Listening is winning strategy for candidate
Sarah Lacey talked her way onto the Anne Arundel County Council. Sure, voters gave the Democratic political novice a 15,019-11,491 victory over Republican Kim Burns in Tuesday’s election. But that was just the culmination of her improbable journey to the District 1 seat.
Lacey’s upset of incumbent Pete Smith in the June primary was predicated on her commitment to listening. She spoke to community associations. She heard their concerns.
As a first-time candidate for local office, she rejected the national wave of divisiveness.
She talks to everyone, keeps an open mind on all issues and welcomes varying views.
These traits should be required of all elected officials. Unfortunately, political polarization has created fiefdoms where echo chamber insulation is accepted.
Lacey’s rise from community activist to County Council member perfectly reflects the unpredictable, sweeping change the 2018 election brought to Anne Arundel County.
Steuart Pittman launched his campaign for county executive in November 2017. His chances of unseating Steve Schuh, an elected official since 2007, were slim. On Tuesday, he sent Schuh packing.
The 2018 election sent five women to the County Council — the outgoing council was seven men.
No poll has ever voted. People do. Lacey’s face-to-face approach won over residents facing the same issues that spurred the attorney to run.
It started with talking.
“We need to have a better quality of discourse,” she said. “You have to be willing to listen to other people. It’s unconscionable for a representative to have such an ideological view on a subject that they don’t listen at all.”
Lacey earned her first political stripes by highlighting the absurdity in public school bus policy. She moved into her newly built home in Jessup in August 2016. Shortly after, she discovered bus service wasn’t available to her neighborhood because the roads were not designated public.
Yet, they had public trash pickup on those roads. Lacey took the fight to the school board and County Council. She won.
When she decided to run in January, she had expertise on an issue affecting many families in her district. So, she paid the county’s election board $25 to get voter information. She used it to identify doors to knock on.
Lacey targeted residents of newly built neighborhoods. Her message resonated.
“I connected really well with people on that,” she said.
This fall, Lacey’s neighborhood received school bus service. On Nov. 6, she received a County Council seat.
With less than a month before she’s sworn in, the mother of four is seeking mentors and advisers to help ease the transition into her council role. This is refreshing.
The council is “losing” members who entered office with infallible beliefs. Facts or opposing opinions were dismissed with prejudice.
Anne Arundel’s 2018 crop of council members isn’t infected by this flaw.
The six new members might range the political spectrum, but they aren’t ideologues.
They’ll serve their constituencies best if they congenially gather all stakeholders to ensure everyone has a seat — and say — at the table when crafting legislation. Lacey plans to host quarterly meetings with representatives of neighborhood associations in her district.
She might not be able to fix every problem, but at least they’ll be on her radar.
“I think I have the capacity, skills and tenacity to pursue this,” Lacey said.