The budding political career of Jolene Ivey began when she was elected class representative as a senior at High Point High in Beltsville in 1978.
"It was the first time I ran for anything. You would have thought I was running for president of the United States," said Ivey. "I ran hard. I didn't want to lose."
She was assigned the task of coming up with a band for the prom the following spring and she took the job seriously. She auditioned local bands and made a suggestion, but her fellow students ignored her pick and chose another band. However, the prom program listed Ivey as the one responsible for choosing the band, a rock and roll group.
"I did not pick that band!" she exclaimed over breakfast at a restaurant in Bladensburg a recent weekday morning 35 years later. "I am still mad about it all these years later."
The issues are more important and the stakes much higher three decades later, as Ivey was added to the ticket of governor-hopeful Doug Gansler as the would-be lieutenant governor for the Democratic primary next year. The other major contender is Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who like Ivey lives in Prince George's County, and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.
When Ivey was added to the ticket in October, Gansler said she would give "voice to the voiceless."
Ivey, 52, was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates from the 47th District in 2006, and is quick to tout her Prince George's connections. She has lived in Cheverly for nearly 20 years with her husband Glenn Ivey, a former state's attorney, and their five children, who all attended county public schools.
"Having me on the ticket means the other campaign can't take Prince George's for granted," Ivey said. "Glenn and I both have strong roots here. I just didn't show up in Prince George's County. I graduated from High Point. I started Mocha Moms here," she said.
"It also means that people have to look at how Prince George's has been served the last couple of terms while Anthony has been lieutenant governor," Ivey said. "I am very secure with my record and what I have done for this county and state."
Jeanne Robinson, who has lived in Cheverly for about 25 years, has known Ivey through local schools, the Cheverly Boys and Girls Club and the Cheverly Young Actors' Guild.
"I think she is fabulous. She carried over the same zest and passion [as a delegate] she had for her own family," Robinson says.
Ivey says the media has overblown reports of how Gansler handled underage drinking at a party his son attended in Ocean City.
"Every parent has done things they have regretted. At this point I think people are beating a dead horse," Ivey says.
Ivey earned a degree in mass communications from Towson University in 1982, and later a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1992. She volunteered in the Washington office of Jesse Jackson in his first run for president in 1984, and while she only answered phones and went out for coffee, she said she was energized by the experience.
While working as a television producer for Channel 2 in Baltimore in 1988, she learned there was an opening for a press secretary in the office of Ben Cardin, and she got the post.
She has been involved in local causes, serving as co-founder and president of Mocha Moms Inc., which supports stay-at-home women of color; co-chair of the Family Crisis Center Advisory Council; and a member of Cheverly United Methodist Church.
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III lives just a few blocks from Ivey in Cheverly. And while she has sought Baker's advice, "We don't agree on everything," Ivey said. "We have had arguments that could be legendary if they got out to the public."
Two important issues in the governor's race, Ivey said, are jobs and education, pointing out the achievement gap among state school systems, with Prince George's and Baltimore city schools well below the state average.
"Bringing jobs back is really important," she said. "The 47th District has a lot of people who are economically disadvantaged. They need jobs."
Ivey says important local issues for her include the future of the golf course at the University of Maryland, which she and Gansler want to keep instead of taking down and putting up "big box stores."
Another issue is the decades-old, decaying building at her alma mater, High Point.
"Tear it down and put up a new school. I think it would be cost effective," she said. "Who wants to be in a crappy building that is falling apart? I don't."
And if that happens it may help bury the ghosts of that prom night program in 1979.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun