ALTHOUGH I have studied, worked and lived in the Baltimore region for almost 30 years, I must confess I have never really learned my way around Anne Arundel County.
I know how to reach the State House. I also know how to get to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Sandy Point State Park. But when I drive down Ritchie Highway, I can't tell where Harundale ends and Pasadena begins.
Every time my younger daughter competes in an ice-skating competition at the U.S. Naval Academy, I invariably make a wrong turn at St. John's College and end up at the State House.
I still can't tell whether I am in Gambrills or Millersville.
I have never been to Deale, Shady Side or Rose Haven.
But now that I have been assigned to write editorials and a weekly column on Anne Arundel County for The Sun, I plan to learn my way around and master the geography. To that end, I am going to make every effort in the ensuing months to get around and see as much of the county as possible.
I will also be absorbing all the information I can about life in Anne Arundel.
I am interested in just about everything from the pressing fiscal problems of county government to neighborhood disputes over the placement of tot lots and playgrounds.
I am fascinated by the county's rapid population growth over the past two decades and the transformation of little crossroads towns into busy suburban shopping areas.
Crossroads to malls
The changes are even noticeable to a casual observer. Over the past two decades, I watched two-lane country roads widened until they became six-lane superhighways and fields that once grew strawberries, melons and peas turned into industrial parks. I have also seen the county's waterfront go from a neglected resource into some of the most coveted property in Maryland.
Despite all the changes that have taken place in the rest of the county, the center of Annapolis looks as quaint and beautiful as when I first saw it decades ago.
Much of my focus in future columns will be about how the people of Anne Arundel cope with change.
I am interested in economic development, land use planning, environmental protection, education, criminal justice, politics and just about any other issue that merits public discussion. There really isn't much that bores me.
Getting to know you
While I am learning about you and your community, you would probably like to know something about me.
I grew up in Honolulu.
My parents moved there before it became a state. I lived through Honolulu's transformation from a small tropical city where the tallest building had six stories to a bustling metropolis with skyscrapers on every block of Waikiki and downtown.
I left Honolulu in 1967 for college at Johns Hopkins University, where I majored in international studies.
Since graduating from college, with the exception of three years in Honolulu, I have spent most of the past three decades living and working in the Baltimore-Washington area.
I live in Baltimore and have worked for The Sun since 1979.
I have covered business, Baltimore city government and courts. I covered the state's 1985 savings and loan collapse and the subsequent criminal trials. I also spent the summer of 1989 working with a group of reporters who were investigating the Pentagon's procurement practices.
I have also been a general assignment reporter in Harford and Carroll counties. And for the past three and a half years, I have been the paper's editorial writer for Carroll County.
Before joining The Sun, I spent two years in the Washington bureau of The Journal of Commerce, a daily business publication that focuses on transportation, insurance, energy and trade issues. I covered the Carter White House and Congress during the oil crisis of 1978.
I started my journalism career in Honolulu at The Hawaii Observer, a bi-weekly magazine that some friends and I founded in 1973. Unfortunately, we weren't very good businessmen, and the magazine ceased publication about five years after we came out with our first edition but not before we gave the local politicians fits.
Leopold in Hawaii
Yes, I even covered Del. John Leopold, R-Pasadena, when he lived in Hawaii and served in its legislature. I meant to dig through my old copies of the magazine to see what we said about him two decades ago.
But that will have to wait for a future column.
Writing about this county will be a challenge, but one that I welcome. I hope to meet a lot of people, learn new things and finally get to the point where I will always have my bearings straight when I drive around the county.
I may even learn where Harundale ends and Pasadena begins.
Brian Sullam is The Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.
Pub Date: 4/07/96