The Grio's 100: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore's new direction

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s installation as mayor of Baltimore on February 4 will be the latest in a series of political accomplishments for the 39-year-old lawyer. “She is a leader that we need right now,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told voters in a video clip announcing his support for Rawlings-Blake last year.

“We are at a very difficult crossroads in Baltimore’s history. Baltimore is changing… We need a leader who can truly lead… I support her because she is experienced and she is prepared for the moment,” Said Cummings

Indeed, Rawlings-Blake has spent a lifetime preparing to lead Baltimore, a city of approximately 640,000. Her climb to the mayor’s seat started at age 7 when she knocked on doors to help her father, the late Maryland legislator Howard “Pete” Rawlings, campaign for office. Her interest in politics grew as she listened to her parents discuss and develop political issues and strategies.

After obtaining her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College, Rawlings-Blake returned to Maryland and entered law school at the University of Maryland. Not long after completing law school, Rawlings-Blake ran for a seat on the Baltimore City Council. In 1995, at age 25, she won, becoming the youngest person ever elected to the City Council. She represented the Council’s 5th District from 1995 to 2004, and 6th District from 1999 to 2007. She was elected Council’s president in 2007.

From 1998 to 2006, Rawlings-Blake was an attorney with the Baltimore Office of the Public Defender. During her campaign for mayor, Rawlings-Blake noted that she had served on Baltimore’s first all women’s leadership team. (She replaces outgoing Mayor Shelia Dixon). She also said that public safety and public education would remain priority items for her agenda.

More than anything, Rawlings-Blake, a wife and mother of a young daughter, said she would continue to work in the tradition of her father, who died in 2003.

“I will work to unite Baltimore… improving our City through public service,” said Rawlings-Blake when she announced her intent to run for City Council president. “I say this having grown up the daughter of a famous fighter… someone who never backed down if he knew he was right.”

Dan Rodricks of The Baltimore Sun, is among many who believe Rawlings-Blake is the right person to run the city.

“In Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, Baltimoreans get a young, bright and serious new mayor who could bring some urgently needed stability to city government even as she faces one of the toughest fiscal challenges in municipal history,” he wrote in the paper’s January 8 online edition. “She’s the No-Drama Queen, and that should suit everyone around here just fine. Faced with a projected budget shortfall of $127 million or more in the coming fiscal year, the last thing Baltimoreans need from City Hall is more drama.”
Charles Robinson, a political correspondent for Maryland Public Television who has covered local, state and national politics for 25 years, agrees.