State Senator Catherine Pugh understands both the literal and figurative distinctions between distance racing and sprinting. An avid runner herself, 10 years ago, Pugh helped establish the city’s annual Baltimore Marathon, which in 2010 attracted more than 22,000 participants. Right now, though, she’s completely consumed by the breathless two-month-plus dash–early July filing date to mid-September primary election–that constitutes the Democratic mayoral campaign.
Though not a native Baltimorean–she was born in Norristown, Pa., grew up in nearby Philadelphia–Pugh, 61, has immersed herself in this city as a public servant, businesswoman, and civic activist since moving here in 1969.
After earning undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration from Morgan State University in 1973 and 1977, respectively, Pugh embarked on a go-go working career that includes founding Baltimore’s first African American business newspaper and serving as dean and director of the local branch of Strayer Business College (now Strayer University). In 1988, she launched the public relations and consulting firm C.E. Pugh & Company, which she still runs as its CEO and president.
Elected to the Baltimore City Council from the 4th District in 1999, Pugh focused on planning, economic development, and urban affairs issues, before moving on to the Maryland General Assembly as a delegate (2005 to 2007) and state senator (2007 to the present) representing the city’s 40th District. In the latter capacity, she has championed legislation that secured scholarships for Baltimore students and increased the state’s minimum wage, while also backing a bill to sanction same-sex marriage in Maryland. Currently, she chairs the Legislative Black Caucus.
Outside of public office, Pugh has worked to boost city tourism, raise literacy rates, and promote healthier kids’ lifestyles. A resident of Ashburton, she announced her candidacy for mayor in June.
Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26
When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?
Early in my childhood I was drawn to the idea of making a difference in the world. I believe we all have the potential to make the world a much better place for all people.
What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?
My father instilled in me a strong work ethic. He said I could do anything I wanted to do as long as I was willing to work hard to achieve my goals.
The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?
I don’t spend much time on dwelling in the past. If someone has given me bad advice, I have long since moved on. I follow my instinct, and that has served me well so far.
What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?
It’s not how many times you fall down in life; your true measure is getting back up.
Prayer really does change things!
We are the change we’ve been waiting for.
What is the best moment of the day?
I am a true believer in the powerful healing power of laughter. When I can share a good laugh with a friend or a stranger, it’s a good day.
What is on your bedside table?
The book Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival by Paul Grogan and Tony Proscio.
What is your favorite local charity?
Wow, there are just too many wonderful charities in Baltimore to choose just one. I serve on nearly 20 nonprofit and organization boards.
What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?
Study hard, get involved in your local community, dream big, and never, ever give up on yourself!
Why are you successful?
I recognize that my strength and success come from a power much greater than myself. I always put God first in everything I do.
You’re a longtime runner, even participating in marathons. Typically, how often–and how far–do you run each week? What’s your favorite place to run in the city? What running shoes do you currently wear?
I run every morning and average about five miles a day. I run through my neighborhood, Ashburton, and make my way all over the city. I own a lot of shoes but lately have been using a pair of New Balance.
You’ve written about–and advocated for–healthy children through exercise and proper diet. What’s your best tip for the parents of picky eaters?
Be creative and think out of the box. Focus on the healthy foods your picky eater will eat, and jazz it up by finding new variations in preparing their meals. The goal is to keep your child healthy and happy.
If elected mayor, which item will be foremost on your agenda–the specific initiative you immediately strive to accomplish?
On day one, I will begin working on my plan to employ every young person who wants a job in Baltimore. With public and private sector partnerships, I believe we can truly make a difference in the lives of our city’s young people.