With tragedies like the Newtown school shooting in Connecticut and bullying incidents locally, Ulman said he will focus on improved techniques for monitoring and reporting bullying and implement recommendations from a School Safety Task Force.

"Bullying and cyberbullying has created a very difficult environment for so many of our young people to be able to thrive," he said. "We need to continue to make progress towards the most nurturing, safe environment for our children."

Council member Calvin Ball said he agreed with Ulman that "in many ways we are" a model for Maryland.

Ball said the county should aspire to lead the nation in areas such as education, public safety and the environment

"Much of what we were working on over the last year is illustrative of those goals," he said.

Council member Courtney Watson said Ulman's speech reflected the priorities of county citizens, including education and public safety.

"People of Howard County are very proud of where they live," she said.

Watson said Ulman should be proud of the success he's had as county executive.

"It (Howard County) is certainly a model in many ways, such as the public education system," she said.