By DaQuan Lawrence,
Special to the AFRO
Comptroller of Maryland, Brooke Lierman (D), was sworn into office on Jan. 16 as the first woman to serve in an independent, statewide office in the state of Maryland. In a one-on-one interview with the AFRO, Lierman discussed her career and path to the Comptroller’s Office, her experience during her first 100 days in office and her goals for the future.
The Office of the Comptroller acts as the elected chief financial officer of the State of Maryland, and accounts for every dollar in and out of the state. There is no other statewide elected financial officer like it in the nation in terms of the breadth of its duties.
A unique office that is not limited to the terms or tenure of the state Governor of the state or President of the nation, the Office of the Comptroller in Maryland has previously been led by men such as Peter V. R. Franchot, William Donald Schaefer and the legendary Louis L. Goldstein, who served for 16, 8 and 39 years, respectively.
Lierman is an attorney by trade, who practiced as a civil rights and disability rights lawyer for many years. Prior to her election as Comptroller, she served as a member of the House of Delegates representing District 46 in Baltimore City for eight years.
The eldest of three children with a mother who worked in healthcare and father who worked on Capitol Hill, Lierman grew up in the nation’s capital before moving to Maryland as an adolescent.
“We moved to Bethesda in Montgomery County before I started high school,” said Lierman.
After attending college at Dartmouth, an Ivy League institution, Lierman immediately focused on public service as a member of AmeriCorps VISTA. After college, she worked on campaigns, attended law school and eventually obtained a federal clerkship in Baltimore.
Lierman practiced at Brown, Goldstein and Levy LLP, working as an advocate for disability and inclusion rights, before being drawn to public service yet again and being elected state delegate in 2014. She was reelected in 2018. Lierman mentioned her experience working across the state, especially the urban settings, inspired her to serve as State Comptroller.
“Baltimore was new to me and I quickly learned about the challenges in the city, but could see the enormous potential. I was frustrated at what I still perceive to be a lack of understanding and state investment in our communities,” Lierman said.
Since taking office in Annapolis, Lierman has gotten off to a momentous and remarkable start. After running a historic campaign, her transition team included policy committees in several significant areas such as pensions, tax administration and customer engagement, data and innovation, local government, public works and procurement, sustainability and resilience, public engagement and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Some members of the transition team have continued building on their groundbreaking work at the state level. Danielle DiPietro, who served as legislative director and oversaw the transition team, is currently the Policy Research Director and works in the Office of Policy, Public Works and Investment.
“Dani is working with divisions on their goals and strategic planning within the agency. Those goals will be informed both by past practice in the Comptroller’s Office and our transition report,” Lierman said.
The report highlights key goals and policy priorities for the Office of the Comptroller, such as modernizing technology across the office, building partnerships with local government, nonprofits, small business and Maryland residents, and improving transparency and accountability within the state.
Other essential priorities include, improving public engagement and customer service, prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion and establishing a skilled and diverse workforce in Maryland.
Lierman dedicated the report to Marylanders who gave their time and effort to her campaign, as well as those who believe in the promise of a state government that works to ensure all individuals reach their full potential.
As she approached her 100th day in office, the 34th Comptroller of the State of Maryland reflected on her experience working over the past several months. “Every day is a new adventure. After the election, we worked very quickly to pull together a transition team that was representative of the people in Maryland,” said Lierman.
After December and January meetings to gain an understanding of how her new office was organized and who was doing what, Lierman reorganized the leadership structure of the agency.
“It was an uneven division of labor, so we created four deputy comptroller’s, which each oversee a department, as well as a new CIO, chief information officer,” she continued.
Lierman and her team have also been working across Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, the state’s diverse leadership and financial officers to coordinate on resident financial matters such as tax collection.
“Most counties have a county finance officer, and we coordinate to collect the taxes and remit them to the counties. We have a really broad leadership team and recently hired the agency’s first full time Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Eve Shuman,” she said.
Lierman also shared her thoughts on her historical status as the first woman to serve as Maryland’s Comptroller. “I was really proud and really humbled at the same time. Very proud of the grassroots campaign and our supporters,” Lierman said.
“It was time to break that glass ceiling. Most of our staff are women and our transition team included great women like Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper,” she continued.
Lierman mentioned she believes it’s meaningful to lead an agency that has many phenomenal women, as well as other team members.
“I’m inspired every day by the work that our team members do, and we’re creating more equitable paths to success, especially for women of color,” said Lierman.
Regarding the future of the state, Lierman told AFRO that she wants Marylanders to understand that the Office of the Comptroller has a leader who is their advocate.
“Whether you’re a Marylander trying to pay taxes or claim your earned income tax credit, a nonprofit, or a small business owner, we want to get the agency to a place where it can be an advocate for the people, businesses and nonprofits in our incredible state,” said Lierman.