Talk with any Leadership Howard County (LHC) graduate, and you’ll likely conclude that his or her class is still in session. Long after graduation, classmates continue to maintain bonds they formed during their training by holding frequent social events, networking, collaborating, and engaging in community service and philanthropy.
They tend to stay active, and one of LHC’s most active graduates is Mary Lasky (Class of 2010), program manager for Business Continuity Planning at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), in North Laurel.
Aside from her primary career, Lasky chairs the boards of the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center and Howard County’s Community Emergency Resiliency Network (CERN), and also serves on the Steering Committee for LHC’s Leadership Premier program.
“The Class of 2010 was declared Best Class Ever for three years in a row,” Lasky said. The annual designation recognizes the level of community and volunteer involvement, dues commitment and other criteria under which classes informally compete with one another. “You don’t get that [designation] unless you’re really working together as a team.”
From her own perspective, Lasky said her LHC class was helpful for getting to know the county, its leaders, and the people in the county as well.
“It provided us with contacts and brought a better understanding of how the county operates and functions,” she said, adding that knowledge gained through the class was particularly valuable in her role of guiding CERN to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
“My classmates from 2010 helped with that whole process,” Lasky said.
Seven years after graduating, the Class of 2010 still gets together once a month or so for breakfast. And even though it’s a social event, the class members still find a way to incorporate some type of community involvement.
“We’ll bring supplies for Grassroots or local food bank donations, or we’ll coordinate on support for HopeWorks of Howard County,” Lasky said. “It’s another opportunity for service.”
Lasky has spent most of her career working in the information technology field for APL.
“Over the last few years I’ve become more concerned about business continuity planning at APL in particular, but also within the local business community,” she said.
Those concerns proved well founded in light of the challenges posed in the aftermath of both the county’s 2012 derecho event and in the recovery from the 2016 flood in Ellicott City.
CERN, a public-private partnership that links government leaders, first responders, nonprofits and volunteer organizations, grew out of a partnership between the Horizon Foundation, county government and other agencies in the county after the events of 9/11.
The organization provides materials to help educate the community on emergency preparedness issues, including instructions on surviving a range of disasters as serious as a nuclear attack and as common as a flood or storm.
To ensure that CERN was doing its part to reach all county residents, “We put in a request for a community impact project the very first year I became involved with CERN,” Lasky said.
Addressing the challenge of disseminating emergency preparedness information to the county’s non-English-speaking residents, the project resulted in a universally understandable pictorial card that’s now available at libraries, churches and interfaith centers, and at county agencies and the nonprofit organizations that support non-English-speaking communities.
Lasky also has become active on the national stage, chairing the InfraGard Electromagnetic Pulse Special Interest Group, a public-private partnership between U.S. businesses and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is responsible for planning and preparation for catastrophic events involving the electrical grid.
Leadership Premier Program
In years past, Lasky has been active on LHC’s Finance Committee, and five years ago she began her involvement with the Steering Committee for LHC’s Leadership Premier program.
“The Premier program is tailored for more seasoned leadership and those who are serving in leadership roles,” she explained, whereas LHC’s entry-level program provides the essentials for people exploring the potential to become leaders.
Part of the Steering Committee’s duties is to help plan each LHC session day and ensure that everything from training to logistics and resources has been coordinated and nothing has been left to chance.
“One of the other things I’ve done as co-chair for the Steering Committee is to analyze the surveys that class members submit after each session day,” Lasky said.
The information gleaned from questionnaires at the beginning and end of each class year has been “remarkable,” she said. “Leadership Howard County is truly making a difference in leaders and what they are learning about the county. This work is guaranteeing results.”