Working together to advance Howard County’s quality of life [Commentary]

The Kittleman Administration Transition Team

Members of the Kittleman Administration Transition Team (Dec 2014)

The following was written by Allan H. Kittleman and published in the Howard County Times on December 14th, 2016.

Two years ago this month, I came into the office of Howard County executive with a few overarching goals – to make government more transparent, more fiscally sound and to improve the quality of life for all who live and work here.

Let me begin by thanking the residents of Howard County for allowing me to serve the county that has been my home for more than 50 years. It has been a rewarding two years; however, our journey hasn’t been without surprises – most notably, the recovery and rebuilding efforts following the Ellicott City flood.

It would be impossible to tell the story of the past two years without discussing the devastating storm that hit Historic Ellicott City on July 30. Our ability to recover from the flood, as well as a historic 28-inch snowfall and a tornado that carved a 13-mile swath through western Howard County, speaks to the resolve and resiliency of this community.

Despite these historic events, over the past 24 months, we have made improvements and launched initiatives that will effect positive change.

When I took office in December 2014, our first major challenge was tackling a $16 million budget deficit. With careful, targeted reductions, we eliminated the deficit without furloughs or layoffs and ended the year with a modest surplus. Strong fiscal management remains a top priority. We have decreased the debt threshold for annual capital projects, maintained our AAA bond rating and held the line on taxes. Without these controls, managing unexpected costs from the Ellicott City flood would have been nearly impossible.


Improving community services is another priority, and we have made headway in areas such as mental health, senior and veteran services. We reorganized the Department of Community Resources and Services and embraced a “No Wrong Door” philosophy to cut bureaucracy and serve residents more quickly and efficiently. Through initiatives like TRACKHoward and OPENHoward and by hosting 12 town hall meetings, we’ve helped make government more open and transparent.

I am particularly encouraged by progress made on key projects that were discussed for years, but stalled for various reasons. For instance, we are in the final stages of securing a site off Route 1 in Jessup for the construction of a long-overdue 13th high school and helped establish a nonprofit center in Columbia to co-locate service agencies to better serve residents. We worked with Gov. Larry Hogan to fast-track the widening of Route 32 to improve one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the state, and we continue to move forward with planning for a new Circuit Courthouse.

One project particularly close to my heart is the transfer and transformation of the Harriet Tubman School, the last segregated African American school in Howard County, into an educational and cultural center for our community. The property was used as a maintenance facility by the school system for many years. We expect the transfer from the school system to be completed by next summer.

Recently, I announced the creation of #OneHoward, a series of community conversations and events to promote dialogue and reinforce shared goals of diversity and inclusiveness. This initiative may be more important than ever in light of some recent acts of bigotry and intolerance.

Ahead of us, we have more to do. We need to finalize pieces of the Columbia downtown revitalization, complete plans for Long Reach and Oakland Mills village centers and, yes, continue to focus on rebuilding Ellicott City to be even better than it was before the flood.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done, but even more excited about the work ahead and what the future holds for Howard County. As we move into 2017, I wish all of you the happiest of holidays and a prosperous New Year. By working together, I’m confident that Howard County will remain a wonderful place to live, work, learn and play.

Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican, is Howard County’s county executive.

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