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Brooke Lierman sworn in as Maryland’s first female comptroller

Lierman, a civil rights attorney from Baltimore, is the first woman elected to a state government office on her own ticket

Democratic nominee for Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman during a Maryland Democratic Party's “Blue in '22" event in downtown Silver Spring, Md on Aug. 1. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
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Comptroller Brooke E. Lierman (D) on Monday became the first woman in Maryland history to hold that job, taking the oath of office at a ceremony in Annapolis.

Lierman, a civil and disability rights attorney from Baltimore, was elected by a landslide in November to be the chief tax collector, the first woman independently elected to any state office in Maryland.

Lierman was part of a historic, barrier-breaking Democratic ticket that includes Anthony G. Brown, Maryland’s first Black attorney general, and the state’s first Black governor, Gov.-elect Wes Moore, who will be inaugurated Wednesday.

Until this week, only White men had served in those jobs.

Moore’s running mate, Aruna Miller, will also become Maryland’s first immigrant to hold a statewide office.

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“I’m really excited, and also really humbled to be the first woman,” Lierman, 43, said in an interview last week. “Frankly, I am thrilled to be part of a team … that is breaking multiple barriers all in one election cycle.”

The comptroller oversees not only about $16 billion in annual tax collection and pays the state’s bills, but also handles the administration of several tax-related programs and information technology. The post holds one of three votes on the influential Board of Public Works that oversees state contracts, and it holds broad power that Lierman pledged to use in new ways to promote financial equality.

Explaining that “we all do better when we all do better” would be her guiding principle, Lierman said that she wants to make sure that Black women starting a business can get the same loan terms as her White male counterpart, that Maryland “can never be a truly great state until Baltimore City sees its full potential.”

She was introduced Monday by an iconic glass-ceiling breaker from Maryland, former U.S. senator Barbara A. Mikulski, the state’s first and only elected female senator.

Mikulski said Lierman “will stand sentry over the state’s funds. Brooke will be a watchdog, and she’ll bark when needed and she’ll bite when necessary.”

As Lierman listened alongside her husband, Eben Hansel, and their two children, Teddy, 10, and Eliza, 5, Mikulski called her a fighter.

“She’ll worry about the macro issues — the state revenue, stability of pensions. But she’ll also worry about the macaroni and cheese issues, those issues that effect you,” she said.

Lierman had promised voters she would advocate for equitable tax policies, including proactively reaching out to seniors or families who are not claiming tax credits for which they qualify. She wants to upgrade the state’s taxpaying systems to make it easier for business owners, and to advocate for the state’s finances to be used in a way that makes the climate more sustainable.

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She is a former two-term state delegate who quickly rose into leadership, championing high-profile bills on transportation policy and compensation for college athletes, among many other issues.

“My focus, each and everyday, will be how can we help build communities that are equitable, resilient and prosperous in every corner of the state,” Lierman said last week.

“I’m excited to do the work for Marylanders in every county, but also to make sure that the women of Maryland are being heard, whether it’s a Black woman starting a retail store, or a Latino woman who runs a restaurant, or retired nurse who wants to make sure that she can afford to stay in Maryland,” Lierman said. “I want to make sure that the women of Maryland are heard and I will have their back.”

Lierman takes over from Peter Franchot (D), who chose not to seek fifth term and instead ran for governor last year.

Franchot finished third in a crowded primary field. In a private ceremony before the inauguration, Lierman handed Franchot the first of her “challenge coins,” an engraved memento Maryland’s comptrollers have given out for decades. Franchot hugged her, and encouraged her to “stay independent.”