Wife, mother and top lobbyist Work: Robin Shaivitz is especially busy during the three months Maryland's General Assembly is in session.

April 06, 1997|By Tonya Jameson | Tonya Jameson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Robin Shaivitz performs a balancing act not that uncommon among mothers in her Columbia neighborhood in Hickory Ridge -- between her career and her family.

But it gets a little more precarious the first three months of every year when the Maryland General Assembly is in session in Annapolis.

That's because Shaivitz is one of the top lobbyists in the state and though it's a year-round job, when the legislature is in session, she is required to spend hours prowling the corridors of power on behalf of her impressive list of clients, buttonholing legislators, testifying before committees, always prepared to answer the inevitable stream of questions on a long list of issues.

Friends marvel at how Shaivitz has successfully run Shaivitz and Associates -- started in 1984 -- and still managed to make several of her son's soccer and lacrosse games at Atholton High, even to see her other son play lacrosse at Cornell University.

"She really does devote any energy she's got to her kids," said Bernice Valove of Columbia, a working mother who has known Shaivitz for 20 years. "She has really been able to balance motherhood and her career. I admire her for that."

Shaivitz, 46, says it hasn't been easy, but it's worth it.

"It's always a worry," she said. "You have guilty feelings on both sides. Are you shortchanging your children, your husband? Are you shortchanging your business?

"In the long run, neither is getting shortchanged; you tend to overcompensate both," she said. "You shortchange yourself."

The result: a marriage that has survived 25 years -- the Shaivitzes and friends celebrated their December anniversary with a trip to New York -- and two academically and athletically successful sons.

That's in addition to a lobbying firm that was ranked 16th in the state in 1994-1995, the most recent listing of lobbyists earning more than $200,000.

The Shaivitzes -- Robin; her husband, Joel; younger son, Jeff; and their dog, Snoopy (named after rapper Snoop Doggy Dog) -- live in Clary's Forest. Their elder son, Adam, attends Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y.

The Shaivitzes' living room is adorned with artwork and family pictures. Outside, a tattered lacrosse goal sits to the side of the house, providing mute testament to hours of backyard practice and years of car pooling the boys to their sports events.

That was when Robin Shaivitz had enough time to volunteer at Atholton's school store.

"I got to see what the kids were wearing and the hairstyles," she said, with a smile.

Shaivitz never aspired to be a professional lobbyist. Her bachelor's degree in history from Goucher College wasn't the typical background for a professional lobbyist. Most are attorneys. She planned to become a teacher.

Lobbying fell into her lap in the the early 1980s, when she was a new mother doing volunteer work. She first visited Annapolis as a member of a task force on child neglect. She later worked for Planned Parenthood.

"I just thought of myself as a concerned citizen," Shaivitz said. "I was very impressed with the ease you could approach a legislator and they would talk to you."

After leaving Planned Parenthood, she spent two years on the staff of state legislators, learning the system from the inside as she prepared testimony for their bills. Then she became a lobbyist. The Epilepsy Association was her first client.

In the early days, she said, one of the best feelings was when a bill passed that she had worked on. These days, she's so busy with 16 clients -- and always trying to add more -- she doesn't have time to savor such successes.

She still enjoys counting votes to chart the progress of bills on their way to a final vote, as well as the world of Annapolis and the General Assembly. Her clients include dairy processors, dental hygienists and U.S. Public Technology, a company that makes the cameras used to record cars running red lights.

Shaivitz says she has to be careful not to let her background as an advocate overwhelm her judgment as a lobbyist.

"You can't lobby someone and say, 'You have to vote my way because it's the right thing to do,' " Shaivitz said.

Yet, Howard County lawmakers and friends say it's her passion that makes her who she is.

"I believe her to be very sincere," said Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Republican from Howard County. "She wouldn't represent a bill she doesn't believe in."

These days, Shaivitz is counting down until the end of the session, scheduled for tomorrow. That means more time with her family and friends.

She recently signed a five-year lease on her office in Annapolis. That gives son Adam enough time to graduate from law school, and take over the firm if he wants, she muses.

Then, maybe she'll become a college professor. Or maybe, just maybe, she'll continue being a lobbyist.

Pub Date: 4/06/97

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