Catonsville resident Renee McGuirk-Spence, 61, who recently ran unsuccessfully for state delegate in District 12, will now serve her community in a different way.
Late last month, she was appointed to the Baltimore County Commission for Women by 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk. The commission consists of 21 members, 14 appointed by the county executive and one appointed by each council member.
"We had an opening present itself and I was very impressed by Renee as I got to know her more on the campaign trail. I think she's very genuine, very good-hearted and a great asset to the community," Quirk said. "I look forward to working with her more on some of the issues that affect women in our community."
The mission of the commission, established by the county council on Jan. 3, 1977, is to identify and advocate for programs, legislation and services to meet the needs of women in the County through education and outreach, said the county website.
Current initiatives listed by the group include: a study conducted in spring 2012 that determined that human trafficking exists in Maryland and within the county; a domestic violence project focused on the west portion of the county; a women's health project concentrated in the east portion of the county; monitoring legislative issues of interest to women; honoring women through the Woman of the Year award and providing education through a women's conference.
As the eldest daughter of the late state Sen. Harry J. McGuirk, who earned the nickname "Soft Shoes" for his political savvy during his 22 years in the General Assembly, McGuirk-Spence said she grew up in the Beechfield neighborhood of Baltimore City thinking it was normal to talk politics at the dinner table every night.
Growing up in a political household, she developed an interest in the state legislature and for more than 20 years served as legislative director of the Maryland Department of Education, working with legislators to develop education policy.
McGuirk-Spence said she hopes to expand on the advocacy that the commission has, and believes her experience advocating for state education issues will be beneficial.
"It's just a part of me — knowing how things work and wanting to make them work better," McGuirk-Spence said.
A former special education teacher for eight years, her longtime area of focus has been education, an issue that she will focus on as a member of the commission.
"Education is the key," McGuirk-Spence said. "It's the key for women when they think of their children."
Other areas she is interested in include affordable housing and healthcare and earning a living wage.
She hasn't ruled out another run for public office, but hopes to focus on her role as part of the commission for now.
"I think this is going to be part of this new decade of my life of giving back to the community," McGuirk-Spence said.