In his final public speech as Howard Executive, Allan Kittleman touted his record and emphasized the importance of bipartisan politics.
“Our greatest success has been in maintaining a civilized, bipartisan approach to government,” said the Republican, who in November lost his bid for a second term. “That’s something that the folks in Washington have not figured out.”
His remarks came before a portrait unveiling at the county’s George Howard Building which was attended by at least 150 people including Sen. Ben Cardin, Howard Executive-elect Calvin Ball, and former Howard Executive James Robey. Also in attendance were outgoing Del. Robert Flanagan, former Howard Judge Lenore R. Gelfman, Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, Councilman Greg Fox, a representative for Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Lt. Gov. Boyd Kevin Rutherford.
Rutherford, who spoke highly of the Kittleman’s 30-year tenure in public service, described him as a “class act.”
“Most of us in public office can take a note from your playbook,” Rutherford said while wiping tears from his eyes. “Allan, you know that your dad is very proud of you.”
Kittleman’s father served in the State Assembly for 21 years. Kittleman left his position on Howard's Council after inheriting his late father's senate seat in 2004.
Kittleman will next Tuesday begin a new job at Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission, courtesy of an appointment by Gov. Larry Hogan. Kittleman’s role will be to review workers’ compensation cases and claims. He formerly practiced law in Maryland for 30 years and has worked with issues related to workers’ compensation, according to a Hogan press release.
Throughout his four-year term as county executive, Kittleman prided himself on being a bipartisan leader. The Republican in 2016 criticized the tone and tenor of then-candidate Donald Trump. During his campaign, Kittleman touted his late father’s civil rights record and his efforts to successfully preserve the Harriett Tubman School which was once used by Howard’s school system for building services, he said during his remarks.
Kittleman will be remembered for many things. It was under Kittleman’s watch the state agreed to fund new Talbott Springs Elementary School in Columbia. He “planted seeds” to transform Columbia Gateway into an innovation district and ensured 900 affordable homes were included in downtown Columbia.
In 2017, the life-long West Friendship resident vetoed an effort that would have officially made Howard a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Kittleman, who appeared on Fox News during the controversy to explain his positioning, later made public the police’s longstanding policy of not asking people their immigration status unless it involved a criminal matter, posted and translated this policy into Korean and Spanish and beefed up community relations between police and immigrant communities.
“Sanctuary was catalyst for creating changes in the county that were to the benefit of the immigrant population regardless of the fact that the process was somewhat controversial and brought out hate,” said Hector Garcia, CEO and executive director of Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network.
Ball and outgoing Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, who will be a delegate in the state assembly, introduced the sanctuary bill in the wake of the election of President Trump.
“If that process would not have happened, nothing would have prompted some of the changes the county made,” Garcia added.
But perhaps what Kittleman will most be remembered for is his undying love and devotion to Ellicott City.
“Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco,” Kittleman said during his teary speech. “My heart will forever be Ellicott City.”
In August, Kittleman stood alongside Councilman Jon Weinstein, a Democrat, to announce a $50 million, five year plan to mitigate flooding in historic Ellicott City. The plan requires the county to acquire and demolish of 13 buildings to widen stream beds and open a channel for the Tiber River.
It was the demolition portion of the plan that brought intense opposition from some residents and Preservation Maryland, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that believes the move will tarnish the historic aura of the town.
The nonprofit’s Executive Director Nicholas Redding said the announcement of demolition was a surprise.
“There was not substantive public engagement or involvement in the plan,” Redding said in an interview. “And if the community were engaged from the outset, we could avoid pitfalls the plan has hit.”
Redding and other skeptics of the plan have found optimism in the fact that Ball, who officially takes office next week, during the campaign pinned himself an opponent of the plan.
As a councilman, Ball voted against the partial funding bills because because his amendments, which he believed would address the plans shortfalls, were not included. Ball has declined to say if he will acquire the buildings or when he will announce his vision for mitigation in the historic town.
Ellicott City residents like Beth Woodruff are disappointed in Kittleman’s departure namely because portions of the flood plan, seemingly in limbo, will be furthered delayed with Ball’s arrival.
“Delaying the plan by waiting for studying and hoping for full mitigation is irresponsible,” Woodruff said. “Climate change is upon us and we are seeing the effects now. We are keeping people in harm’s way the longer we hold off putting shovels and bulldozers in the ground.”
Kittleman during the hour-long ceremony was joined by 11 family members including his daughter Mary, who in an emotional speech praised her father for his dedication to Howard County and to his family.
“My dad has done so much for the four of us,” she said of her siblings. “We wish we could do at least half of what he has done in return.”
A teary Kittleman throughout his speech profusely thanked his family and friends who “supported me all the way.”