Meet the Locals: Steve Schuh
Growing up in the Anne Arundel County neighborhood of Crofton, County Executive Steve Schuh took full advantage of the natural resources surrounding him. Fond memories include playing youth baseball on county fields; following the footsteps of his father, a professional golfer, through local golf courses; and crabbing on the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps it’s only natural then, that some of Schuh’s key initiatives as County Executive include expanding public access to some of the very same resources he enjoyed in his youth. Recently County Executive Schuh took a few minutes from his busy schedule to talk about early influences on his career, as well as some of his current initiatives as county executive. They’re certain to excite recreational enthusiasts—especially boaters and cyclists.
Community and public service are significant parts of your life. Talk about what or who has inspired you to make service a focal point for you.
I always believed that if a person has success in business or otherwise in their career, they have an obligation to give back. [Schuh has a 30-year history in business, most recently as president of Schuh Advisory, a private equity firm.]
My teachers in high school and later in college instilled in me this sense of service. When I entered politics ten years ago, that was part of my ‘give back’ effort, as was volunteering for the American Red Cross, the United Way, and several schools, including the Severn School and Chesapeake Academy. My own educational background and my service on school boards were driving forces behind my entering politics. I saw it [politics] as a way to advance education. The life-changing power of education is very clear to me, first and foremost, because of the educators who influenced me.
You have opted to stay and serve here in Anne Arundel County. Talk a little about that decision and its significance.
I lived in a lot of places during my educational years and early career, and I enjoyed them. But the more I got to know them, the more I realized what an incredible place Anne Arundel County is. I came back in 1987 and decided to build my career here.
Your role as county executive involves overseeing several initiatives, some of which have a direct link to promoting tourism. Talk about your support of increasing public access to waterways throughout the county.
The waterway initiative is part of our broader Quality of Life Initiative. We have more miles of shoreline than any other jurisdiction in the state, maybe even in the country. But because of the way Anne Arundel County has been developed, most of that water access is in private hands, and is inaccessible to many people. Our administration has made increased water access a big part of our plan.
What are some specifics of your water access plan?
For one, we’re focusing on trailer boat ramps. It is our goal to open a boat ramp on every major river in Anne Arundel County. We opened the first county-owned boat ramp at Pasadena’s Fort Smallwood Park this April. We’d like to open at least one more this summer. Eventually, we’re hoping to have eight in operation. We’re also opening new kayak and canoe ramps all over the county.
What about access to swimming beaches?
Beach access is the other piece to the increased waterway access initiative. Almost all public beaches in Anne Arundel County have been closed to swimming because of liability. At this point, the water quality has improved a lot in Anne Arundel County, thanks to an investment of resources. We’re going to be opening the beaches at Beverly Triton Park and Fort Smallwood Park to swimming for the first time in decades. My goal is to open all public beaches to swimming—as ‘swim at your own risk. There are a total of 17 county-owned properties with beaches that could potentially be opened to swimming.
I understand that you’re also aiming to expand the County’s bike trails and regional park network. Talk about this.
The county has some nice bike trails; they’re a big part of our quality of life here in the county. But they tend to be short segments disconnected from one another. They are not linked systematically. Our goal is to link all of our existing trails, to improve the existing network by adding to roads shoulders and dedicated bike lanes, and to create a safe and complete network that would go from BWI Airport, down to Downs Park in Pasadena and Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, and maybe all the way to Deale in South County. We’ve also started discussions with Howard County about linking the Annapolis portion of the East Coast Greenway [a trail network that connects colonial cities and towns with rural landscapes] to the historic town of Ellicott City, in Howard County.
The natural resources in Anne Arundel County are one of its biggest assets. In addition to the specific initiatives involving trails and water accessibility, I understand there’s also a movement underway to promote “agri-tourism” in the county. Talk about that.
We recently formed an agri-tourism committee, led by Anna Chaney, owner of Herrington on the Bay, who is working closely with us. We have some beautiful agricultural lands and interesting agricultural-based businesses here in the county: We now have several wineries in the county, pick-your-own farms, corn mazes. It’s never been viewed as a defined sector of tourism, but by looking at it in a strategic way, we can attract more visitors to the assets we have and, in so doing, help owners of agricultural-based businesses.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the area’s natural resources. What’s your favorite way to enjoy with your family all that Anne Arundel County offers?
We’re boaters. We enjoy sailing, and bicycling. These are our favorite ways to take advantage of the area’s natural resources. We also enjoy all the great restaurants in town.
Where do you encourage tourists to visit when they come to Anne Arundel County?
That’s tough. There are so many great places to see. But if somebody I knew was coming to Anne Arundel County, it would have to be the city of Annapolis, particularly the Maryland State House. It’s an incredibly historic structure and, in many ways, the place where the very nature of our government was established, when General Washington resigned his military commission as Commander-and-Chief of the Continental Army, establishing the principle that our civil power would always be separate from the military, and that military power would be subordinate to civil power. Once that precedent was established, it proved to be one of the most fundamental principles of our nation.