~ with Sandra Martin and Davene Grosfeld
|photo by Cristi Pasquella
Her story has the drama of a fairy tale.
Shes a community activist whose dream has come true. Shes the first lady whos stepped out of the shadows to try her own hand at the game. From passionate advocate, shes suddenly CEO of one of her countys largest corporations: the City of Annapolis. Overnight, shes balancing a $54.6 million budget, managing 560 employees and supervising some dozen departments. Shes Cinderella, and now that the shoe fits, shes got to wear it.
Three months into her job as mayor of Annapolis, 66-year-old Ellen Moyer invited Bay Weekly into her office to talk about how the fairy tale is playing in the real world
Bay Weekly: We ran into you last week at a celebration of Black History Month at Banneker-Douglass Museum, the opening of Janice Hayes-Williams local history play Trustees. Do you think it gives people a special sense of pride when their mayor comes to their event?
Mayor Moyer: I get a sense, yes, that is the case. But I was the first lady of the city once, so Im not necessarily impressed with the title of mayor or with me.
Bay Weekly: I bet thats not the only night of the week you were working late. What are your hours on your new job?
Mayor Moyer: Eight in the morning until 10 oclock at night is standard.
Bay Weekly: Youve been in office three months. Whats a day in the mayors office like?
Mayor Moyer: There is such a variety of issues and such a variety of people that come in.
Its my job as the CEO of Annapolis to see that we move forward on the things that the citizens say are important as well as the things the council and policy-makers decide.
I think of things in a problem-solving, action-team way. If somebody has a zoning concern, I want to pull in everybody who has an interest in the issue and bring them together so its a group of people.
Is this job overwhelming?
Mayor Moyer: Not at all. It gets very hectic, but I enjoy and like what Im doing.
Bay Weekly: One of your first actions as mayor was to appoint 13 transition teams. Do you have their reports?
Mayor Moyers 13 Transition Teams
- Annapolis Security
- Economic Development
- Fiscal Concerns
- Home Ownership / Affordable Housing
- Latino / Hispanic Concerns
- Mandatory Drug Counseling
- Market House
- Parking / Transportation
- Public Housing Concerns
- Senior Services
- Stop the Violence
Mayor Moyer: They were all volunteer, formed November 11, and they had two months to do their work. The reports are in now, and were doing one report at a time, a week at a time.
Bay Weekly: Do you read each report yourself? Week after week, do you take each one home at night and read it?
Mayor Moyer: When the reports come in, they dont just sit on the shelf and collect dust. They might come back with multiple recommendations and its up to me to say, yes or no, I dont like that idea. Some ideas are politically impossible or too costly; not all recommendations are things we are going to be able to do. Its my responsibility and obligation to say what we are going to be able to do and what we can do. Thats my job as mayor.
Bay Weekly: How will the reports change the city?
Mayor Moyer: The reports are good because they help us focus on what we can do now and what we can do later. We begin by focusing on whats doable.
As we do each one, I send the team a recommendation as to what I think is doable in the near future. I report back to the team myself. Where we can fit things into the budget, weve begun to do that.
Market House was the first report. If the city market is to work better for the citizens, how is it to do that? Its the how the teams addressed.
I looked at the report and said there are some things you can do now. You said people think Market House looks dirty, but it really isnt. But it is shabby. In the short term, it needs better lighting and it needs to be painted. We can correct the lighting, we can correct the painting. And there are resources in the market funds so that we can hire a part-time manager. We can do that now.
Longer term, weve started looking down the road to see if we can have a relationship with State Department of Agriculture to set up a Farmers Market in one of the stalls. And so as next year comes and the year after, we can pursue more recommendations, including remodeling.
Bay Weekly: You ran on your record as a friend of the environment, and I understand that your environmental transition team has been especially active. What have they been up to to help make Annapolis stand easier on the earth?
|photo courtesy of Ellen Moyer
Mayor Moyer: The Environmental Transition Teams goal was to look at what grant resources can help us restore the four creeks that run into the city.
It was grant-oriented because if we can bring more grants from a variety of sources to impact on a creek, we can do a better job of restoring it. And if you can pull together the resources of the state and the county, the city and the Army Corps of Engineers for a creek, you will have a bigger impact on restoring those waters.
This volunteer committee was so enthusiastic about what its job was, it pulled together and prepared a proposal for a $250,000 grant to the Environmental Protection Agency by December 10. Putting big megagrants together is a big job. Well know in April if we get this brown fields grant to help clean up the old city dump on the headwaters of Spa Creek.
Heres a good template, a model, for how to get people involved: Applications for another, smaller grant program were due February 1. For this grant, the city put one application in, the Alliance for Sustainable Communities put one in and the Weems Creek Conservancy put one in. So we were able to magnify the number in this competitive pool.
Annapolis Four Creeks off the Severn River
- Weems Creek
- College Creek
- Spa Creek
- Back Creek
Bay Weekly: Youve also been a supporter of public art. What are you planning to make Annapolis a more artful city?
Mayor Moyer: The city has a fund for art in public places. Its a fund that I passed as an alderman. I proposed it because a businesswoman on West Street, Edith Sutton, was so interested in art for the circle that she contributed $1,000 to the city. She said the idea was if people knew about it, maybe people would contribute more.
But nobody knew about it. That was the catalyst for me, that and knowing also that we were part of the Maryland Millennium Legacy Trail Art Project. In this, eight finalists have been selected from competition who are going to submit some designs
[see Marylanders in Motion, in this weeks Dock of the Bay.]
Bay Weekly: Further along is the search for art for the West Street Circle. From last years national search for the circle, the choice was Measures, a henge or circle of stones arranged as a solar clock and calendar. Bay Weekly found Measures so good a choice we editorialized in favor of it. But its been a while since weve heard anything on that front. Will we ever see Measures?
Mayor Moyer: Its been selected, but it hasnt been funded. Its now a matter of funding and getting some sort of price projection for how much it will cost to get it done. The city department of public works is gathering projected prices. Then well have to do some fundraising.
We know it will cost six figures, but will it be in the $100,000 or $500,000 category?
Will we get it? Not tomorrow.
Bay Weekly: Even as youre settling in, the General Assembly has come to town. Is that why Maryland flags are flying throughout the city?
Mayor Moyer: In the wintertime, when we dont have flowers and the Maryland legislature is here, its a way to showcase our town and a way to showcase Maryland. Its a celebratory measure.
Sure, youll always have people who are not pleased, but the majority of the people say gosh, I love seeing those flags.
Bay Weekly: Its an honor to be a capital city. But what do you get besides the honor of the thing?
Mayor Moyer: Its what the state gets from this municipality. Annapolis is an international landmark. We have four million people who come here to our capital. They come here from other states, from places within the state. What they experience here says something about the way theyre going to feel about the state of Maryland. We are the supreme host of the state, if you will.
Maintaining the look and the feel of the city its brick streets and its canopy of trees and ultimately burying those electrical wires is very expensive. Thats an expense that needs to be shared with all of the citizens of the state because this is everybodys state capital. We think that as pride and awareness continue to be developed that well get help.
Bay Weekly: What, in return, do you expect to get from the General Assembly?
Mayor Moyer: We have a line item in the state budget for services, the kinds of services we give to the state. We receive a stipend of $450,000. As well as that separate allocation, we do go after other dollars. We work through the bill process, we also work through the agencies and we go after a number of different grants.
This year, weve asked the state to put some money in the budget, $250,000, to renovate the 100-year-old Natural Resources Police facility at City Dock.
We also said to the legislators, if you do that wed like to find some private money to have a room in this facility for our Maritime Hall of Fame as befits the harbor town known as Americas Sailing Capital.
Mayor to General Assembly
Our urban designer, Sir Francis Nicholson, created this colonial capital as a grand focal point when he laid out the baroque plan of circles and radiating streets. He envisioned that the approach to Annapolis, whether it be by land or sea, let visitors know they were coming into a place of great prominence, a center of state and commerce.
Were doing what we can to follow Sir Francis legacy. You can see the work on West Street, creating a spacious boulevard leading to Church Circle. But we need help, lots of help, from those who share our city, to improve the other gateways into town.
Bay Weekly: Many people were attracted to your candidacy by your promise to make Annapolis an ever more attractive capital for Marylanders. What changes can we whether Annapolis is our hometown or our capital city expect to see in the face the city shows us?
Mayor Moyer: There are a number of different gateways into the city: West Street is the heritage entrance to the city; Aris T. Allen Boulevard; Rowe Boulevard; the Naval Academy Bridge. For the most part, except for Rowe Boulevard, you dont know that youre coming into a capital city. Theres no signage, no special look and feel. It doesnt make you necessarily feel good about coming into a capital city.
Particularly since we have so much building going on outside the city, we need to make sure that this city isnt negatively impacted economically. Part of doing that is setting the tone of how one feels entering the city.
We want to landscape the gateways in a magnificent way. Ive asked the state to enhance its own property that it maintains. That is why we are requesting funding for landscaping and other improvements to the approaches on Aris Allen Boulevard, outer West Street, Route 450 and the Rowe/Bladen interchange. I hope that over the next four years, well be able to enhance the entrances to the city so that you know you are coming into the capital.
Bay Weekly: Janet Owens, the Anne Arundel County executive, has told us that, much as she respects you, she views Annapolis as only 35,000 people among the half a million shes responsible for.
Mayor Moyer: Thats correct, but Annapolis is the capital, and it is the county seat. Our position goes back again to the dynamics of city-county-state funding. Provisions from the state go to the county and then come to us. Money for homeland security, for example, is probably going to go to the county, and well have to get it back.
Having a positive relationship with the county is just as important as having a positive relationship with the state because they hold some of our fiscal purse strings.
Bay Weekly: You mention homeland security. Youre concerned about terrorism in Annapolis?
Mayor Moyer: We are a state capital, thats number one, and we have some very valuable targets. We also have a harbor, as does Baltimore. Because we have so many of what would be considered as valuable targets, we have a bigger job to do.
Bay Weekly: The City Charter Review Commission seems poised to recommend elimination of mayoral term limits. What do you think of that recommendation?
Mayor Moyer: To tell you the truth, I havent thought much about it. Ive been trying to take things sequentially: to respond to the transition teams and move forward with the budget.
In three months, weve instituted a new management style. Weve upgraded our web page. Weve got the staff doing things differently. All those are management issues that were moving forward.
After the budget come the recommendations from the Charter Review Commission. They were drafted as pieces of legislation, and theyll either be introduced to the council as a whole or theyll be given to the rules committee to be looked at. Before that, there are all kinds of things that need to get my attention.
Bay Weekly: As a former alderwoman whos now mayor, youve worked both sides of the fence so to speak. How has your perspective changed now that youre on the other side?
|photo by Cristi Pasquella
Mayor Moyer: I see my role as more of a supporter, helping the aldermen achieve the things that they want. Weve increased the amount of information they get, and weve increased the dialogue, so theres more face time, more meetings.
What is immediately clear is that when youre an alderman and youre working within your ward on programs that are ward-specific, youre not as engaged in the total complexity of the budget or the total complexity of all the issues as they intertwine. So as mayor, theres a much broader comprehensive view that you dont get when youre an alderman.
Bay Weekly: The Commission said that the mayors position should not be strengthened in terms of getting a veto over the council. Do you think you should have that power?
Mayor Moyer: I havent focused on that, either. Im not at all uncomfortable with the system that we have.
But heres something really interesting, and its ironic: During the campaign, we heard about having a weak mayor in our form of city government. Since Im elected, weve heard the opposite: that the mayor has too much power now that shes mayor. Its the same people saying two different things.
Bay Weekly: Now that GreenScapes founder is mayor, how will you make time for this years GreenScaping?
Mayor Moyer: We need to be setting the standard, and that goes to the heart of the issue that you had asked me about before. If were asking the state to do landscaping, we need to be doing the same on our property, setting the high standard on the look and feel of public property. So thats what Im pushing.
One of the things that we started really rapidly when I came in was to repair the sidewalks. We started around public buildings, and we have a lot more to do.
With GreenScape, there are a number of public properties that could take some landscaping. I have made my suggestions for special projects that I want to find people to participate in.
For one, it seems to me we could do more along Farragut Road [the northwest border of Navy-Marine Memorial Stadium]. If we can find a team of people who are interested in Farragut Road, we can begin those improvements.
Bay Weekly: Speaking of GreenScape, I understand you have 13,000 daffodils coming up to greet the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.
Mayor Moyer: Weve been planting daffodils for over four years. During fall GreenScaping, community groups come and pick them up and plant them along our trail systems and public places. Daffodils because the critters wont eat them, while tulip bulbs arent safe from the critters. Weve got yellow and white. But as the weathers going this year, they may be bloomed out before the boats arrive.
Bay Weekly: April 2628, the Volvo Ocean Race is returning to the city. Besides the spectacle, what will we get from that stopover?
Mayor Moyer: I was very, very involved with bringing The Whitbread [as the Volvo Race was known from 1973 until this cycle] to Annapolis, and I co-chaired the committee. It was a great thing for the maritime industry and for the economy. In 1998 in Annapolis and Baltimore, Whitbread had a direct economic impact of $22.6 million. Thats a big deal for a small town state capital.
But people forget that the maritime industry is the principal business for this community. When our bond rating was just increased to AA, the strength of the maritime industry was listed specifically as a factor. I say it over and over again: Somehow or other weve missed the value of that industry to the city. Were a government center and a sailing center.
If our maritime industry were to go away, it would be comparable to Annapolis Mall [Westfield Shopping Town] closing. That would be the impact to the city.
The city has not produced a comprehensive plan that hasnt focused on our maritime heritage. So having these maritime events are extremely important.
Bay Weekly: If youll let me oversimplify, youve said that everything you ever learned, you learned from the Girl Scouts. How are those lessons helping you as mayor?
Mayor Moyer: Yes, Ive said that.
It was basically their way of work. The Girl Scout way of work is participatory in nature. Its the dynamics of opening doors and working together in a team sense to come to decisions and make things happen then being involved in the doing. All of that I learned from the Girl Scouts, both as a scout and working in the leadership. I am a facilitator-type person. That comes from my Girl Scout training.
Bay Weekly: Does the Girl Scout way of work teach you how to cooperate with difficult people who oppose the team?
Mayor Moyer: Thats a challenge. It is a real challenge to learn how to be a statesman or a stateswoman. In our office meetings, we joke about needing statesmanship skill-building.
Negative stuff negative attitudes, negative assaults are so energy-absorbing. If you arent able to set them aside and put them in their proper perspective, the negatives will so absorb you that youll never get to the positives. Youll never get to move forward. Its the positive attitude that will move us to the place where people will say about Annapolis, this is the place I want to live.
Bay Weekly: But you seem to also believe that most things we need to know can be learned
Mayor Moyer: Yes, we can pick up skills and learn different things
but some things are easier than others for some people. There has to be a will and there has to be openness. Representative democracy depends on the strength of listening. When youre willing to listen openly, you can begin to have a conversation that gets beyond combativeness
and those are lessons we all have to learn.
Bay Weekly: What do you bring to your office from your experience as first lady when your former husband, Pip Moyer, was mayor?
|The Mayors Moyer: Ellen and former mayor, Pip.
Mayor Moyer: I was an activist person, so there were programs that we started that I was able to initiate. But, you know, Im a basically shy person so theres other kinds of things that one has to overcome, personal social attributes.
Bay Weekly: And as an alderman?
Mayor Moyer: I think that Eastport is a kind of a model that can be shared with so many people. Were taking about problem-solving, team-building and action
Whether you do that in your family or whether you do that in the city, its just the scale that changes.
I think I probably have just carried whatever strengths that I have from one level to another.
Bay Weekly:Youve been wife, mother, grandmother and first lady. Now youre the mayor. Thats quite a life passage
Mayor Moyer: I think its very freeing to know whatever dream you have, you have to do your dream. Its a wow! kind of feeling. But you do have to have a sense of what the kinds of things are that make you feel wow!
Bay Weekly: Does being mayor leave you time for family life?
Mayor Moyer: I just led a panel in Florida for the Urban Health Institute
Ive done lots of traveling with my 12-year-old grandson, William, and he asked me if I had any adventure trips coming up.
So William and I drove to Miami and stopped to explore, on the drive back, St. Augustine and Charleston very quickly, but nevertheless he had a taste of places he hadnt seen before.