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What's Up Magazine

Florence “Becki” Kurdle

Mar 03, 2011 03:00AM ● By Anonymous

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From 1975 to 1987 she headed the department as planning and zoning officer. From 1987 to 2002, after retiring from the county, she worked for Constellation Energy Group, first as vice president of planning and then as director of local government and constituent affairs. Experienced in working with government and political entities while balancing citizen needs, she understands the complexities of planning land use. “Politicians are used to planning four years ahead, but planners look 20 years ahead. It is difficult for those who are unfamiliar with the process to understand the need for envisioning what the world might become.”

Among her many accomplishments as a leader with a talent for anticipating future needs, Kurdle helped facilitate the development of the 1978 General Development Plan for Anne Arundel County, oversaw the building of I-97, chaired the jury that selected the design for the Naval Academy Bridge, and chaired the boards of two cornerstones of the community, the YMCA and Anne Arundel Medical Center, during their moves to new locations.

A history major at Goucher College, Kurdle wasn’t thinking about a career in planning until she attended a seminar series on urban issues facing downtown Baltimore and became intrigued. Her interest sparked, she took a job with the Baltimore Welfare Department after graduation and subsequently found a job in the planning department of Anne Arundel County nine months later. “At first I was just coloring maps and working as a technician,” says Kurdle, “and I wondered what I was doing with my college education.” But within a few years time she advanced within her profession, taking graduate courses at Catholic University and the University of Northern Colorado. She was prevented from completing her degree due to her husband’s intermittent battle with cancer. (He died in 1988 at the age of 51). Balancing time between family, husband (Albert) and sons Kyle and Christopher, Kurdle contemplated a path towards management. “I really enjoy the process of planning,” she explains, “But I found out I was good as an administrator and I enjoyed it.” In 1975 she became the head of her office, as Planning and Zoning Officer.

Reflecting on her career Kurdle notes that she presided over several controversial issues, including the building of I-97, which rerouted Annapolis and Severna Park traffic going to and from Baltimore via Route 2 (Ritchie Highway). Bypassing Route 3 into Annapolis, it created a faster, new major connection between the Bay Bridge, Maryland’s capital, and Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore.

In 1989, after she had left her post working for the county, the State Highway administration asked her to chair the replacement design jury for the Naval Academy Bridge (formerly the Severn River Bridge). “This was the first design competition in the history of the Highway Administration,” says Kurdle, “and was accomplished when Schaefer was the governor.”

Thomas Osborne, who worked under Kurdle as deputy director of planning, says, “Becki Kurdle was one of the most respected planning directors in the State of Maryland.” He describes some of what made her so: “She was bright, concerned, and fully dedicated to improving the quality of life for citizens throughout Anne Arundel County. She listened carefully to various viewpoints on planning issues, but her positions and decisions were always grounded in the overall public interest. Her attributes of fairness, openness—and her great sense of humor—made all sides willing to work with her cooperatively.” During her tenure as planning director, the 1978 General Development Plan was prepared and approved, and that plan continues to provide the basic foundation for land use throughout Anne Arundel County. “She dedicated her professional career to Anne Arundel County, and citizens still benefit today from her wise counsel and dedication,” says Osborne, now vice president of the planning and engineering firm Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates, in Columbia.

Lisa Hillman, senior vice president and chief development officer, Anne Arundel Health System, says, “Becki Kurdle seeks to bring diverse opinions together for the best solution to any given challenge. She served in this role for the hospital as chair of the board of trustees in the mid-90s. Through her leadership, Becki helped to ensure the community had a voice in creating a proper legacy for the hospital at its original home in downtown Annapolis,” Hillman explains. “She exemplified the kind of individual you want serving our community.”

Honored with induction into the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame in 2006, Kurdle has a long history of helping the community by taking on strong leadership roles. She began her volunteer work by serving on the board of the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County in 1983 and served as its chairperson in 1989 and 1990, during the transitional time when it moved from its Annapolis city location to its current building in Arnold.

Incoming President of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together Lynne Davidson has known Kurdle both professionally and in the nonprofit sector. Says Davidson, “Becki was my first boss—and what a role model she was. Smart, efficient, fair, thoughtful—and really nice, to boot. As director of the Office of Planning and Zoning Becki kept a steady hand at the helm and remained vigilant while never appearing overwhelmed by the inevitable pressures and demands of being responsible for land use and zoning for all of Anne Arundel County. Those were busy times developing a new comprehensive plan and fighting 1,000 rezoning battles. Especially meaningful for me was her style, the quiet but powerful strength that she demonstrated as a female department head.”

“More recently,” says Davidson, “I’ve known and worked closely with Becki as an active member of our county women’s giving circle Anne Arundel Women Giving Together. Becki is one of our original 14 founders and was the organization’s first Grants Committee chair. She and her committee created the criteria and process for our group’s grants program, which gives some $65,000 annually to women and families in need. There, again, it has been great to watch Becki. She listens, she immediately gets it, and she is patient. And she speaks only when it is important. So, when she does, you’d better listen.”

Currently serving on the board of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and as the chairperson of the Goucher College Board of Trustees, a board on which she has served since 1992, Kurdle particularly values the time she spends in support of her alma mater. “I am grateful for my education,” she says, “and a liberal arts education and Goucher College are two things I really care about.”

Still working as a land use consultant, Kurdle has plans to take a few exotic vacations, including perhaps a climb up Machu Picchu in Peru and going on a safari. But she won’t stop giving back to the community. “I can’t imagine not volunteering,” she says.

Anne Arundel County has been greatly enriched by her presence.