Peter A. Shapiro, who has served six years on the Prince George's County Council, recently announced that he plans to step down July 16 to begin work at the University of Maryland, his alma mater.
Shapiro will return to the university as a senior fellow at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, a staff position he held before joining the council. His resignation comes more than two years before the end of his second term on the nine-member council.
Shapiro spoke with staff writer Ovetta Wiggins.
QYour resignation surprised a number of people. Why did you decide to quit two years into your term?
AThis was a personal decision. This [University of Maryland] appointment is a unique opportunity. It's the kind of work that I want to be doing in the future, and I have no guarantee that it will be available to me two years from now. The academy has gone through a tough time. The former director, Dr. Georgia Sorenson, my mentor, is stepping back into a leadership position, and this is the time for me to come back in and help rebuild the academy.
There are seven new members on the council. They have had a number of clashes with County Executive Jack B. Johnson, and your influence has diminished over the past six months. Did that play into your decision?
Not really. There are all sorts of different leadership styles. Every change is an adjustment, and I think I adjusted pretty well. The question is: Would different politics on the council or with the county executive have changed my decision? Probably not.
You served for six years on the council. Much of the time was in a leadership capacity. What would you describe as your accomplishments?
I think I've had a great run. I served as council chairman for two years and vice chair for a year. I was able to accomplish a majority of what I committed to when I first got in office. There are four new elementary schools, a new high school, a new fire station and two regionally significant revitalization initiatives underway in my district, the Gateway Arts District and the International Corridor. The Gateway Arts District, which is on the Route 1 corridor, has $75 million in development proposed. We're creating a place for artists to live and work and building an African American Cultural Museum in North Brentwood. The International Corridor should roll out in the next few months. . . . We are transforming a section of Langley Park to be a village center. . . . These are district-centered projects. The thing that has the most substantial impact countywide is the new general plan, [in which] we created the development regions for the county. I feel proud of playing a leadership role in that.
Improving education, reducing crime -- what do you think is the biggest challenge facing Prince George's County?
Our biggest challenge is the revitalization of our older, established communities. It is my experience that if you want stronger schools and a safer community, you need a strong economy. We need quality residential and commercial development around the Metro centers. You can never focus on that enough. . . . It's hard work, and it's expensive work. . . . But until we change the economy of the county, we will always be playing catch-up.
Tell me a little about what your new job at the University of Maryland entails.
What's new is the academy is moving into the School of Public Policy. I will be focusing on building a university-community partnership initiative, identifying university resources and community needs and connecting them.