Lis­ten­ing is win­ning strat­egy for can­di­date

The Capital - - ANNE ARUNDEL - Jimmy DeButts can be reached at 410-280-5915 or fol­low on Twit­ter @jd3217.

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.

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