MARYLAND MATTERS: Former Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore City made history Monday as Maryland’s 34th comptroller and the first woman ever elected to the position.
During a nearly 45-minute ceremony outside the Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis, Lierman thanked her family, former General Assembly colleagues and Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who conducted one of his final official duties as governor to swear in Lierman.
“I know I wasn’t your first choice. But in these days of incivility in our public discourse, I think it makes it that much more important that you are here to do this,” she said to Hogan.
During her remarks, Lierman said she will focus on ensuring the comptroller’s functions are fair and equitable.
“We all do better when we ensure…Black women can get loans to start their businesses at the same rate as their white male counterparts,” she said. “When we build communities that are welcoming to our immigrant brothers and sisters, we all do better. Doing better is possible. When we have an ally and an advocate in our state government.”
Monday’s ceremony highlighted historical accomplishments of women in the state, and featured remarks from two state leaders: former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D).
Mikulski, who wore a baseball cap but took it off when she spoke at the lectern, was the longest-serving woman ever in Congress and the first woman elected to represent Maryland in the Senate.
The Baltimore native made Monday all about Lierman, whom she said will focus on state revenues and pensions, but also “macaroni and cheese issues…that affect the kitchen table.”
“As our comptroller, she will stand sentry over the state’s funds,” Mikulski said. “Brooke will be a watchdog and she’ll bark when needed, and she’ll bite when necessary.”
After she finished speaking, Mikulski turned to her left and handed a makeshift torch to Lierman, who hoisted it in the air.
Alsobrooks, who served on Lierman’s transition team, made history in 2018 as the first woman elected as Prince George’s County executive.
Although voters chose Lierman as the state’s first woman to an independent state government office, Alsobrooks said voters also selected a person with experience as a civil rights attorney, a political organizer and a person of integrity.
Alsobrooks used a Bible verse to offer advice and support.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she said. “I say to you, Brooke Lierman, embrace the strength in those words of wisdom and keep running your race. Know that the rest of us will keep running alongside you.”
While Lierman said on the campaign trail that she views the comptroller’s office as more than just the state’s tax collector, she is now in charge of imposing state taxes on alcohol, gasoline and tobacco and overseeing tax collections.
The office’s portfolio could expand if the legislature passes the finer details of licensing, regulation and taxation of recreational cannabis, which is slated to become legal July 1 after voters passed a referendum in November by a 2-to-1 margin.
Lierman plans to fill vacancies in the office of more than 1,000 employees and to hire several attorneys to conduct “high-level” audits of companies that require sophisticated tax expertise.
As comptroller, she will also sit on the Board of Public Works, which approves millions of dollars in government contracts. Lierman’s first meeting will be Jan. 25 with fellow Democrats Gov.-elect Wes Moore and Treasurer Dereck Davis.
One of Lierman’s goals on the three-member body will be reviewing contracts to ensure state agencies meet minority business enterprise goals. In addition, she would like the state to streamline the procurement process to allow more minority-owned and women-owned businesses to participate in bigger contracts.
Before Davis became the state’s treasurer in December 2021, he worked alongside Lierman when she served in the House of Delegates for more than 25 years.
“Brooke was a phenomenal legislator, phenomenal politician. She’s a great symbol of hope [and] progress,” he said. “She’s going to do an absolutely phenomenal job. I’m looking forward to getting down to business with her real soon.”
Before the ceremony, Lierman shared a few moments inside the Treasury Building with outgoing Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who held the post since 2007.
Lierman presented Franchot with the first-ever challenge coin from her administration, a souvenir token that the outgoing comptroller handed out with fervor during his years in office.
Franchot presented Lierman with an enveloped card, and offered a few words of advice before she headed out to the sunny lawn.
During the ceremony, Lierman said her enthusiasm “for the coveted comptroller medallion will never match his,” and thanked Franchot and his team for helping her transition to the office.
“I am so grateful to you for your leadership and years of work,” she said. “…And I still have your cell phone number on speed dial.”
Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.
Photo: Comptroller Brooke E. Lierman (D) waves to the crowd at her inauguration shortly after completing the oath of office. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.