As in any business or organization, there are people behind the scenes whom the public may never know but are an integral part of operations.
Belinda Teague-Levy may be a bit more known since she ran for county commissioner three times, but for the most part, her position as assistant to the county commissioner presidents, and to the president of the County Council since charter government’s inception, is mostly unknown to the public.
Teague-Levy, 61, will leave office Wednesday after 32 years at Winchester Hall. From helping constituents with questions or issues to managing the offices for the presidents of eight boards of commissioners and the County Council.
“I thought about retiring at 30 years,” said Teague-Levy in her office on the third floor. “But I wanted to stay on for the change to charter government. It is a more sophisticated government. While the commissioner form may have been more personal, this gives us a seat at the table at the state level.”
She grew up in Mount Airy, the oldest of six siblings. “We had the choice of going to Linganore High School or South Carroll High School. My parents said since they were paying taxes to Frederick County, we should all go to schools in the county.”
She worked at the Mount Airy library at age 14. After graduating in 1971, Teague-Levy went to work at the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy) in Germantown. She left work when son Chris was born in 1974 to stay home, then went to work for Russell Z. Horman real estate when Chris was in the second grade.
“I learned a lot about real estate, and that was very helpful when I got the county job,” Teague-Levy said. “I was comfortable in discussing planning and zoning.”
In 1982, Teague-Levy became the assistant to Commissioners President Galen Clagett.
“Because of the growth in the county, the county had to enhance services. There was a lot going on, and I had a real learning curve and appreciated the responsibility I was given.”
At that time, she said, everything came to the president, and Clagett, a full-time commissioner, would decide what issue would go to which department.
“There was an open door. If someone wanted to come in and talk about something, two minutes or two hours, Galen would talk with them. He was great for constituents. He was also a supporter of interns. We had Carolyn True (now with the Department of Aging) and Sue Hecht (later a state delegate). It may go back to having an intern for the council. They were helpful, and we didn’t have to pay them, so it didn’t impose on the taxpayers.”
Teague-Levy sometimes worked with two commissioners and balanced what they wanted done differently.
“What went on in one office didn’t go to the other office. Commissioners had different perspectives on things, and I was able to work with them,” Teague-Levy said. “You had to learn to write they way they did, think the way they did.”
Teague-Levy said she really appreciated Commissioner Ilona Hogan, who was instrumental in getting the Commission for Women “out of the basement and into Winchester Hall. It really gave them visibility.”
Another memory is when she returned from lunch one day and was told that Commissioner Mark Hoke was at the hospital with Teague-Levy’s son Chris. The young man had been hurt at school and Hoke was there until she arrived. “It’s something people don’t get to know when they see someone on the outside. Commissioner Hoke had retired from Fort Detrick (he was the commander), very military, and yet he took his time to be there for my son.”
Teague-Levy said she saw herself as an adviser to the commissioners, as she was often the front-line person when a constituent called about an issue. She would do her best to help them or direct them to the department that could assist them.
She decided to run for the office herself in 1990, 1994 and 2002. “I told the commissioners I’m running with you, not against you. Sterling Bollinger invited me to ride in the Thurmont parade with him.”
Running for office gave Teague-Levy an invaluable perspective on what it is like on the campaign trail: meeting people, discussing issues, learning the special interest groups and filling out the questionnaires.
Calling herself a “conservative Democrat,” Teague-Levy attended the Democratic National Conventions in 1984 and 1988. She said she prides herself on being able to work with elected of either party officials at the local, state and even national levels in a productive way.
Attending the annual Maryland Association of Counties meetings, Teague-Levy became a founding member, though an associate member, of the County Elected Women, which brings female officials together from around the state to discuss issues. “You learn how someone is handling an issue in their county, and they may get ideas from us,” she said.
“It has been wonderful, and I hope the county will keep that user-friendly perspective for constituents at the county office,” she said.
“It’s been wonderful, but it is the right time” to retire, she said. “I love to hunt, fish, go boating and I want to spend time with my family. I have two wonderful grandchildren.”
Her husband, Gary Levy, continues to work in the information technology field.