What's next for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake?

Mayor Rawlings-Blake, who leaves office in two weeks after nearly seven years, talks about her future plans.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will join a professional speakers group and fight to keep her leadership position in the national Democratic Party when she leaves elected office next month for the first time in her adult life.

Missing from her to-do list: running for office again.

The 46-year-old mayor — who became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council in 1995 — discussed her future in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. She said she has no plans to run for any elected position, though she did not rule out changing her mind.

Rawlings-Blake said she feels "sincere joy" about her future. She couldn't stop smiling during a recent tour of the city's new salt barn, where she talked about how the city would handle storms this winter. Typically reserved, Rawlings-Blake laughed as she later recalled what she was thinking.

"I was like, 'You know what, this is somebody else's problem,'" she said. "I talked to former mayors, and they say one of the best feelings post their administration was when it snows and they don't have to get up."

Rawlings-Blake announced in September 2015 that she would not seek re-election. Her last day is Dec. 6, when state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, a fellow Democrat, takes over. Rawlings-Blake said she is committed to making the transition the "most successful one the city has ever seen." She hopes Pugh "will build on the things I have been able to accomplish and take the city to higher heights."

Rawlings-Blake plans to continue living in Baltimore and will seek re-election as secretary of the Democratic National Committee. But the mayor will say little else about what is next.

Political analysts and observers expect her to make regular television and speaking appearances, offering commentary on politics, women in leadership and other topics.

"She's young; she's dynamic," said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College. "She has been the mayor of one of the most well-known and biggest cities in the country. Keeping that visibility is critical."

Eberly said Rawlings-Blake did herself a favor by pulling out of her campaign for re-election, rather than running for another term and losing. He said Rawlings-Blake's brand will grow stronger as memories fade of the widespread rioting and looting that followed Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore last year.

The mayor worked as an analyst for ABC News on election night and will appear on The Food Network, though neither the mayor's office nor the TV channel has released details. The program "Chopped" was recently casting for "civil servants."

She is listed as a featured speaker with a national organization, WME-IMG Speakers, which features dozens of high-profile figures. They include director Tyler Perry and athletes Serena Williams and Kobe Bryant. The group says its speakers are available for corporate events, university engagements, hospitality programs and golf outings.

Rawlings-Blake is billed as a recommended speaker on crisis leadership, including how to deal with "multiple natural disasters, social crises and economic challenges." She could also speak about pensions and fiscal management and social justice. As a speaker on women in leadership, she would share lessons on "balancing ambition and accountability in a male-dominated world," according to the group's website.

A mayoral spokesman said Rawlings-Blake is "highly sought after in many arenas," such as for speaking engagements, commentary, correspondence and media.

Sunny Hostin, co-host of "The View" and ABC News senior legal correspondent, is Rawlings-Blake's longtime friend. Hostin said the outgoing mayor is a "political trailblazer" whose contributions to Baltimore will continue to be realized.

"I'm certain that a lot of her appearances on cable and network news haven't gone unnoticed," said Hostin, who met Rawlings-Blake about 20 years ago while the two were studying for the bar exam. "Her voice is an important one, and I think we will be hearing more from her."

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said Rawlings-Blake can make a significant contribution in media and politics, especially for the Democratic Party.

He said her experience and skills were highlighted by several prominent on-stage appearances during the Democratic National Convention in July, when Hillary Clinton was nominated for president.

Rawlings-Blake was chosen to gavel in the convention. The image of her hurrying back to the podium after forgetting to actually strike the dais was briefly circulated as an internet meme. She also led the roll call of the states to officially record the delegates voting for Clinton.

The mayor took on an unexpected public role in the convention when the party's chairwoman relinquished her position amid a scandal over internal emails, which were released online.

Hoyer called Rawlings-Blake an "excellent representative for the Democratic Party and spokeswoman for us."

"She is good on the issues," Hoyer said. "She is very articulate, very smart. She has a very bright future ahead of her doing whatever she wants to do, whether in the private or public sector."

Party officers, including a new chair, will be elected in February at a meeting in Atlanta.

Rawlings-Blake said she has "treasured the opportunity" to serve as party secretary. She said she remained neutral during the contested primary between Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"In the same way I feel I've been a steward for the city, as secretary, it's been very clear we've been stewards for the party," she said. "I was very, very proud of the neutrality that I displayed during the election."

As for running again for public elected office, Rawlings-Blake said she would not "close any doors," but added, "People think I am kidding when I say my ambition is not personal ambition. It has always been for the city. I go to sleep knowing I have done well for the city.

"When I talk about not running again, if there is a time when what's best for our city or our state means I should re-enter, then that's when I will make that determination."

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater and media critic David Zurawik contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

twitter.com/yvonnewenger

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad