Brooke Lierman makes history as Maryland’s first woman comptroller
The former Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore City made history Monday as Maryland’s 34th Comptroller and the first woman ever elected to the position.
During a nearly 45-minute ceremony in front of the Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis, Lierman thanked her family, former General Assembly colleagues and Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who was performing one of his last official duties as governor, to swear in Lierman.
“I know I wasn’t your first choice. But in these days of rudeness in our public discourse, I think it’s even more important that you’re here to do it,” she told Hogan.
During her remarks, Lierman said she will focus on ensuring the auditor’s functions are fair and equitable.
“We all do better when we make sure that … black women can get loans to start their businesses at the same interest rate as their white male counterparts,” she said. “When we build communities that welcome our immigrant brothers and sisters, we all thrive. It is possible to do better. If we have an ally and an advocate in our state government.”
Monday’s ceremony highlighted the historic achievements of women in the state and included remarks from two heads of state: former US Senator Barbara Mikulski (D) and Angela Alsobrooks (D), the district head of Prince George.
Mikulski, who wore a baseball cap but took it off when she spoke at the lectern, was the longest-serving woman in Congress and the first woman elected to represent Maryland in the Senate.
The Baltimore native centered her attention Monday on Lierman, who she said will focus on government revenue and pensions, but also on “macaroni and cheese issues … affecting the kitchen table.”
“As our auditor, she will watch over state funds,” Mikulski said. “[She] will be a watchdog and will bark when necessary and bite when necessary.”
After she finished speaking, Mikulski turned left and handed Lierman a makeshift torch, which she held aloft.
Alsobrooks, who served on Lierman’s transition team, made history in 2018 as the first woman to be elected leader of Prince George’s County.
Although voters elected Lierman as the state’s first woman to an independent government position, Alsobrooks said voters also selected someone with experience as a civil rights advocate, political organizer and person of integrity.
Alsobrooks used a Bible verse to offer advice and support.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she said. “I’m telling you, Brooke Lierman, embrace the power in these words of wisdom and keep running your race. Know that the rest of us will continue to walk by your side.”
While Lierman said during the campaign that she views the Comptroller’s Office as more than just the state’s tax collector, she is now responsible for collecting state taxes on alcohol, gasoline and tobacco and overseeing tax collection.
The office’s portfolio could expand if lawmakers pass the finer details of the licensing, regulation, and taxation of recreational cannabis, which is scheduled to become legal on July 1 after voters passed a 2-to-1 referendum in November.
Lierman plans to fill vacancies in the offices of more than 1,000 employees and hire several attorneys to conduct “high-level” audits of companies that require sophisticated tax knowledge.
As an auditor, she will also sit on the Board of Public Works, which approves government contracts worth millions. Lierman’s first meeting will be on January 25 with Democrat-elect Wes Moore and Treasurer Dereck Davis.
One of Lierman’s goals on the three-person board will be to review contracts to ensure government agencies are meeting minority corporate goals. In addition, she wants the state to streamline the procurement process so more minority and women-owned companies can participate in larger contracts.
Before Davis became state treasurer in December 2021, he worked with Lierman when she served in the House of Delegates for more than 25 years.
“Brooke was a phenomenal lawmaker, a phenomenal politician. She is a great symbol of hope [and] progress,” he said. “She will do an absolutely phenomenal job. I look forward to doing business with her soon.”
Before the ceremony, Lierman shared a few moments in the Treasury Building with outgoing Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who has held the post since 2007.
Lierman presented Franchot with her government’s first-ever Challenge Coin, a memento that the outgoing Comptroller distributed fervently throughout his years in office.
Franchot handed Lierman a card and envelope and offered her some advice before heading out onto the sunny lawn.
During the ceremony, Lierman said her enthusiasm “for the coveted Comptroller medallion will never match his,” and thanked Franchot and his team for helping her transition into the office.
“I am so grateful to you for your guidance and years of work,” she said. “…And I still have your cell phone number on speed dial.”
Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.