Senior citizens offered former County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo the comfortable perspective of age last week at a two-hour lunch in her honor in Columbia.
"She means a lot to all of us," Senior Advocate president Amelia Cressman said of Bobo, who was voted out of office in November. "We're happy that things are going on for her."
The "going on" that Cressman was referring to was Bobo's recent appointment as deputy secretary of the state Department of Human Resources.
She will begin her new work in Baltimore Jan. 2 and will oversee foster care programs and child abuse investigations.
County administrator Buddy Roogow, who has known Bobo for most of her 14 years in public office, told the seniors, "Nothing has changed" since Bobo left elected office. "Liz was late; I was on time," he said.
Manus O'Donnell, the county citizen services director, said it was hard for him to figure out exactly what kind of lunch the seniors were having for Bobo. In some ways, it seemed like a "roast," he said. In others, "it was sort of like a baby shower."
Indeed, everyone seemed to have something for her.
From Marie McLellan, it was a song sung a cappella to the tune of "Harrigan's" and containing lines like "We're proud for all she did for Howard County," and Bobo's "a name that no shame has ever been connected with -- that's she."
The seniors gave Bobo a floral arrangement and a giant birthday card signed by everyone present. Harper's Choice Middle School musicians provided entertainment, with solos and duets and chorales ranging from Christmas carols to firedance to can can music.
Bobo, sitting up front facing everyone, swayed with the music and tapped her foot as each piece was played. She did not do the can can. She did, however, embrace each speaker and share a kiss on the cheek.
There was no shortage of schmaltz.
Vivian Reid, director of the county office on aging, thanked Bobo "for letting us rub shoulders with you." And young Jeff Curtis, one of the middle school musicians, offered a lament as he pinned a corsage on Bobo: "We're not going to get a soccer stadium" now that she is no longer executive.
When it came her turn, Bobo told the seniors, "I got so much more than I gave." She thanked them for "all the beautiful letters and notes I received from all over the county" after her loss in November.
In the loneliness of that defeat, "I felt your thoughts and prayers," Bobo said. "I wouldn't trade the opportunity" of having served as a council member and as county executive "for anything. I'm staying in the county and will still see you on occasion. Thank you so, so much for doing this for me. I enjoyed every minute."