By Rich Polt
Published January 17, 2013
If you read last week’s interview, you know that I am inspired by young people who champion causes and have a sense of personal accountability. In general, these are traits that we typically associate with more mature (ahem … older) individuals. But I’m realizing, that I am equally inspired by mature individuals who choose not to let go of their youthfulness, the desire to grow, and that strong sense of idealism that too often is tarnished as the years pass.
For this and many other reasons, I’ve been inspired this week by Teresa Moore, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council (VPC). Based in the heart of Towson, MD, VPC has been at the forefront of land use planning and preservation techniques in northwestern Baltimore County for 50 years! As a road cyclist, I can attest to the beauty (and hilliness) that is on offer in this part of our state, but I was not aware of the effort and deliberateness through which this landscape was maintained.
In college, Teresa had expected to follow her heart and pursue a career path with animals or farms, but she took a slight, decade-long detour in politics, first on Capitol Hill and then in the administration of Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer.
In 1991, Teresa shifted course (towards her heart) taking a position as Executive Director of the Maryland Greenway Commission, a governor-appointed body working to create a network of protected green corridors. It was in this role that she learned of the Plan for the Valleys, the seminal work by landscape architect Ian McHarg, that turned Baltimore County into a model for environmental planning and preservation (I never knew about any of this until meeting Teresa!!). Tired of bureaucracy, the ups and downs of administration changes, and relentless budget cuts, Teresa leapt at the opportunity to run VPC in 2004. Thanks in part to her work, there are currently more than 60,000 acres of rural land under permanent protection in Baltimore County. In March, VPC will be releasing a documentary film that chronicles the amazing history of the Valley’s region and efforts to preserve its beauty and resources.
In her spare time, Teresa enjoys music. She has been the bassist in a local ‘50s and ‘60s group for over 25 years (Big Cam & the Lifters) and has recently started taking fiddle lessons. In both her full-time and part-time occupations, she enjoys laying down a steady rhythm that allows others to join in and do their thing. Thanks for keeping Baltimore County beautiful and for answering the questions below!
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To keep moving forward and cross things off my “To Do” list.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
Many things…but among those is to see more of the National Parks, especially the ones out west. I’m dying to see real cowboys and would like to do some overnight horseback riding trips. I would also like to travel in Italy and other areas along the Adriatic Sea, and I have often fantasized about writing a novel. They say everyone has at least one good book in them. I can picture myself spending a year on sabbatical, in a lakeside cabin, with a cozy fire and a trusty dog laying by my desk where I am effortlessly pounding out the prose of a suspenseful romance.
WHO IS YOUR HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE?
I have lots of people I admire, but an actual hero doesn’t come to mind. I think people who achieve a measure of greatness and stay put are laudable….someone like Freeman Hrabowski, at my alma mater University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). He has had major success and could probably write his own ticket but has stayed at UMBC for twenty years, doing what he does best. I think a hero is someone who sticks around. I guess my question for him would be, “Why couldn’t you have been president when I was at UMBC?” I could have used some of his hands-on guidance!
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
“Excuse My French” — sometimes my language can be a bit colorful….would be one possibility. But maybe I’d go with “The Closer.” I’ve got a reputation for getting things done. Maybe because I worked for Governor Schaefer in my early career, whose catch phrase was “Do it now!”
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
I would pick Julia Louis-Dreyfus because she is funny and smart and has great timing. I would want to be portrayed as a playful sort as well as someone who has a serious side and is known for getting things done.
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
Be a good listener, and you will learn a lot and make better decisions.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I would probably be working in government at some level. Once you are in government, it can be hard to break out. I feel lucky to have found a private sector position where my government background was helpful.
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
Although I do a fair amount of public speaking, run an organization, and regularly perform in a musical group, I’m more shy and modest than one might expect. I’m basically an introvert who pursues extrovert activities.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE WISH GRANTED THAT WAS TRULY POSSIBLE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would wish for an active retirement where I could tackle a number of causes and interests, serve on boards, travel, and continue to try to contribute to the public good.
WHAT QUESTION(s) DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED, AND WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
QUESTION: What is your fee for granting interviews to do-gooder bloggers?
ANSWER: Well, I guess I don’t have a question I wish you had asked!