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"Why You?": What We Want to Know From 2010 Candidates in Prince George's

With 2010 around the corner, candidates in Prince George's County at all levels of government are beginning to sculpt their campaign messages. In a semi-weekly series --"Why You?" -- we sit down with the county's political hopefuls to ask about who they are, what they've done and why they're the best ones to lead.

First up, Peggy Magee

(Photo courtesy of Peggy Magee)


Current Job: Clerk of the Prince George's County Circuit Court
Running For: State's Attorney
Former Jobs: Assistant State's Attorney in Prince George's; Executive Assistant to County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D); U.S. Air Force veteran. (Official Bio).
Age: 57
Residence: Upper Marlboro

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: "I grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi. I was born in Collins, but I grew up in Biloxi. ... It was in the news recently in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina came through and wiped it out. Fortunately my mother was up here with me when it hit. ..... It was just horrible. I think it was September 8th, she saw her home [on the news]. ... She started getting depressed. That afternoon I went and tried to rent an RV. All the RV's were gone so I bought an RV. ... A 29-foot Winnebago. I bought it in Annapolis. In an hour they taught me how to drive it. ... That night at 10 o'clock my mother and I drove down to Biloxi. ... The next day we went over and -- devastation. ... If she'd stayed there she'd be dead. ... It was like being in a war zone except the thing that was missing was the sound of gunfire. ... That RV, is my, I call it 'The Pearl.' In 2006 it was my mobile campaign headquarters and it 2010 it will be that again. ... In 2007 the house was restored and we had the first Thanksgiving there, family meeting. It was great."

Q: That's quite an experience. How has that affected the approach you take to your work?
A. "All the things I learned in Katrina and in law school. ...it just brings out the best in you. When you see you have the talents and the skills, you want to just give it. I call that the military side of me. The Mississippi and the military side."

Q: How long have you lived in Prince George's?
A: "I arrived here in '88 from Korea. ... I was assigned there for a year, and I arrived here to do the maintenance on Air Force One. ... When I arrived all I had was a high school diploma. In 1990 I became a first sergeant for the squadron that does the maintenance on Air Force One. It was like 274 people assigned. It was like four women and all the rest males. ... In 1991 I started going at night to University of Maryland University College, because that was five years before I was getting ready to retire, and they don't have first sergeants in the civilian world. ... The first night it was a legal ethics class, and I decided that I wanted to be an attorney."

Q: Tell me about that decision. What went on in that class?
A: "I think the thing that really moved me was [the professor] talked about the legal ethics, how you could become an attorney and lose your license if you don't have the integrity, if you don't abide by the rules of the state of Maryland, and it was a three hour class and I'm thinking to myself, 'Wow.' That, as a first sergeant, you take care of the people in your squadron, you are the person who is the liaison with other squadrons. ..... And I said, 'This is like being a first sergeant.'"

Q: And in 1998 you became an assistant state's attorney?
A: "In April of 1998 I was sworn in ... and I prosecuted cases in the district or the juvenile court. The drug court, did some felony cases. ... [District Court] is an overwhelming office to be assigned to. You're assigned to court maybe three or four days a week ... 30 cases maybe in the morning, 30 maybe in the afternoon."

Q: Tell me about your job now. I don't think many people know what the clerk does.
A: "They don't, actually. There are 130 deputy clerks in this office. ..... [The office handles] all of the marriage licenses, all the business licenses, all the notaries, we're a passport agency. ... Every piece of property in Prince George's County, we do all the recording and indexing."

Q: But aside from the services the office provides, what is your specific function? You're not doing the paperwork, are you?
A: "I've been on the front lines with them, because that's how I find out what we need to do to better serve the people. ... For example ... we do all the foreclosures. We're overwhelmed with that. ... And so, in order to find out what we needed to do differently to process all these cases, I went on the front lines with them -- pulling cases, stuffing cases, doing all of that. And then I met with the [staff]. ... After that, we changed the time they first arrive. Some of them arrive at 7, they pull the cases so everything is now ready for the attorneys, for the judges all of those cases are ready."

Q: When did you decide you were going to run for state's attorney?
A: "There were rumors out that [States Attorney] Glenn [Ivey] was moving on. ... I had a conversation with him and he said he's leaving. He didn't say [for] where. ... He said. 'I'm leaving.' And I, said 'Great. The primary's the 14th and we'll meet on the 15th and start the transition.'"

Q: What do you want to do with that office? Is there anything you want to be done differently?
A: "Differently? Well, if I said it may come across negative, so I won't say that, and I don't want to say anything negative against [Ivey]. I think that it would be a focus on the attorneys there ... and also on the people in Prince George's County. The state's attorneys office is--it's law enforcement and its part of the public safety. And the people who live in this county need to know that when police officers do their jobs and people are arrested and they come to the court that those cases will be prosecuted and the trials will be had. ... There's another side of that, and the other side is that people make missteps and we will have to prosecute them, but when they come back what will we do? ... For example there are certain community organizations that try to help people who've been released from jail so they won't go back down the wrong road. And so hopefully the attorneys can work with them to help the people who have just come out. Not really sure how. When I was there in the state's attorney's office, we used to work with the community, with young people, so hopefully we'll be able to do the same thing again, and we will."

Q: One of the most high profile cases the current state's attorney faced was the Ronnie White case. White was arrested for allegedly killing a police officer, was later found dead in his jail cell, and the medical examiner ruled it a homicide. No charges were brought in his death. Do you have a take on the case and how it was handled, and would you have done things differently?
A: "That case is hard to comment on because you're not on the inside. You're not in the state's attorneys office. And you don't know what happened during the interviews when they interviewed the police officers and the correctional officers. You don't know any of that, so it would be very difficult to say what you would do differently if you don't know what was done. I think the only issue that the people are really looking at that probably is difficult for them is the time frame -- the fact that it took a year to come out with a statement and a decision."

Q: So you think a year was too long to decide whether to prosecute?
A: "Yes. ... People had to wait an entire year to find out what was going on."

Q: Are there particular types of crimes you want to make a priority for your (potential) office to prosecute?
A: "I know our seniors, there's a lot of crime, the seniors are being assaulted and robbed so the seniors would definitely be probably number one, and then the young people because they're going though a lot also. ... A lot of them don't have--they're not focused, so they need to know about their capabilities."

Q: It sounds like you have kind of a compassionate streak in you. Does that mesh with being a prosecutor, going for convictions, putting people behind bars?
A: "You go for the convictions first. You don't wimp. Because they've made the misstep. But after they've done their time, for example if they've committed a robbery or they've committed an assault, or it's some type of felony case where they're allowed to leave, then we're there to work with the community to help them. ... But the help doesn't come first, especially if they've committed the crime."

Q: Has there ever been a female state's attorney here?
A: "There was one appointed in 1994, but there's never been an elected female state's attorney."

Q: When you were in the Air Force there weren't a lot of women around either. So you're kind of used to this.
A: "I am. In fact I was the first female first sergeant of that squadron."

Q: Did that present any adversity?
A: "No, I never felt it. ... When you have a task in front of you, you complete the task. It's not about the gender of who you're with. You have to do the task. I think that's the thing that the Air Force instills in you. ... In this case, this woman is the most qualified. If I were not the most qualified I would not run."

Q: What type of impact do you want to have as state's attorney?
A: "We want to make Prince George's County safer. ... Police officers do their jobs, but if the state's attorney's office, if we don't do our jobs, the criminals are laughing at us. So, we need to cut the chuckle."

By Jonathan Mummolo  |  August 28, 2009; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Elections , Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County  
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Next: First Click -- Maryland

Comments

Thanks for this series. Don’t know much about Magee. She was just elected Clerk in 2006, and is now ready to move on. Is she is considered a success as Clerk? Reading the Q&A, all she cited about
accomplishments in her current position was changing the starting time of some employees.

More importantly, she has a thin resume, as a practicing attorney, at best five years. I’d look for someone with more experience for such an important position. I’m unlikely to vote for her anyway. Guilt by association with JJ, is just too much to stomach. Gotta keep my prejudices well oiled.

Posted by: countbobulescu | August 28, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

This series is a great thought, yet poorly executed. I think that this article fails to cover many of Ms. Magee's positive points as a candidate. Which leads me to believe that the right questions may not have been asked....

For instance, when Ms. Magee re-entered the public eyes from the military she not only worked 14 hour days to support herself but she spent her evenings attending Law School to get her Law Degree.

Now, not only is she Clerk of the Circuit Court but she spends several evenings a week giving her time to the community teaching classes at UMUC as well as serving on the board of several local community events and committees.

This article only scratch's the surface of who Peggy Magee is as a person, and it fails to let you see that there is so much more to this candidate, woman and active community member.

-Loyal Peggy Magee Supporter

Posted by: kcooke715 | August 31, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

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