My dad actually is the one who inspired me to go into politics. We were watching the local politician in our home town, and I was yelling at this guy on TV who was running for state representative in Massachusetts. I was saying: “He’s been there for 20 years. Nothing has changed!” My dad looked at me and said, “If you think you can do better, you ought to run for office.” I said: “Okay, that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna run for office. I’m going to prove that you can run and win
and keep your principles and make change.” Basically, every decision I made from where I went to school, to what my major was, was based on this notion that someday I would run for public office and make a difference.
Now what drew us here was really my wife. We had our son, and what she wanted was not only a racially and economically diverse area to raise our child, she wanted to be in a place that was a community and would help us to raise well-rounded children. When we bought our house here in Cheverly, she came to this community, met the folks and said, “This is it.”
We came out here at the time where the demographics were changing in the county. It was going from majority white to majority black; rural and suburban to urban, suburban and rural. The African Americans moving out here were like us. So there was a lot of hope and optimism here. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that suffered. By the time I came into office as county executive, a lot of people looked at the county with a jaundiced eye. When I first got in office, I used to say that Prince George’s County was the economic engine of the Washington region. Most people thought that was a joke. Now I think the reputation has improved a lot.
When we came into office, we had this Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative. We [targeted] six areas where all of the indicators were going in the wrong direction. There is an apartment complex on Nova Avenue that’s been abandoned for probably 20 years, a blight in the neighborhood. Every person I know who has run for county executive has done a commercial about how they were going to it tear it down, including me. It took us a year and a half into office, but we tore down the buildings around that area. And somebody came up and said: “I didn’t believe it. I voted for you, but I didn’t believe you would actually do it.” That, to me, is progress. Not people who expect government to work, but when people who don’t expect it to work come and say: “I’m shocked; it worked. Government does work.” That’s how I’ll measure whether, in fact, my time as county executive has been worth it for anybody other than just me.