Wendy Royalty first met District 1 County Council member Courtney Watson eight years ago, when Watson, then a candidate campaigning for a first term on the council, knocked on her door.
"I liked her immediately," Royalty said. "From that moment, I felt like I knew her. If I needed something, I could just call her."
Now, Royalty is running for Watson's Council seat, which the two-term Democrat will leave behind at the end of 2014 to pursue Howard's top post of county executive.
Royalty said she wants to continue what she sees as Watson's tradition of constituent service. "People need to know who their Council member is," she said. "I'd like to be accessible. I really want to make sure we don't lose sight of the fact that we need to speak face first, really speak."
The decision came quickly to the Ellicott City resident, who said she began to explore running for the council seat only a month ago.
Three other Democrats – Ellicott City businessman Jon Weinstein, former Planning Board Chair Dave Grabowski, of Elkridge, and Ellicott City citizen activist Lisa Markovitz – as well as one Republican, Ellicott City resident Kevin Schmidt, who works for a computer security firm, have already filed. The deadline for new candidates to enter the race is Feb. 25.
This is the first campaign for Royalty, 49, though she has already become a familiar face in the nonprofit community and has been active in politics for many years.
Royalty has a background in activism – she got her master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and worked on helping Baltimore City communities set up recycling campaigns after graduation. Later, she spent several years doing public affairs for Planned Parenthood.
She's also been a volunteer for Democratic campaigns, including Michael Dukakis' 1988 run for president and Rep. Chris Van Hollen's first Congressional bid in 2002. She supports Watson's campaign as a member of Women For Watson.
"I wouldn't say [politics] is new to me," she said.
Royalty is a stay-at-home mom to her two children, a seventh-grader at Dunloggin Middle School and fourth-grader at Northfield Elementary School, but remains involved in several county and state-level groups.
She's the chair of Reflections, a national PTA-sponsored arts program at Northfield Elementary and is active in the Women's Giving Circle, a Howard County philanthropic group.
Previously, she was on the board of the Howard County Community Foundation and was co-chair of the Women's Leadership Forum for the Maryland Democratic party.
Royalty said her priorities include supporting teachers, reducing crime along the Route 40 and Route 1 corridors and encouraging development of walkable communities.
"I really believe in partnering the community with the police, the schools, the teachers, with development projects and revitalization projects," she said. "That's why I think it would be fantastic to represent this district in Howard County."
From her own neighborhood in Dunloggin, Royalty can walk to a few businesses along Route 40, but she said she would like to see future development expand walkable options there and throughout the district.
"I think we can make [the Route 1 and Route 40 corridors] so they become places where the community can gather," she said. "I think we can do more to attract people."
With just a little more than four months left until the June 25 primary elections, Royalty said she would be working hard to get her message out.
"It's 24/7, so to speak," she said of the campaign. "For the next 4 1/2 months, I'm going to be doing a lot of listening, doing a lot of reaching out and setting up campaign infrastructure."