With the help of readers who submitted dozens of suggestions, we have narrowed the candidates for The Sun’s 2018 Marylander of the Year award down to five. We offer the public one more chance to influence our final choice with an online vote before The Sun’s publisher and editorial board announce the winner on Sunday, Dec. 30.
The Annapolis Capital and Gazette staff
Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters were murdered this summer doing what they had dedicated their lives to: chronicling the news of the Annapolis community. It was the deadliest attack on American journalists in history, and an unspeakable personal tragedy for their fellow staff members — more family than co-workers — who survived. But what happened next was extraordinary. They put out a damn paper the next day, to borrow a phrase from reporter Chase Cook, and the day after that, and every day since. They have displayed bravery and defiance, but they have also demonstrated the enduring importance of journalism in knitting together a community.
The veteran Baltimore Democrat emerged this year as a crucial voice in the effort to hold the executive branch accountable, representing, in the words of one reader, “our enduring line of defense and omnipresent voice of reason against the craziness coming from the White House and the Trump Administration.” Several other readers noted Congressman Cummings’ enduring commitment to social justice and environmental protection, as well as his efforts to promote healing in the years since the Freddie Gray unrest.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture was struggling in terms of its finances, attendance and relevance before Wanda Draper took over its leadership two years ago. But her vision for the museum, her willingness to make tough decisions and her ability to leverage relationships developed over her decades as a communications professional in Baltimore have helped one of the city’s cultural gems turn a corner. The museum is finally meeting its financial commitments to the state. Attendance — particularly by schoolchildren — is up, and its exhibits have become the talk of the town.
Marty McNair and Tonya Wilson
The death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair, who suffered a heat stroke during an off-season practice, revealed all manner of flaws in the team’s preparation for such an event, its culture and leadership, and ultimately in the priorities of the University System’s Board of Regents. The moral center of this tragedy has been McNair’s parents, Marty McNair and Tonya Wilson. They have dedicated themselves to ensuring that no other athlete suffers Jordan’s fate, both by demanding accountability at the University of Maryland and by raising awareness of the dangers of heat stroke and the proper response to it. The reckoning that has come on and off the field would not have been possible without them.
Dr. Leana Wen has been a dynamo since coming to Baltimore City to head its health department, treating its ills with the urgency of the emergency room doctor she had been. This past year was no exception: She successfully fought the Trump administration to preserve funds to prevent teen pregnancy; she brokered a landmark agreement to make Baltimore’s hospitals bigger players in the fight against opioid addiction; she opened Maryland’s first “stabilization center” to steer addicts away from emergency rooms and toward the specialized services and treatment they need; and she launched a campaign to reduce falls among the elderly. She would be the first to tell you she didn’t do any of this on her own, but she has been an undeniable catalyst in mobilizing support to address public health crises. This fall, she left the health department to lead Planned Parenthood, where she’ll bring the same talent and drive to a national stage.