BOWIE – Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III joined the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce at the Country Club of Woodmore on March 8 to deliver his final State of the County address. Throughout his speech, Baker reflected on the progress in the county, specifically in job creation and development, during the last seven years and the role local jurisdictions have had in this evolution.
“I want (us) to remember what it was like when we came in here,” Baker said. “Because sometimes, it’s easy to forget.”
When he entered office in 2010, the county faced numerous challenges, including an active FBI investigation, high foreclosure rates and questions regarding the county’s AAA bond rating.
In contrast, Baker underscored the new developments that have begun in the county in the last few years, emphasizing that over the last few months he has participated in 16 groundbreakings and ceremonial events for economic development projects.
“The good news that we have as we do this tour around in my final months as county executive is we no longer have to do a ‘wish it, dream it, do it’ (approach),” Baker said. “Because the hospital is real. The development at Melford is real. Downtown Largo is real. Harris Teeter is real. The development in Laurel is real.”
The county’s job growth rate is now 3.5 percent, which is more than double the national growth rate.
Baker said his administration instituted some changes to accomplish this progress, though some people might resist that change.
“In order for us to move this county forward, you’re going to have pushback. When you want to do a development here in Bowie, and people don’t see the vision of what it means overall, you will have pushback,” Baker said. “When you want to change our school system for better, you will have pushback…But in order to make progress, you have to change. The other thing I would add, you have to believe.”
Baker also thanked the audience – which included municipal and county elected officials as well as members of the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce – for their involvement in the advancement of the county.
“I’m pleased that as I begin to wind up, that I know, and we can turn over to the next county executive, not only a place that’s better than we started, which is our charge, but we can also turn over to the next county executive some great people,” Baker said, referring to the local municipal leaders.
During a question-and-answer session, an audience member asked Baker what advice he would offer to the next county executive of Prince George’s.
“You don’t know what it’s like when you step into the office,” Baker said. “My advice for the new county executive is that they should go around and they should talk to you and listen. Take the first six months and really just sit down and listen. Whether or not the next person is good or bad at this job, it is not really on that person. It’s on you.
“You determine whether the person is good or bad at their job. And the reason is just like in your business, just like running your cities and your towns, you decide what you will and will not take, and how you want that progress moving forward, and how you hold that person accountable. So if you don’t engage and demand and help in a great way to move the county forward, then it won’t…But I know this chamber very well, and that’s not what you’re going to do. You’re going to demand the best of the person who occupies that job, and you’re going to have a lot of advice and opinions, which is good.”