Former Ward I Laurel City Council member Janis Robison, who championed safety and building a bridge between communities in her four terms in office, died March 4 at Laurel Regional Hospital. Robinson, 63, had amyloidosis, a non-cancerous bone marrow disease.
Robison was elected to her first term in March 2002. She served as chair of the city's Public Works and Transportation Advisory Committee and the Prince George's County Municipal Association's Legislative Committee. In 2009, she served on the National League of Cities' Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Advocacy Committee.
An advocate for children's safety, Robison brought the national "Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25" program to Laurel, providing signs that residents placed in their yards along busy streets.
In her first years on the City Council,
Robison formed a partnership with Ward 2 Council member Frederick Smalls, a partnership they humorously called the "Fred and Jan on the road show."
Shortly after she was elected, Robison worked to build a bridge between Laurel's growing Latino community and the city government, which led Robison and Smalls to together encourage changes in the city, such as hiring a bilingual, Spanish-speaking receptionist for the Laurel Municipal Center.
"It's slowly sinking in ...I'm just a bit stunned," Smalls said Monday.
Smalls said Robison would "bring certain points of view to me and I to her."
Among those were perceptions on minorities and race. The two openly and candidly shared their experiences growing up, and Smalls said that helped them both see the other side of a racially divided environment.
Robison was lauded by Mayor Craig Moe and council members as she retired at a November 2011 council meeting. City officials commended her dedication to improving the city, and her friendliness and sense of humor.
"She is one of the most dedicated people I know," Moe said before the 2011 meeting. "She works behind the scenes and quietly — without the fanfare."
Moe said Robison created friendships by swapping books she had read with city employees, and would call and check on city workers and constituents who might be sick.
A native of Portsmouth, Ohio, Robison moved to Laurel in 1973 with her husband, John C. Robison, and they eventually lived in a Montgomery Street house John Robison's grandfather had built. She was an advocate for the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department and the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad, following the Robison family's long history of volunteer service to both organizations.
In addition to her husband, Robison is survived by her son, John R. Robison. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, March 9 at Laurel Presbyterian Church.
This story has been updated.