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Now I know to proactively reach out


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Charlie Ban

County News Digital Editor & Senior Writer

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Frederick County, Md. Councilmember M.C. Keegan-Ayer.(left). Photo by Hector Emanuel

Key Takeaways

as told by M.C. Keegan-Ayer, Frederick County, Md. councilmember

I’ve always been somebody who tried to engage the community and help them find their own voice so they can advocate for themselves. I’ve always let people know my door was always open and for a long time, I had that two-way communication with residents.

I found that at a time COVID-19 was dominating people’s lives, the residents who needed the most help were not asking for it. Communities that I had been very involved with were not coming to me for help when the county should have known there were pressing needs. I assumed because we were in a public health crisis, they would reach out if they needed anything. As the chair of the county Council in 2020, it seemed natural they’d see me as a lifeline.

After things settled down, I asked them why they weren’t more vocal and I heard it from more than one group, “We figured you were really busy just keeping people alive.”

Had I known about the challenges and obstacles they were dealing with, it would have helped the county meet their needs, not just to keep people alive but also help them thrive. 

They were living in something of a vacuum, but I too was cut off from that direct line to my constituents. They said they didn’t want to “bother” me, but what bothered me more was finding out they weren’t receiving the vaccines they needed.

I have a significant immigrant population in my district, and some of my community members are reluctant to go outside of their safe community. 

If I’m going to be an effective leader, I must constantly reach out regardless of what's going on. I must constantly be reaching out, so they don’t see communication as ‘bothering’ me.

Now, regardless of what else is going on, every two to three months I am going to each of these organizations and these people in the community asking “How’s it going?” “What are you hearing?” “What is the problem?’ “What can I help you with?” 

It’s a little more labor intensive on my part, but if that’s what I need to do to make them understand it’s not a bother, this is my job, this is what I do. Your job is to actually “bother” me.

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