Why Wanda Green is Running for Sheriff
This Article was originally posted at the Star Democrat.
Challenges that Wanda Green has overcome are important factors in understanding her candidacy for Talbot County sheriff. I discovered this through an in-depth conversation with her during which I was inspired by her story, her thoughtfulness and her optimism.
Starting out as a foster child, Wanda Green fought her way to become the second woman and first African-American woman corrections officer in the county. Her 35-year career with the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office began only because she fought for it, overcoming discrimination that did not allow women to become deputies.
If elected, Green would like to implement community policing, the system of allocating deputies to particular areas so that they become familiar with the local citizens. She feels this would build trust and accountability between deputies and citizens. In this way deputies would come to know the issues facing folks in that particular area and could address them proactively.
Green wants the sheriff’s office to be a force for change and solutions to the problems faced by the community. She envisions the sheriff’s office being a partner in coalition with elected officials, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations and mental health treatment providers to address citizens’ needs for addiction treatment, jobs and job training, transportation and housing.
Raised in Wye Mills with her older sister by her great aunt until she was 8, she spent the next 10 years in three different foster homes. At that time, she vowed to herself that she would use this experience to motivate her to work hard and succeed.
After eight years of marriage, having two children and working for minimum wage, Ms. Green became a correction officer at the Talbot County Detention Center and attended the Correctional Academy in Salisbury.
At the urging of her fellow officers who recognized her natural ability to talk with prisoners as they were brought to the jail, in 1983 Wanda applied to be a road patrol officer at the sheriff’s office. Green faced an uphill battle as Sheriff Gerlock tore her application up in front of her. Applying a second time, Gerlock told Ms. Green, “Like I told you before, as long as I’m sheriff, there’s never going to be a woman police officer.” She and two other female applicants filed a sex-discrimination lawsuit, and eventually Green was hired under newly elected Sheriff Ellerbusch.
In her first year with the sheriff’s office she was Deputy of the Month three times. Under the next sheriff, Tom Duncan, Green was promoted to lieutenant; and under the following sheriff, Dallas Pope, Green was promoted to supervisor of the patrol officers.
When Joe Gamble ran against Dallas Pope for sheriff, Lt. Green supported Sheriff Pope. According to Green, “Sheriff Pope had built the department into a professional agency. He made sure the deputies were held accountable to their duties and that the department was accountable to the citizens.”
After Gamble was elected sheriff, Lt. Green says she experienced a shift in the culture and direction of the sheriff’s office.
Asked why she is running for sheriff, Green said, “This county has given me so much, I want to give back to this community I love. I have always wanted to be Talbot County’s sheriff. I want to restore accountability from the top down, both inside the sheriff’s office, and between the sheriff’s office and the citizens of Talbot County.”
On the issue of drugs, Green told me, “I feel the issue requires a much broader approach than is currently being taken. Though the opioid problem is real, so are problems with other street drugs as well as alcohol and marijuana.” When I asked her opinion of Talbot Goes Purple, she expressed support for the great job it’s done of bringing awareness to the problem. She also feels it’s time to move to solutions.
“It’s time to turn awareness into real action and recovery. I want to bring people who are committed to making changes together to get it done. We need to break the chain of recidivism by giving folks the tools necessary for recovery and reintegration into society. First recovery — increased funding for treatment and recovery houses and beds — and then help getting back on their feet — transportation, housing and jobs. Recovery cannot be sustained without this support for basic human needs. We need to fight for funding wherever it’s available, be it the State of Maryland or the federal government,” Green said.
Green wants to serve all of the people of Talbot County, not just some. Through her life experience she understands people’s everyday struggles and truly cares about their lives and well-being. Add to that her 35 years of experience as a deputy sheriff, and she is well prepared to be our next sheriff.