Debra M. Davis was inspired to go into public service at a young age by the example of her stepfather.
“He was poor, but you would never know it,” Davis said. “He would go fishing and he would make sure everybody had some. He’d grow a garden and he’d make sure everybody in the neighborhood had food. And he could not read or write.”
“What’s that old saying, ‘To whom much is given much is expected?’” Davis said. “If he could do that, then there’s so much more for me to give back.”
The first person in her family to attend college, Davis has been practicing law for 22 years in Prince George’s County. Since 2010, she has served as a Charles County commissioner representing District 2. As her second term comes to a close, Davis has filed to run as a Democrat for District 28 delegate, representing most of Charles County in the General Assembly in Annapolis.
“Who better to interpret laws and to advocate for the citizens of Charles County but a lawyer and a person who knows the grass roots?” she said.
“I think the people have been very clear that their priorities are transportation, education and taxes,” Davis said. And those issues, she explained, are closely intertwined.
“What is the purpose of having a top-notch education system if you don’t expect people to move here for it?” Davis asked. “You create that system because you want the kids who are here to do well, but it is going to attract people from other regions.”
Davis said that she isn’t discouraged by previous unsuccessful efforts to bring light rail and state-funded road improvements to Southern Maryland.
“We’ve made a strong case,” Davis said. “It’s important that we stand firm and stand together.”
That being said, Davis does not support the proposed bus rapid transit system that Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete K. Rahn is advocating as an interim solution.
“If you know the facts, you know that wouldn’t work because it costs almost the same [as a light-rail system],” Davis said. “You’re not going to get one and then the other. You’re going to get one or the other.”
Davis disagrees with people who fear light rail could bring crime in its wake.
“If you want to talk about crime, what happens when both parents are two hours away and all the kids are home alone?” she asks. “They’re so busy going back and forth to work, they don’t have time to take care of their families or be involved in their communities.”
“I think the single most important thing we need to deal with in our county is quality of life,” Davis said. “We cannot continue like this.”
During her two terms as commissioner, Davis has gained the reputation as a maverick, often voting against the majority on issues large and small.
“I’d rather be a voice in the wilderness,” she said. “If we’re ever going to have meaningful discussion, somebody has got to make sure that we consider all the views.”
“I will try my best to always represent the will of the people,” Davis said. “And that often means making a tough call.”
Davis’ long-term vision for the county, she says, is as “a place where my two daughters can live and work and play. It’s a place where less than half of the residents are traveling outside the county to find jobs. It’s a place with a sense of community and involvement in local issues. It’s a place where people are here enough to enjoy our natural resources that are here.”
“We’re not far from that if we stick to our guns on what’s important,” Davis said.