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Daily Inspiration: Meet Barbara Hopkins

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barbara Hopkins.

Barbara, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I graduated from the University of Maryland in 1990 with a Law Degree and Master’s in Public Policy and went to work for Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer. After that, I clerked for Circuit Court Judge William O. Carr in Harford County where I grew up.

Following that, I went back to Baltimore City Community College, where I had been assigned for nine months previously while working for the Governor. There, I was the President’s Chief of Staff and then Vice President for Institutional Advancement. serving in those roles for 11 years.

When the president retired, I went back to school to earn a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture. When I completed my degree, I was hired as the Executive Director of NeighborSpace of Baltimore County, an urban land trust.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Every job has its challenges, but the biggest obstacle I’ve faced, far and away, is the failure of the Baltimore County government to enforce laws designed to control development and to be a lot more forward-thinking and collaborative in the way that it plans for the future of parks and open space in our county.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Unlike most land trusts, NeighborSpace not only protects land in perpetuity but also improves that land with parks, gardens, and trails for the benefit of local communities. We work in the inner suburbs, which were poorly planned when they developed very quickly after World War II in response to the largest housing crisis the nation has ever seen.

Little thought was given to planning, i.e., protecting stream valleys or ensuring the walkability of communities, or creating parks. And so, our task is one of retrofitting parks, trails, and gardens into this poorly planned urban fabric, with the goal of improving livability.

We use a geographic information system (GIS) to decide where we work and ensure that we are meeting our mission of improving livability. That model prioritizes the social aspects of livability, areas where there are concentrations of vulnerable populations (e.g., persons of color, aged persons, persons in poverty, people without access to a car), multi-family housing, and a deficit of open space.

But it also features the economic aspects (e.g., opportunities to raise home values and depave) and the environmental aspects (e.g., opportunities to manage stormwater with green infrastructure).

So, in every project, we are addressing a community’s need for a park, while also installing green infrastructure to manage stormwater, and making things just green enough to raise nearby property values.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
One of the best strokes of luck I had was having a great mentor early in my career. This was the college president, Jim Tschechtelin, for whom I worked for 11 years at Baltimore City Community College.

He taught me so much about how to conduct myself honorably as a leader, how to manage people well, and the importance of striving to be a thoughtful, kind, and loving person.

I’ve also been enormously fortunate to have enjoyed good health. I don’t think the idea that health is the greatest wealth can be overstated.

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