Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ken Ulman: Maryland's Best Executive

It is becoming more and more apparent that the most qualified executive candidate for Governor has the least likely chance to win.

Yes, I'm talking about 2014.

Yes, I'm talking about Ken Ulman.

For a slate of reasons, most apparently a name recognition problem, Ken Ulman finds himself on the wrong side of a three candidate race.  Getting into the top three was a significant accomplishment, particularly for the executive of a County that makes up 0.09% 5% of the State's population and is otherwise thought of as a place where the greatest strife occurs over late garbage pick-up.  (We know that's not true, right?  Right?)  But nevertheless, party insiders are beginning to discuss the Gubernatorial primary as a contest between Gansler and Brown, with Brown being the prohibitive front-runner.

This is a shame.  I honestly believe that Ken Ulman is the best County Executive currently sitting in the State of Maryland, and possibly the most qualified candidate for Governor.  He not only has "kept the trains running on time", but also managed budgets averaging $13 million under projected revenues, increased services while decreasing staff, and fundamentally transformed the way most people in this County, and possibly the State, see local government.

With the partnership of local health professionals, Ken created low-income access to healthcare when others (myself included) presumed the program would fail.  As a by-product of that now unquestionably successful effort, Ken's non-profit partners developed the "Doorway to Health", which was an innovative new way to link citizens with preexisting government support and may provide a revenue source of its own when out-sourced to other localities.

Ken, and his Staff, solicited grant funding, coordinated partnerships, and have overseen the implementation of the Inter-County Broadband Network, which is not just a "Model for Maryland", but also a Model for the future of the United States.  Many don't know this, but we are actually behind most other first world countries in terms of connection speeds and access to high-speed Internet.  This will change your life for the better and probably soon.

Ken has not only promoted the environment (a meaningless phrase if I have ever heard one), but more accurately refit our entire County infrastructure to be more sustainable for decades to come.  Our waste management plants are producing self-fueling energy, our recycling program has expanded exponentially, and County property has provided a Model for...nope...a model for responsible LEED certified construction throughout the State.

On top of all that, while it may be easy to overlook, Ken has garnered innumerable awards and recognitions for Howard County that have a concrete effect on the desirability of your property and how much you can sell it for when it's time to move.

So where does that leave Ken when the music stops and all the chairs are filled?  I have some ideas:

1.  Secretary Ken Ulman - allow Ken Ulman the opportunity to "own" and remake a State cabinet position.  I can't imagine Ken is very good at taking orders, which is why this approach would require true insight in leadership from whomever makes this appointment.  Nevertheless, he'll make you look good.  I think Ken Ulman would be a great selection for Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene as the State maneuvers through the new playing field of Obamacare.  There are opportunities here to stay on the cutting edge of this new program and ensure that all Marylanders see its benefits.

2.  Ken Ulman, CEO.  I would prefer to see Ken as the next Executive Director of a State or National non-profit, but after spending the past eight years making less than market-value for his age and experience, I think he's earned the right to make some money.  I can only hope he would find himself at the top of one of the alternative energy companies that are looking to make their products more affordable and realistic for the average consumer.  If anyone can do that, it's Ken.  Sure, public and business executives have different skill-sets, but having an eye for broken processes and knowing how to look at it until you know the fix is a critical skill that cannot be taught.  Ken has it.

3.  Ken Ulman, Superintendent.  This one is a little crazy and I don't know if I just haven't had enough coffee or whether this is a good idea.  Ken's last foray into education policy did not go too well.  All the same, Andres Alonso will not be in Baltimore forever.  This position would preserve Ken's political relevancy and potentially springboard him to a front-runner position in 2022.  As far as I know, Ken has no background in education, but many of the greatest education policy innovators of our time have come from executive backgrounds, implemented qualitative metrics for oversight, and pushed lagging school systems into high levels of achievement.

I don't see Ken running for Attorney General or going back to private practice.  I don't know him.  We're not "friends".  I offer no insight into his personal aspirations or goals.  I just know a good leader when I see one, and there are few leadership opportunities in estate law.  At a certain age, we all just want to do what we're good at for as many hours in the day as possible so we can fall asleep feeling like we lived the day to its fullest.  Ken seems to know what that means to him.

(Thank you for all the kind comments yesterday.  I would have responded, but...some are born with Disqus, some install Disqus, and some have Disqus thrust upon em.  I am in the latter category and my work-day Internet browser is not compatible.  So just imagine me giving a thumbs up to your comment.)

That's all for today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!