Deppa Says Resume Fits The Job Description

The Race For Mayor

She Is A Businesswoman, Has Traveled Widely And Loves Living In Annapolis

August 09, 2009|By Olivia Bobrowsky | Olivia Bobrowsky,

Laurie Sears Deppa always wanted to be a diplomat. She studied in France, lived in five different states and has visited about 35 countries. She speaks French, Spanish and a little Italian, and she regularly hosts international students.

But the 12-year Annapolis resident said she's fallen in love with the town, and for once in her life, she's staying put.

"I really think the best place is Annapolis," said Deppa, a Democrat who jumped into the mayoral race in late July. Her political ambitions, she said, fall in line with her international expertise.

"Politics and local government is a lot like being a diplomat, just on a smaller level," she said. "I may not be representing the United States, but I'm representing a different part of the U.S. A lot of people call me the unofficial ambassador of Annapolis."

Deppa ran the sister cities program in Annapolis, representing the city in Italy, Ireland and Wales. Her time in the Navy also led to a lot of travel, and she earned a master's degree in international management from the University of Maryland, University College.

While in school, Deppa worked in her gym as a massage therapist - a part-time job that ballooned into a full-time career. She owns and operates two spa businesses, Destination Relaxation, one at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and one in Westfield Annapolis Mall. Since she opened her first location at BWI in 2001, she's faced some challenges: Management shifted at the airport, so she lost one of her locations and had to move another one. And after rent skyrocketed on Main Street in Annapolis, she had to close down a branch that she had opened there.

But Deppa persisted, found a small business counselor and kept Destination Relaxation alive.

"She is an incredible businesswoman," said her counselor, Bob Aebli. "She overcomes whatever is necessary to get the job done."

Deppa also has had to overcome some medical issues. She suffered from Gulf War syndrome and had difficulty maintaining a steady job. Her health problems have since lessened considerably, but she was held up from announcing her candidacy earlier in the year because she decided to donate a kidney.

"I'm always volunteering, and I've always taken pride in giving back to the community," she said. "and what's the most amazing thing you could give to someone? Life."

Deppa ended up donating anonymously to a woman in West Virginia, but the entire process took much longer than she anticipated. Still, she said, her last-minute campaign is going smoothly, and there's no need to worry about any more medical interruptions.

"I don't drink, I don't smoke, I exercise, I eat right," she said. "And I may only have one kidney, but I'm all heart."

If she's elected, Deppa said, her attitude and her business experience will prove useful. All of her frustrations have given her a firsthand idea of how to deal with the ins and outs of business.

And she said her stint on Main Street is a reflection of a larger problem.

"Stores come and go like the wind," she said. "$10,000 for a store on Main Street? We'd have to get some really, really rich people who don't live in town. I couldn't afford that as a local."

To fix that issue, Deppa suggested partnering with other cities that have gone through similar trials to learn from them. She also wants to look into tax breaks - anything to ensure that local businesses are populating Annapolis' storefronts.

Beyond Main Street, Deppa stressed the importance of pushing businesses back into Market House. She wants it full of fresh produce, fish and flowers, in the vein of a European market.

"Why is the Market House empty and the jail full?" asked Deppa, who wants to focus on digging the crime out of subsidized housing. She said the root of the city's problems lies in drugs and "misspent youth," which she said are concentrated in subsidized housing.

The key there, she said, is volunteering and education. Deppa has spent time with volunteer organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Rotary, and suggested others follow in her footsteps.

"So many people become ignorant and complacent and say, 'There's nothing I can do about it,' " she said. "Well, that's boloney. Everybody can do something. Sponsor a kid, become a 'Big Sister,' join the Rotary, join a church, volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, go out to one of the youth centers. ... Just do something to make Annapolis a better city, because there's so much more that we can do."

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