From staff accountant to the director of administration and finance to county administrator, Terry Shannon has worn numerous hats in Calvert County government since 1987.
In late September, Shannon announced that she will hang up her hat as administrator after 32 years of service to Calvert County.
A native of the county, Shannon commuted to Greenbelt to work as a comptroller for a small company before joining county government.
“There’s got to be a better way,” Shannon said, of her inability to see her infant daughter due to long hours. “I wanted to have a career, and I wanted to have a family — I wanted it all.”
One Sunday afternoon she opened the newspaper and saw an advertisement for a staff accountant, not knowing her application was a stepping stone to being at the helm of that county that she always called home.
She first held the post of staff accountant for three years, where she put audit controls in place, before being elevated to director of what is now known as the Department of Finance and Budget in 1999 until the end of 2008. During her tenure, she established tools to manage the county’s finances that set the county on its path towards consecutive AAA bond ratings.
“I want to believe I had a hand in it. It really does take a village,” Shannon said, crediting her staff and mentors in the county.
She was elevated in her career in November of 2008 when County Administrator Doug Parran suffered a stroke.
“It was [former commissioner Wilson Parran] who called me that evening and asked me if would I fill in,” Shannon said, upon filling in as the interim county administrator.
Doug Parran was not well enough to return to his post. So, the board appointed Shannon to the position permanently, making her the first female county administrator.
Shannon said she has never been “big” on being the first female and that she never felt different being a woman in part because of her upbringing and being one of four daughters working the tobacco fields on her family’s Huntingtown farm.
“Having that foundation – I truly believe if you work hard and do the right things you’ll be successful no matter what you do,” Shannon said.
As for the transition to the county’s top non-elected spot, Shannon said “I love numbers, but I had done that for 20 years. Coming into this job – it just opened up. I had the broad spectrum and seeing how everything fits together.”
“She’ certainly has a feel for the county, “Commissioners’ President Thomas “Tim” Hutchins (R) said. “She has seen it transition from an agricultural society and then multiply to what it is today – that is pretty significant.”
Shannon has purview over 11 county departments, and for the last two and half years has shared the load with Wilson Parran, as deputy county administrator. She willing credits her staff and department heads for the success of the county.
Shannon has also served as administrator through four commissioners’ boards. She said one of the most helpful things in her tenure was when the previous board, under the leadership of former Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R), set 10 points of guidance.
“It was extremely helpful because we knew what they wanted to get done and that helped us focus on them,” Shannon said, noting county staff worked diligently to complete all ten.
Shannon said the primary role of the county administrator is to support the Calvert County commissioners and to facilitate what the majority of the BOCC wants to do. She shared her belief that a person can learn so much by listening.
“That is why I usually don’t talk a lot because I am listening – I am listening to see if it’s the majority of the board wants to go in that direction because that’s where I am going,” Shannon explained.
She said she listens to see if the board is of one mindset because if they are not a lot of time and resources could be wasted.
Hutchins said Shannon has a wealth of information and knowledge and helped him through his initial six months in office and through the comprehensive plan update.
“Me as a new president, I need a great deal of insight as to who the players were, what the past interactions have been, what the issues have been – you need to know the past to better prepare for the future agenda,” Hutchins said.
Shannon, who’s role is to speak on behalf of the county government, acknowledged that she has had plenty of practice wearing a poker face during times when a commissioner has made a controversial statement during a board meeting.
“With experience, you do learn not to overreact. You kind of categorize things as really important, something that will go by the wayside or driven by personal interest,” Shannon explained.
The Calvert County Comprehensive Plan Update for 2040 was the largest and most challenging undertaking during her tenure.
“It is so comprehensive. I wish it hadn’t been so much opposition at the end,” Shannon said, crediting the Department of Planning and Zoning with its public outreach and garnering comments.
“So many meetings. So many workshops and to have it come down to the wire that is was that controversial — I wish it hadn’t been,” Shannon said. “We took stock in lessons learned on how we can do it differently.”
As for things she wished she could have accomplished, Shannon said she wanted to have more automation allowing residents to apply for permits online for planning and zoning or public works.
“I feel like we are little behind the curve on using technology to make things easier for the citizens,” Shannon said, hoping her successor will take up the charge.
The BOCC has already announced Mark Willis, the director of planning and zoning as the administrator selectee to succeed Shannon later this year.
Willis said it has been his pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from her over the last 19 years.
“I’ll remember her as always willing to listen, and always willing to go the extra mile to be of assistance.,” Willis said. “Terry believed in me as an employee and was instrumental in supporting me as opportunities for promotion became available over the years.”
Willis said without her guidance and direction over the years he would not be in the position his is in today.
“She has not left us yet, and her job is not yet complete,” Willis said. “She still has the helm with the added challenge of passing on her knowledge and wisdom to me.”
Shannon steps down on paper Jan. 3, 2020 and said of all the three positions she has served in the county, the county administrator position is the most rewarding, but she took value from each role.
“It was like a building block. Any experience is a good experience – good bad or indifferent,” Shannon said. “You learn from it. You should learn from everything. I tried to take the best away from each.”