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Baltimore County will have a new representative in the state-wide fight against underage drinking thanks to the recent appointment of Catonsville resident Mike Mohler to the executive board of the Maryland Alcohol Licensing Association. Mohler, who has served as Baltimore County's chief liquor board administrator for the past four years, was elected to the leadership position by his peers around Maryland.

"I am very proud of our employees in Baltimore County," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in a press release about the appointment. "They are recognized across the state as experts in their field, and Mike's election to an important leadership position is yet another example of that recognition."

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Mohler was selected along with Danielle Markette of Harford County. He will take on the position in addition to his current duties as county liquor board administrator.

Jeff Kelly, director of the Field Enforcement Division for the Comptroller of Maryland, is currently on the executive board of the Maryland Alcohol Licensing Association, and was one of the individuals to nominate Mohler for the position.

"[I'm] glad to have him [on the board]," Kelly said. "In fact, I'm a member of the executive board myself and his name was among many and we selected him and one other over the other candidates."

He said he believes Mohler's experience as a regulator in Baltimore County will help him contribute insight and new ideas as to how to benefit other jurisdictions.

"Where Mike's going to really be able to add to this is that he regulates a fairly large county that has probably seen a lot of these different scenarios and will be able to share policies that they've already worked out their problems on and now are very functional policies and can share that with other jurisdictions that may need that assistance," Kelly said. "We don't have to reinvent the wheel. If one jurisdiction has already solved a problem they can share that with other jurisdictions."

One of Mohler's main focuses as county board administrator and one that he plans to pursue further on the executive board is underage drinking.

"I view it as an epidemic and having served on the Combating Underage Drinking Task Force in Baltimore County, just witness to the tragic numbers of tragedies, of how it impacts negatively young people and their lives," he said. "I think it's multi-faceted: it's education; it's training; it's getting to the parents; it's across the spectrum; it's a health issue; it's a police issue; it's a bar owner/liquor store owner issue. All facets of the industry are touched by this issue, and that's what interests me. It's coordinating all of these groups in one common goal to really make a dent into this problem."

With career experience on both the promotional and regulatory sides of alcohol distribution, he said he hopes he can offer a singular approach to important issues tackled by the association.

"My position is a little unique since I'm the only one out of the entire state that has a background in the alcohol industry from a different perspective," he said. "I was a sales director for the Mid-Atlantic region for Guinness and my entire adult life has been spent in the alcohol business, so taking that, I hope to be able to bring that experience to the executive board and then helping craft legislation that benefits the entire industry and all of our jurisdictions."

Lou Berman, who serves as the trade practice manager of alcohol and tobacco for the Field Enforcement Division of the Comptroller of Maryland, has known Mohler for 30 years. He said he believes Mohler's diverse range of experience makes him "uniquely suited" to combat the problem of underage drinking in Maryland.

"Having worked on both sides of this fence, having been an industry person promoting alcohol and now he's a governmental person and in particular a local governmental person that is charged with controlling underage drinking, there's really few people that have a perspective that he has, and he's been at a high level in both things," Berman said. "We have some people who've worked in the retail industry at low levels, but he's worked … at a high level in both industries, so that's why he's suited to combat [underage drinking]."

Mohler said he hopes to use his experience to help effect change in legislation that will positively impact alcohol consumers, distributors and regulators.

"We all have the same common problems and issues," Mohler said. "Underage drinking is a huge issue. False IDs are a huge issue. Rowdy bars is a huge issue for us. Over-serving is a huge issue. So I think the hope is to take those common issues that affect each and every jurisdiction and look at being able to craft legislation that benefits all jurisdictions [and that] benefit the industry. I look at my role as bringing a wealth of experience that I've had during my life having spent my adult life in the industry."

In addition to tackling issues like underage drinking and the use of fake IDs, Berman said he hopes Mohler will bring positive exposure to the association.

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"I'd like to see him bring some good publicity to the organization because too often they're cast as do-gooders and as not pro-public so … I think that he'll be able to do that, to put the organization in the best possible light."

Mohler said he hopes to make the association "more impactful" and use his new leadership role to encourage a unified voice across the different jurisdictions being represented.

"The association's made up of representatives from all across the state," he said. "Every jurisdiction has a member. The hope and the intent is to try and be a more cohesive group, or more cohesive association where there are commonalities, to use those commonalities in helping shape state-wide legislation … We all face many of the same issues and the hope is that we can be a stronger voice as an association in crafting legislation that helps us all."

Berman said he is sure that Mohler will be a valuable asset to the association.

"I think that he's an incredibly competent guy," he said. "He's a very social person so if there's politicking to be done he will be terrific at it and I've always found that he's one of the few people I know that will say he doesn't know the answer … He's well organized and he's always hired or had good people surrounding him so I think what he's going to bring is organization and personal skills. He'll be a good face for the organization."

Reach Times Staff Writer Elaina Clarke at elaina.clarke@communitytimes.com or 410-857-3316.

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