The Rev. Dr. Barbara Sands, pastor of West Liberty United Methodist Church in Marriottsville, has been named the new head of Howard County's Office of Human Rights.
Sands replaces Dr. C. Vernon Gray, who served as human rights administrator for nearly eight years under former County Executive Ken Ulman. Her appointment comes as current Executive Allan Kittleman is working out a plan to reorganize the office, which monitors civil rights in the county and investigates complaints of discrimination.
Shortly after taking office in December, Kittleman announced that he planned to restructure the office, as well as the Human Rights Commission, a citizen-led group that makes rulings on discrimination cases, in order to shift the responsibility for hearing formal human rights complants to a "trained and experienced hearing examiner."
He introduced a bill to that end before the County Council at the beginning of February.
But with Sands' appointment, the reorganization process will be put on hold to give the new administrator time to make her own recommendations, Kittleman announced in a county press release.
He will also add an amendment to the council bill to change the definition of sexual orientation so it is "more consistent with the community's current philosophies," the release said.
In addition to serving as pastor at West Liberty UMC, Sands also works as a chaplain and patient relations coordinator for Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. She has earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Howard University as well as a degree in radiation technology from Johns Hopkins University.
"My calling into the ministry and my pastoral experience has prepared me to continue in this new job and serve people of different cultures and faiths," Sands said in a statement. "I hope to bring peace, unity, and justice to all the people I encounter."