Brooke Elizabeth Lierman took the oath of office as state comptroller on the steps of the Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis on Monday, officially becoming the first woman to hold the powerful post.
Lierman, a Democrat and former state delegate, spoke of a mission-driven comptroller’s office that focuses on inclusion and equity for all Marylanders. She extolled a lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the interrelatedness of humanity, an acknowledgement also that her inauguration fell on a day when the nation honors the slain civil rights leader’s birth.
“When we all do better, we all do better,” Lierman said, echoing one of her slogans from the campaign trail. “And that core belief will be our comptroller office’s guiding principle.”
Doing better is possible, Lierman said, “when we have an ally and an advocate in our state government.”
Political allies surrounded Lierman on stage and guest speakers praised her before the official swearing-in, including former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. The Baltimore Democrat broke her own share of gender barriers as the first woman to win a statewide election when she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, and the second woman in history to serve in both houses of Congress.
Mikulski described Lierman as a fighter, someone who will speak up for the people and “stand sentry” over state funds.
“Brooke will be a watchdog. And she’ll bark when needed, and she’ll bite when necessary,” Mikulski said, receiving applause and hollers from the crowd.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan administered the oath of office. Gov.-elect Wes Moore, who takes office Wednesday, attended. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks applauded Lierman’s accomplishment. Faith leaders prayed for the success of Lierman’s term. And the Walt Whitman High School Chamber Choir, for which Lierman once sang as a student at the school, performed.
After Lierman took the oath, hundreds of audience members rose to applaud from rows of black folding chairs spilling onto Calvert Street.
Employees of the comptroller’s office attended the inauguration. They included Sherray Miller from Annapolis, who has worked in the comptroller’s office for 33 years in collections. Miller said she was “looking forward to working with a woman.”
“I think she’s going to take this comptroller’s office in a different direction,” Miller said, standing near co-workers, Kesiah Archer and Vanita Miles. All three women agreed change was afoot.
“And we’re going to stand behind her so she can do a great job,” Miller said.
Lierman campaign volunteers Walter Robinson and his mother, Kristie Farley, drove in from Baltimore City. The pair had handed out yard signs and flyers in the their neighborhood. Farley volunteered her time because she said Lierman “was targeting on problems; she had solutions.”
Before her inauguration, Lierman presented outgoing Comptroller Peter Franchot with the first “Lierman coin,” a commemorative gesture. During his tenure, Franchot was a prolific distributor of coins.
Franchot assisted Lierman with her transition as an honorary co-chair. She also thanked the decades-long public servant in her speech.
“I am so grateful to you for your leadership and years of work,” she told the Democrat. “And I still have your cell phone number on speed dial.”
Preceding Lierman in the comptroller’s seat were 33 white men who served as far back as 1851.
The state comptroller sits on the state’s three-member Board of Public Works, which approves contracts, decides where to spend state revenues and serves as the state’s chief financial officer.
The comptroller’s duties include forecasting revenues and collecting taxes, and generally overseeing the state’s fiscal affairs. Article VI of the state constitution, which dictates the comptroller’s responsibilities, refers to the officeholder as a man.
Lierman, a former two-term delegate representing Baltimore City’s 46th District in the Maryland General Assembly, won the November election with more than 61% of the vote, besting Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican.
During her campaign, the civil and disability rights attorney pledged to streamline tax collection systems for individuals and businesses. She also vowed to push for transparency and accessibility in the state’s procurement process.
“We will focus every day on leaving a state to our children that is more equitable, more resilient, and more prosperous than the one that we inherited,” she said. “We will persist and the garment of destiny we are weaving will be strong. Enough for generations to come.”