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The leadership qualities needed in Baltimore’s next mayor

new-don-fry-photoIn 2016, after candidate Donald Trump won the presidency, President Barrack Obama said, “Elections matter.” Those words are worth considering again as the 2020 General Election nears on Nov. 3. The words of advice are not just relevant for the highest elected office in the country, but also for Baltimore, which is poised to elect a new mayor.

The city is at a crossroads and is in need of a mayor who can take on its many challenges and leverage its strengths.

The challenges include crime and homicides, a declining population base and gaps in opportunity, equality and education that have resulted in poverty and disenfranchised neighborhoods. Solving these and other issues facing the city will be tough with a budget that has been impacted by an economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fortunately, Baltimore has many strengths that the next mayor can draw on to ensure the city takes a turn for the better. These strengths include world-class medical institutions, a thriving university community, a population that is rich in diversity and culture, and a growing base of millennials who want to live, work and contribute to the city’s well-being.

Baltimore also enjoys a vibrant business and philanthropic community deeply committed to the city and willing to assist the city’s elected officials with private-sector ideas and solutions to tackle the challenges.

The 2020 election for mayor provides an excellent opportunity for Baltimore to turn the corner with bold leadership.

Baltimore’s “strong executive” form of government is structured to allow a mayor to set the vision and establish clear policy direction and priorities. The responsibility and influence vested in the office affords tremendous opportunities during challenging times. A strong mayor who has a clear vision, leadership qualities, and demands accountability can be a transformative figure for the city’s future.

While the Greater Baltimore Committee does not endorse or financially support candidates for public office, it strongly believes that there are certain qualities that the next mayor of Baltimore must possess to effectively lead.

The next mayor must be:

  • A strong, transformational leader who exerts the consistent, steady direction needed to create a culture of competence, efficiency, and transparency within city government.
  • A person of indisputable integrity with the resolve to hold all elected and appointed officials in Baltimore to the highest ethical standards.
  • A collaborative leader who forges strong working relationships with the Baltimore City Council and other elected leaders at the local, state, and national level.
  • A true public servant who is committed to improving the quality of life of all city residents—regardless of neighborhood or ZIP
  • A forward-thinking leader who will advance an inclusive economic growth strategy to reverse the effects of racial inequity that has left many residents and neighborhoods behind.
  • A visionary who can set clearly communicated goals for the city and implement the policies and programs necessary to achieve those goals.
  • A customer service-minded leader who appreciates the important role that the private sector has on the city’s economic growth and prosperity and creates a culture within city government that is supportive of businesses’ need for a sense of urgency, transparency and integrity.
  • A trusted communicator who will be fully transparent and will seek guidance from residents, communities, and businesses about their needs and priorities.

By electing a candidate with these characteristics, Baltimore will benefit from a mayor who will not merely lead the city but dramatically transform it for the betterment of current residents and the generations that follow.

The Greater Baltimore Committee encourages all city residents and businesses to spend time getting to know the candidates and prioritizing these essential leadership qualities as you cast your vote on Election Day.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.