Bret Schreiber, Director, Harford County Office of Governmental and Community Relations
To describe Bret Schreiber as a “people person” might be an understatement. His own account of his background and his county government role develops a theme of service and teamwork. From his undergraduate days as a student and top lacrosse player at Johns Hopkins University, through his career at the Johns Hopkins Institutions and the Maryland Independent College and University Association (MICUA), Schreiber says he always felt like he was contributing to something bigger. “I felt I was a part of the founding ideas and was making a difference in people’s lives at Johns Hopkins. We were also making a difference in the lives of students at MICUA by helping to identify scholarship and funding opportunities,” he says.
Now, the Harford County native is the director of the Harford County Office of Governmental and Community Relations, an office that has been reinstated by County Executive Barry Glassman after it lapsed during the previous administration. In this position, Schreiber muses that he is fulfilling a role to the state and county residents where he grew up. He acknowledges, “This Office touches all aspects of life.”
Schreiber describes some of his office’s primary focus: higher education, K-12 education and funding, identifying funding for local law enforcement for safe streets and safe schools, and addressing the county’s growing heroin addiction problem. He emphasizes that the County Executive has put together a team of people who work together effectively, eliminating the silos of government. “We are all on the same team,” he says. “We have a great County Council and a great delegation to Annapolis, and they work well together.”
Much of Schreiber’s work will be based on obtaining funding. “Harford County receives $278 million in state funding, and the majority goes to Harford County Public Schools. We must be able to allocate our resources and ensure that the County can get as much funding as possible,” he says. He has already increased the county’s presence in Annapolis and Washington, D.C., and is working to influence where the money goes.
In addition to the priorities of education, health care and law enforcement, the long-term goals for the Office of Governmental and Community Relations also include planning for high-tech industry, federal jobs, public safety, business development and tourism. With all these areas positioned for growth, Schreiber says he hopes his office will be able to assist in expanding them and be able to “remove obstacles for entities that bring people into the county.” Schreiber refers to the recent county slogan, “Maryland’s New Center of Opportunity,” as a strategic guide, positioning Harford County as a great place to live, work and visit. “We want to be a resource for the county,” he says.
If Schreiber’s goals seem ambitious, he shows only confidence that he and his team will get the job done. “I can’t do it on my own,” Schreiber says. “I can’t accomplish anything without the team that the County Executive has assembled to work with our office. We’ll capitalize on the skills and beliefs of the team.”
One of his beliefs is that an organization’s leadership defines its culture. Schreiber describes his own leadership style: “I try to recognize the value that all people bring to the table. Everyone has an important role and everyone contributes and works together to accomplish great things,” he says.
Schreiber attributes many of his leadership and motivational skills to a group of influencers and mentors with whom he worked at his first job at Johns Hopkins – Maggie McIntosh, who is now chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in Annapolis, Jerry Schnydman, a retired Johns Hopkins colleague, and Jim McGill, the former senior vice president for finance and administration at Johns Hopkins University. Schreiber noted that as leaders, they treated everyone the same, no matter what their position in the organization. “They always took the time to say hello and offer a smile. People just wanted to work for them. These people all had an effective leadership style that stuck with me,” Schreiber says.
In addition to emulating what he observes as successful leadership traits, Schreiber looks for ways to help people find a sense of pride in what they’re doing, and to reinvigorate their passion for their jobs. He voices what is often thought in corporate cultures, but rarely said: “Family has to be first in everything. They’re the reason we do this.” As a matter of fact, he accepted his job at the Office of Governmental and Community Relations to renew that priority. “I found myself in a position where I couldn’t keep family in the forefront in my life, so it was time to change.”
Now, instead of the three hours he used to spend on the road driving to and from Annapolis every day, he commutes 20 minutes from his Jarrettsville home most days. Although much of his time is also split between his Bel Air office and Annapolis or Washington, D.C., Schreiber still has gained extra time with his 10-year-old daughter, and maybe some time to squeeze in a chapter from one of his favorite books.
He also counts family members among his biggest influencers – particularly his parents. “Early on, they instilled an independent spirit to go out and see what there was to do, then they gave me the ability to make it happen,” he recalls. He attributes his other great inspiration to his significant other, Sharon Markley, vice president for public affairs and strategy at Stevenson University.
When not working, Schreiber likes to spend time with his daughter and Markley. He plays lacrosse in an “over 35 league that’s full of 20-year-olds,” and also plays basketball and golf. “We love the outdoors, going hiking and being near the Susquehanna River,” he says. His favorite spot in Harford County is the King and Queen seat at Rocks State Park. He finds the site both peaceful and breathtaking at the same time. In addition, he enjoys the sunflower fields and the rolling hills of agriculture throughout the county.
But of his new job and Harford County, he says, not unexpectedly, “The best thing here is the people.” I95