Adrian R. Gardner has been the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s general counsel since April 2000, but before then he learned important lessons on other jobs — like how to build a stadium and why giving minority contractors an opportunity benefits all.
Oh, and during his undergraduate days, Gardner saw how federal agents deal with the drug trade. He worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration as part of his studies for his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Northeastern University.
Not long after earning a master’s degree in public policy and a J.D. from Harvard, Gardner served as executive director of the Prince George’s County Minority Business Opportunities Commission. He says he is “passionate about making sure that minority-owned companies have maximum opportunities to compete for contracts.” Allowing more companies into the bidding increases competition and reduces costs for the public, he said.
His current position is not Gardner’s first as a general counsel. He was Dyna Corp.’s general counsel before a Texas construction company bought the East Coast builder. Dyna did major work on the Baltimore Ravens’ football stadium and the Redskins’ FedEx Field, so Gardner learned the right way to work with concrete.
Altogether, Gardner spent 10 years in private practice, gaining experience with regional law and lobbying firms in construction and land-use issues before being appointed general counsel for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
“Working for this commission at this level has really made me appreciate practicing law,” he says. Gardner calls being an in-house counsel “far more rewarding than to be an outside counsel because of the seamless relationships you develop with clients. You’re in the trenches together.”
A government agency’s general counsel must consider how best to serve the public, Gardner says, “but it’s not as different as some might like it to be” from working for a company. In either situation, it’s up to him to keep the decision-makers well-informed without making the decision himself, he said.
Gardner is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and has taught land-use litigation for the Judicial Institute of Maryland.
Adrian Robert Gardner
Education: Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt, Md.; B.S., criminal justice, Northeastern University; master’s, public policy, Harvard University; J.D., Harvard Law School.
Favorite authors: Malcolm Gladwell, William O. Douglas, Harper Lee, Zoe Thorpe (young up-n-comer in Montgomery County.
Most inspiring book: “Working” by Studs Turkel
Most recently read: “Dragon Tattoo” trilogy by Steig Larson
Favorite columnists: Gene Robinson and Michael Wilbon
Favorite food: Real Louisiana gumbo and anything Jamaican
Most recent vacation: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (beautiful people)
Hobbies: Cooking and writing.
Most memorable professional experience: The wonderful note I received from an elderly citizen to congratulate me for winning our challenge against a troublesome neighborhood liquor store.
Favorite quotation: “It’s almost always better to muck up the law than to look up the law.” — Professor Morton Horwitz (my 1-L Torts professor)
What I like best about my current position: It’s a three-way tie: my client’s respect, passionate people and an endless variety of important work.
Most rewarding extracurricular activity: Teaching the talented students at Georgetown Law Center
Local hero: Thurgood Marshall