10 things you didn’t know about Ellicott City Partnership's Maureen Sweeney Smith

For Howard Magazine

Maureen Sweeney Smith, 62, joined Ellicott City Partnership in February 2016 — just five months before a flash food ravaged Main Street. The nonprofit’s mission is “to create an atmosphere that brings people into town,” she says. A native of Relay, she resides in Catonsville with her husband, Rick.

Sweeney Smith recently shared some of her interests with us, including taking care of her “grandbaby,” reading nonfiction and protecting the environment.

1. Her passion is building biking-hiking trails.

Sweeney Smith co-founded the Catonsville Rails to Trails nonprofit in 1999 to create pathways along abandoned rail and trolley lines. She can often be found trimming brush, clearing drainage ditches or raking leaves. She is one of a team of volunteers working to complete the last section of the 2.2-mile Short Line Trail between the Charlestown retirement community and the Catonsville Fire Station.

2. She and her six siblings have a standing lunch date.

Everyone who’s available shows up Mondays at 12:45 p.m. at the Iron Bridge Wine Company on Clarksville Pike.

“We all get along, and I attribute that to sharing one bathroom growing up,” she jokes.

3. She’s watched “The Keepers” two times.

As an Archbishop Keough student for one year in 1969, she says the Netflix series about the alleged sexual abuse of students in the 1960s by a Catholic priest at the Baltimore high school and the unsolved murder of a popular nun who taught there strikes uncomfortably close to her world. She knows students who had brushes with the late Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, who is the subject of the documentary.

4. She’s a diehard environmentalist.

A firm believer in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra, Sweeney Smith goes out of her way to avoid purchasing products with excessive packaging. She doesn’t use any plastic to pack her lunch, either.

5. She identifies with “Laverne & Shirley.”

Her first job after graduating from Towson University in 1979 was bottling line supervisor at the Calvert Distillery in Relay, where Guinness intends to open a brewery. She transferred to Seagram’s Dundalk plant after five years and worked there until it closed.

“Think of me as Laverne and Shirley’s boss,” she says of the 1970s TV series.

6. No retail therapy for her.

She can’t stand shopping for groceries or clothing, and never could. Unusual, she says, but true.

7. She reads nonfiction.

Her favorite book is “The Patapsco: Baltimore’s River of History” by Paul J. Travers. She also recommends “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” and “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir,” both by Bill Bryson.

8. Her pit bull is “the love of her life.”

Sweeney Smith says Skeeter has the personality of a Labrador — and, at 65 pounds, thinks he’s a lap dog — so she has dubbed him a “pitador.” Since the pooch once belonged to her son, she also refers to him as her “grandbaby.”

9. Upscale bar food is tops on Main Street.

The creative, contemporary cuisine offered in historic Ellicott City, like that served at Pure Wine Cafe and Manor Hill Tavern, has made it easy to avoid beef, one of her least favorite foods. She also enjoys the sandwiches at Little French Market.

10. Humorous pranks were part of her childhood.

Sweeney Smith’s parents were from Iowa, so they frequently loaded their seven kids into the family station wagon to visit relatives. To pass time, her three older brothers once hung a “Just Married” sign in the car’s rear window. To the kids’ delight, their mom and dad were mystified the entire trip by the number of people honking and waving as they drove by.

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