Tax collector. Member of the Board of Public Works (BPW). Chair or vice-chair of the State Retirement and Pension System. Chair of the Board of Revenue Estimates.
The comptroller’s position is one that primarily affects Maryland citizens in fiscal matters—but also in the spending of public funds for multi-million-dollar contracts related to nearly every facet of state government, including health care, higher education, Port of Baltimore operations, land preservation and so many other areas of public service.
Equally critical is the management and oversight of the state’s $68 billion pension investments on behalf of 412,000 members. This responsibility demands vigilance and prudence.
My choice for state comptroller is Democratic Del. Brooke Lierman, whose opponent is Republican Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. Lierman, an attorney, has been a diligent, effective state delegate representing South Baltimore. She draws praise from her fellow Democrats as well as her Republican colleagues for her doggedness in gaining support and passage of legislation.
Glassman, a former state senator, is a well-respected moderate Republican who has governed a suburban Baltimore County competently without resort to partisan positions to satisfy right-wing extremists. I wish he had chosen to oppose Rep. Andy Harris in the 1st Congressional District Republican primary.
If elected, Lierman would also become the first woman to be Maryland’s state comptroller. Though a major accomplishment, election of Lierman would bring a person with fresh ideas, particularly about procurement, and a willingness to collaborate with the governor and the General Assembly. She would produce less noise and more results than her predecessors.
Lierman has been an energetic campaign throughout the state. She has impressed those who have met and questioned her with an enthusiasm, bolstered by keen intelligence, accessible manner and purposeful style. She is a superb public servant.
For eight years, as deputy treasurer, I observed two comptrollers, William Donald Schaefer, and Peter V.R. Franchot. The former had served as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. The latter had served as a state delegate for 20 years before his election as comptroller. Each brought different skillsets and egos to the position as chief tax collector.
If elected, Brooke Lierman would offer a measured, amicable style that will encompass a mixture of innovation and determination. She may be more liberal than Schaefer and Franchot in terms of incorporating environmental sustainability in procurement and investment decision-making. Her pragmatism, however, will underscore her decisions.
Lierman will quickly learn that leading a state agency with 1,100 employees has challenges different than legislating. She will find that satisfying constituents statewide requires a deft touch in catering to their disparate needs. She is accustomed to providing first-rate constituent service, an experience that will accrue to the benefit of all taxpayers.
The powerful BPW, which approves state contracts covering a plethora of subjects, will have two new members: a new governor and a new comptroller. Treasurer Dereck Davis, a Democrat who replaced my former boss, Nancy K. Kopp, at the beginning of 2021, will be the board’s veteran. While I foresee a learning curve for a new governor and comptroller, I suspect that they will respect the process and protect public trust and money.
Glassman has promoted the idea of balance, a Republican comptroller versus a Democratic governor and a Democratic treasurer. Good try. A look at Maryland political history would reveal Democratic comptrollers being thorns in the sides of Democratic governors, as was the case of the late and legendary Louis Goldstein. Comptrollers, elected independently, need to be deferential to governors to a point at the BPW. Their voices and votes are equal.
I urge readers to vote for Brooke Lierman. She will serve as a conscientious and capable comptroller. A new era will commence.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.