­ry­ing back to the podium af­ter for­get­ting to ac­tu­ally strike the dais was briefly cir­cu­lated as an in­ter­net meme. She also led the Rawl­ings-Blake ap­pears on “This Week with Ge­orge Stephanopou­los.” She worked as an an­a­lyst for ABC News on elec­tion night. roll call of the states to of­fi­cially record the del­e­gates vot­ing for Clin­ton.

The mayor took on an un­ex­pected pub­lic role in the con­ven­tion when the party’s chair­woman re­lin­quished her po­si­tion amid a scan­dal over in­ter­nal emails, which were re­leased on­line.

Hoyer called Rawl­ings-Blake an “ex­cel­lent rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Demo­cratic Party and spokes­woman for us.”

“She is good on the is­sues,” Hoyer said. “She is very ar­tic­u­late, very smart. She has a very bright fu­ture ahead of her do­ing what­ever she wants to do, whether in the pri­vate or pub­lic sec­tor.”

Party of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing a new chair, will be elected in Fe­bru­ary at a meet­ing in At­lanta.

Rawl­ings-Blake said she has “trea­sured the op­por­tu­nity” to serve as party sec­re­tary. She said she re­mained neu­tral dur­ing the con­tested pri­mary be­tween Clin­ton, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont and for­mer Mary­land Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley.

“In the same way I feel I’ve been a ste­ward for the city, as sec­re­tary, it’s been very clear we’ve been stew­ards for the party,” she said. “I was very, very proud of the neu­tral­ity that I dis­played dur­ing the elec­tion.”

As for run­ning again for pub­lic elected of­fice, Rawl­ings-Blake said she would not “close any doors,” but added, “Peo­ple think I am kid­ding when I say my am­bi­tion is not per­sonal am­bi­tion. It has al­ways been for the city. I go to sleep know­ing I have done well for the city.

“When I talk about not run­ning again, if there is a time when what’s best for our city or our state means I should re-en­ter, then that’s when I will make that de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

JODY DAVIS

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