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Women in Government

Debra Davis 2017 HONOREE

Commissioner, Charles County, Maryland

Being in the public eye makes Debra Davis uneasy. A civil litigator for more than 20 years, she usually prefers working behind the scenes. So when she thought about running for county commissioner in 2010, she did it almost as an impulse, filing her candidacy the next day before she had a chance to change her mind. “The more you think about it, the more fear has time to sit in,” she says. Davis was well aware that there had only been one previous black candidate in the county’s history. “It was scary. It was new territory.”

In office, Davis created a program aimed at eradicating poverty in her county by 2020. Every year, the program takes 10 families and assigns one social worker to walk them through the system of all existing resources, spanning health, housing, education, employment and transportation. By personalizing the program and setting tailored goals, Davis says, “we are making a dent into the cycle of poverty.”  

She has also worked to establish mentoring programs within the county government to help train a new generation of administrators. She says she’s convinced that all of her county’s persistent issues can be addressed. “I’m an eternal optimist.”

Read about the Women in Government program and the rest of the honorees.