Craig Rice is a Montgomery County Councilmember representing District 2. He serves as the Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay and Water Resources Policy Committee (CBPC), which advises the COG Board of Directors on the Chesapeake Bay Program activities and other regional water quality issues.
What brought you to this region and how did you get into public service?
My mother left the south at a time when civil rights were still a big issue. She came to this area for opportunity. It was about her and my dad ensuring that their children would have the opportunity to do and be whatever it was that they wanted. The sacrifices they made—leaving their home and coming here to make a new way of life—has been a driving factor all throughout my life.
Understanding how important that is, that there is opportunity for everyone, is one of the main reasons why I decided to get into elected office. To ensure that I could continue to forge pathways for other people.
I was born and raised in Montgomery County, and absolutely love it. It is one of the best places to live, work, and play. It provides so many opportunities for so many people, and that’s what really makes it terrific.
What’s involvement with COG been like for you?
I’ve served three years with COG, and I’m in my second year as chair of the Chesapeake Bay Water Resources Policy Committee. It’s been a great experience for me.
I’ve learned how best to enact policies to protect our water infrastructure, and the importance of making sure that our constituents are aware of how water weaves through all aspects of our daily lives.
Water is also a vital part of our infrastructure in terms of growth, workforce development, and jobs. There are great careers surrounding water that really need to be highlighted throughout our communities, whether in stormwater, or wastewater, or drinking water.
What do you think is one of the region’s biggest challenges?
As a father of two young daughters, I often think about what we’ll leave in the hands of our future generations. The reality is, we can’t live our life without water. It’s something that needs to be protected.
How is the region and the CBPC working to address some of these challenges?
When it comes to wastewater management, the region has made great strides. Look at the work of DC Water, for example. The [Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission] and AlexandriaRenew are also doing great work. But, there’s still more work that needs to be done.
We need to make sure that [the byproducts of] our wastewater treatment facilities are not damaging our environment, and that we’re continually working to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
The region is investing a lot in stormwater management to make sure that that it doesn’t have an adverse impact on our water resources. We’re still in the beginning stages of figuring out the best methods for doing this.
Affordability ties into our water work as well. How do we keep water bills manageable?
Public engagement campaigns make up a big piece of the committee’s work—being creative about how we’re getting our message out about the importance of water, so that folks aren’t putting medicines or grease or other harmful substances down their drains, for example.
In addition, we’re working to educate the region’s young people about the importance of water affiliated jobs, so that folks understand that entering into those career pathways is not something you do just as an entry level job. It can be a career.
It’s great to be able to work with folks across the region—whether Democrat or Republican, or in an area that’s urban or rural—who really understand that there are things that affect us all. That there are resources that we need to protect. It’s an example of government at its finest.
How does Montgomery County benefit from participation at COG?
The reality is that we gain so much from talking with other folks about what they’re doing. We can always learn from others in their neighboring jurisdictions. That’s why it’s great to be affiliated with COG, and to sit down and talk with other members from other jurisdictions, because it really does give you some great ideas. I'll give a great example, which was working with D.C. and understanding what was happening regarding coal tar. D.C. was actually the first jurisdiction to ban coal tar in the nation. I had a chance to talk with the District of Columbia about what they did. We actually instituted a ban, and now because D.C., Prince George’s, and Montgomery have banned coal tar, the Anacostia Watershed is the first watershed in the nation that is coal tar free. That means a lot. It really does. It sets a shining example of the things that can happen when you bring local governments together to really make sure we're saying with a strong voice – water matters.