Erica Chapman reflected back to those harrowing days a couple years ago when, as a newcomer to the Maryland Department of the Environment, she found out she was going to play a prominent role in legislative work for the Land and Materials Administration.
“I had no experience in regulations, reading and interpreting bills, and knowing how the General Assembly worked,” Erica said. “I was ordering books off Amazon, studying Maryland environmental law, going to the libraries on weekends and sometimes going on the MDE website and reading annual reports.”
Needless to say, she was a quick study on that and a number of other LMA issues. All of that effort paid big dividends last week when Erica was selected the agency’s Employee of the Year for 2018 at MDE’s annual awards banquet.
“She is always ready to dig deep into complex issues and assist the programs with special projects,” LMA Director Kaley Laleker wrote in Erica’s nomination for the award. “Her command of details, hard work, and positive attitude during busy times are much appreciated by her colleagues in LMA. Erica has quickly learned the work of the Administration’s seven programs and is the ultimate team player.”
During LMA’s deputy director vacancy, Erica went well beyond her normal duties in assisting the director by taking on special projects, reviewing documents and ensuring consistency in policies.
Erica reviewed, tracked, and provided feedback on all LMA-related legislation during the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions. She drafted fiscal note responses and position statements, testified on a bill, and tirelessly chased down information in response to inquiries. Her insight and organization were critical to the timely review of bills, which included departmental bills and other high-priority legislation such as the comprehensive lead poisoning prevention bill.
Also in 2018, Erica played a critical role in a legislatively mandated study on the diversion of organic materials from disposal. Organics diversion is an important aspect of the Department’s sustainable materials management efforts. Erica conducted extensive research into other states’ programs, interviewing external experts when needed, and presented her findings to a stakeholder study group.
Working closely with other LMA staff, she considered feedback from study group members representing widely varying perspectives and assisted in the drafting of recommendations and a final report. Erica has also assisted the programs in drafting and adopting regulations.
All and all, it was a head-spinning year for the Baltimore native, who only shortly before seemed to be on an interesting career trajectory in the public health sector of the federal government in Washington, D.C.
After graduating from Hood College in Federick with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy, Erica worked for the National Institute of Health for four years in the canine genetic research lab. She also did outreach for the lab and updated its web site before working briefly for the Office of Secretary for Health and Human Services in the emergency management area. But she was a contract employee spending four hours a day on the road to get to work and return to her Baltimore residence.
But there was nothing in that experience to prepare her to testify on behalf of MDE in a state senate hearing about mine dewatering.
“I was nervous but I did know the bill front and back,” Erica said. “But H.T. (Deputy Director Horacio Tablada) was sitting there with me in case the situation got too hot.”