Congrats! You’ve Been Elected. Now What?
UMD Center, Members of Gov. Moore’s Transition Team Debut Toolkit to Prepare for First Day in Office
Soon-to-be governors, state lawmakers, mayors and any other candidates coming down from the initial high of winning their races last week can’t kick back now. They have to hire a staff, meet constituents and other stakeholders, and start mapping out policy plans—all in the narrow window between Election Day and Inauguration Day.
Rather than scramble to come up with a from-scratch public engagement plan on their own, newly elected officials now have a one-stop shop, the Civic Transition Toolkit, a collaboration between the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement and transition team leaders for Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, who took office in January.
“During the transition, we found ourselves doing something we had never done before, and I think that's the pervasive experience for people who work on transitions and run transitions. Usually everyone is new to the role, from the elected official on down,” said Cleo Hirsch, former director of the Moore-Miller transition and a CDCE senior fellow. “We had to fly the plane as we built it, while still ensuring we did not miss the opportunity to innovate and include all Marylanders in the process.”
The online toolkit offers guidance on building an inclusive team, encouraging public engagement, leading productive committee meetings, and creating a website and transition report.
Sarah Wolek ’01, a senior faculty specialist in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, had a similar experience after being appointed last spring to represent District 16 in Maryland’s House of Delegates.
"You have so many things that are coming at you, from relationship building and connecting with stakeholders, to learning the ropes of the institution you are going to be a part of," she said. "You may be walking into an institution that has a storied history, culture and way of working that you're not used to, and so as an outsider coming in, you're not only having to learn the work, you're also learning how the work is done so you can be most effective."
In a volunteer capacity, Hirsch and Isaac Frumkin, a former Moore-Miller transition data analyst, began sharing some of the things they found helpful for boosting both efficacy and efficiency with Michael Hanmer, CDCE director and professor of government and politics, and Samuel Novey, CDCE chief strategist, just after Inauguration Day.
“Transitions are really critical moments for public service and civic dialogue; often, there are thousands of people who are newly motivated to fill a job in state or city government, or express to a newly elected official their ideas for how to make their community better. For transition teams, the problem quickly becomes ‘How do we receive and channel this outpouring of interest in civic engagement and public service in a constructive way?’” said Novey.
The Moore-Miller transition team had to work quickly to develop solutions to manage the influx of feedback and applications it was not only organically receiving, but also actively searching for in an effort to fulfill the team’s belief that “the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions.”
Maryland Secretary of Appointments Tisha Edwards, former chief of staff to the Moore-Miller campaign, said they both wanted a transition process that was diverse and inclusive, which required statewide representation.
“The transition team took that mandate seriously by launching an interactive website, executing many forums for community feedback and providing templates to assist with policy proposals," she said.
As the Civic Transition Toolkit advises, the team posted a general application form for positions soon after Election Night, and shared that form on its social media platforms and quickly established website—a prototype of which is available in the toolkit. In 70 days, the team engaged more than 5,000 Marylanders.
“Whether you’re engaging the public to develop policy initiatives for the incoming administration, or seeking to hire for the incoming administration, if you don't build a strong process for managing that data, it's impossible to do those things in an intentional way very quickly,” explained Frumkin. “I think we were able to engage thousands of Marylanders in the process and also build the most representative cabinet in Maryland's history because we had strong processes for doing both of those things.”
The toolkit creators hope that this is just the beginning, that elected officials will make use of the toolkit today, and share with CDCE how it could be enhanced to meet different communities’ unique needs.
“This toolkit will be an important resource that we expect new leaders of any political party can use to ensure the public has a voice in their government,” said Hanmer. “Now, more than ever, it is important that those coming to power demonstrate their ability to do so peacefully and effectively. The world is watching, and the more the public is engaged, the more likely those goals will be achieved.”
This article by Rachael Grahame originally appeared in Maryland Today on Nov. 14, 2023. The illustration is from iStock.
Published on Tue, Nov 14, 2023 - 10:14AM