Mar 11, 2011 03:00AM
● By Anonymous
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Her home brings out the best in Southern Anne Arundel County. Situated far back along a winding road, Virginia Clagett’s house opens to one of Maryland’s rivers from both her front and back doors—a wonderful sight at all times of the day. And although she did not grow up in South County, her heart has always beat for the land and people here. “I was born in Washington, District of Columbia. My father had a farm. It was way out in Western Maryland. I got married in 1965 and moved in 1968 to South County and bought a really, really, really old house called Holly Hill. It’s 250 acres, and it’s a house that dips into the 1690s,” she says. Frequent visits to her father’s farm in Washington County and time spent riding her horse, Woodie, have kept Clagett close to the environment, a subject that has always propelled her careers in both the County Council and House of Delegates.
Clagett received her college education from a school in New England. “I went to Smith College. It’s a women’s college in North Hampton, Massachusetts. I majored in history and English, so really I understood politics in a way,” she explains. But Clagett did not set out to become a politician and her first job was far from her seat on the County Council. “My first job was a reporter. I was with Triangle Publications in Philadelphia. I did radio spots for about five radio stations on the east coast and Fresno, California. It was fun, I really enjoyed it,” she explains.
Her 20-year relationship with the County Council began in 1974, as just a young woman who cared about the land and the environment. “I never really considered it for a while. In 1968 we moved here, and in ’69 I had my son and in ’71 my daughter. I cared about the environment, I cared about saving farming, so I went to a meeting in South County at Deale Library toward the end of June in 1974. And the next day I went to find out what it was like to be on the County Council, and then I filed, for $25, for County Council, just a day before the deadline.”
Clagett was able to put her heart into politics and proudly drove her campaign to save the land against all opposing her. “I simply put my name in and ran on those issues, the issues of saving the land. In those days you had to live in district seven, but you had to run county-wide—all the way up to Linthicum and Glen Burnie. I was a new face, and 29 at the time.”
Maryland Senator John Astle has shared a number of political tickets with Clagett over the years, but recalls their early days on the County Council together and her enthusiasm.
“She’s been actively involved in the community for a long, long time. She’s done a lot of really great stuff. She was out in front of the environment wave. She saw the need long before others have.”
Today, Clagett stresses the importance of saving the land you live on in every aspect. Farmland may be limited to certain areas of Maryland, but the environment stretches across the entire state. “Even if you don’t have farmland, you have something to save. You have trees, you’ve got beautiful things,” she says. And throughout all her campaigns she has tried to remain close to the people who live in Anne Arundel County, even providing her home telephone number. “I think I am the only elected official now who put their home telephone number on everything I printed,” she explains.
“She was always there if you needed her,” says Sen. Astle. “She’s a great lady.” Sen. Astle and Clagett, along with Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, worked together on a number of philanthropic bond bills. One of the most recent being for the new Lighthouse Shelter homeless facility in Annapolis.
“She’s an outstanding public servant,” says Speaker Busch. “I think of her first and foremost as one of the finest elected officials ever to represent Anne Arundel County.”
While she is no longer a member of either the House of Delegates, or the County Council, Clagett’s triumphs will be remembered for years to come. Her biggest accomplishments with the environment allow for Southern Anne Arundel County to stay such an environmental haven.
While she is happy with all of her achievements while in office, it is County Council Bill 2-81 that brings out her pride. As the second bill passed in 1981, it allowed for rezoning of residential and agricultural areas around Anne Arundel County. “I think, over the years, the thing people remember me for most is the environment. My first bumper sticker was ‘if you don’t control the county’s growth, it will control you.’ If you don’t save the land, you will never save the water. What I did in the 1980s, given the power of zoning for the County Council, was change the zoning for all farm and residential/agricultural land from one house every two acres, to one house every twenty acres. It is why we still have farming, it is why we still have hunting, and why the Marlboro Hunt Club can hunt in Anne Arundel County. Keeping all sorts of development away from the waterways, I think is a major thing right now,” she emphasizes.
Clagett was also an unsung hero on a number of committees and commissions throughout her political career. The list of boards on which she’s held various positions reads like a “who’s who” of environmental and preservation groups: Environmental Matters Committee; Severn River Advisory Board; Agricultural Preservation Advisory Committee, Anne Arundel County; Commission to Save the Lighthouses; Maryland Greenways Commission; State Commission on the Capital City; Severn River Commission; and the Maryland Diamondback Terrapin Task Force, among many, many others.
Altogether, Clagett’s numerous advisory positions and dedication to issues such as the environment, public safety (voted in favor of HB 102, creating the House Emergency Medical Services System Workgroup), tax reform (voted in favor of the Tax Reform Act of 2007), and education (voted in favor of a number of bills supporting public schools, teachers, and students) have helped to shape the county and state we know and love today.
And in the years to come, you can be sure that Virginia Clagett will be utilizing the land this state has to offer for horseback riding, traveling, playing tennis, and cooking. The future for this politician is open, so she is relishing her free time. “I don’t know what I want. I’m just enjoying my farm in Western Maryland and my children’s farm in Friendship. Lots to keep us busy. I am going to pick very slowl y and carefully any other commitments,” she states.