Columbia resident and activist Alan Klein, however, said he was not surprised.
"I'm saddened but not surprised," he said. "She's had a long run, a worthy career …She's been someone who exemplifies what it means to be both a public servant and a leader."
Klein commended Bobo for standing by her beliefs, "not just being a sheep following the winds of whatever. ... She was consistently herself, didn't let appearances or the flavor of the week or even party loyalty get in the way of what she needed to do."
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In her last two years in office, Bobo said she'll continue to champion the interests she has in the past, including the environment and campaign finance reform.
Columbia resident and ecologist Mark Southerland said he's worked with Bobo on several environmental issues in Annapolis.
"I can think of no one who has been a stronger advocate for environmental issues than her, at any level of government," he said. "She's going to be missed but hopefully she'll continue to be a voice out there."
Though supporters say Bobo has always been willing to stand up to political leadership and special interests in the General Assembly, she said now she'll have more freedom to do so.
"People are so frequently accused of doing things for political reasons. ... My votes are not going to change, but there's going to be a certain kind of freedom I think that doesn't exist when you're going into another campaign," she said.
Whoever is elected to replace Bobo, "they're going to have a giant to follow," longtime Columbia resident Ethel Hill said. "Liz has had a very long and illustrious career in this county. I remember Liz when she was a community activist and was appointed to fill a seat on the County Council."
Hill, who became the first black to serve on the Howard County Board of Appeals after Bobo appointed her in 1982, said Bobo "certainly is going to be missed" in politics.
Bobo said she does not have specific plans for retirement, but she intends to remain active in the community.
"I don't know what I will do but I assure it won't be watching soaps and eating Bonbons," she said.