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Harris Jones & Malone: Spotlight on Delegate Steven Arentz

Delegate Steven J. Arentz, Deputy Minority Whip

One of the often debated political theories is that government should operate and function like a business. With the election of Donald Trump as President, this theory was once again at the forefront of discourse during the recent presidential race. While there are notable differences between the federal and state governments, many argue that business principles should apply to the operation of state government as well. In a discussion with Delegate Steven Arentz, a longtime businessman and member of the Economic Matters Committee in the House of Delegates, he noted how Maryland government could benefit from applying business principles going forward. Delegate Arentz also spoke of how important it is to foster business growth throughout the state while also making sure Maryland’s consumers are not taken advantage of. As we enter the close of the legislative session, I was able to speak one-on-one with Delegate Arentz to learn about his background, his view of how the Maryland General Assembly should operate, and how he plans to finish the legislative session.

Delegate Steven Arentz was born in Hollywood, California but raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After moving to Queen Anne’s County, MD, Delegate Arentz began a career as a business owner and community advocate. From 1996-2010, Delegate Arentz, along with his wife, owned and operated Hemingway’s Restaurant and Lola’s Sunset Grill on Kent Island. Also, beginning in 2003, Delegate Arentz entered the real estate business as he became a realtor with Long and Foster. As Delegate Arentz continued to operate his businesses and became more involved with the community, he decided to join the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and eventually chaired the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce. In addition to his time in the Chamber of Commerce, Delegate Arentz served as the chairman and secretary for the Queen Anne’s County Economic Development Commission. As Delegate Arentz began to play a larger role as an advocate for business, he was approached to run for an open County Commissioner seat in Queen Anne’s County. After weighing his options, Delegate Arentz ran for and joined the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners. Subsequently, Delegate Arentz was selected by his peers to serve as President of the Commission. During his time with the Commission, Delegate Arentz was able to help the County work through a 20% shortage in the County budget among a number of other legislative accomplishments.

Although Delegate Arentz enjoyed his time as a County Commissioner, when approached to fill a vacancy in the Maryland House of Delegates, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to serve on the state level. After being appointed to the House of Delegates in 2013, in 2015, Delegate Arentz was elected to serve the citizens of Kent, Queen Anne’s, Cecil, and Caroline Counties. Initially a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Delegate Arentz now serves as a valued member of the House Economic Matters Committee. Despite Delegate Arentz’s background, his tenure in the House did not start without a slight learning curve. One notable difference Delegate Arentz described between the County Commission and House of Delegates is the number of colleagues he serves with. As a County Commissioner, Delegate Arentz worked with four other commissioners to craft the budget for the County, make personnel decisions, and set policy for the County. Now, as a member of the General Assembly, and as a member of the minority Republican Party, Delegate Arentz has significantly less power and influence. Despite having less control, Delegate Arentz contends, “I do believe I can make a difference. I do believe I have made a difference. I actually enjoy it. I wish it was different over here. I wish the numbers were different. In my heart, I believe that no good government can come from the majority being as big as it is here. I believe there should be a vehicle where you can stop something and actually communicate for the good of the people.” Although Delegate Arentz is not be a member of the majority party, it has not limited his desire to advocate for and introduce legislation having a positive impact on citizens statewide.

Since joining the legislature, Delegate Arentz has advocated for both businesses and Maryland’s youth. In 2015, Delegate Arentz cosponsored legislation establishing the Advisory Council on the Impact of Regulations on Small Businesses within the Department of Business and Economic Development. The Council established by the bill is tasked with reviewing proposed regulations and determining whether they have a significant impact on small businesses. Also, over the last three legislative sessions, Delegate Arentz has introduced legislation requiring each local board of education to establish a text messaging tip program allowing students to anonymously report bullying, harassment, or intimidation of students. The program, which was first introduced in Queen Anne’s County, has prevented bullying tactics and in some cases is believed to have prevented students from attempting suicide. It is Delegate Arentz’s hope that during this legislative session, the bill will finally pass through the legislature.

While Delegate Arentz understands the value in introducing meaningful legislation, he contends a large part of his role in the Maryland General Assembly involves helping his fellow legislators see the consequences of legislation they believe to be beneficial. Speaking specifically of the paid sick leave and minimum wage measures introduced before the legislature this session, Delegate Arentz explained how both bills are facially positive measures but have significant negative consequences. Delegate Arentz has taken it upon himself to share the business perspective with regards to the legislation and is hopeful that the General Assembly can reach a consensus that is equitable for all of Maryland’s citizens and businesses.

During the remainder of the 2017 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly, Delegate Arentz will continue advocating for smart business practices and his constituents on the Eastern Shore. Speaking of how rewarding his time in office has been, Delegate Arentz stated, “You wouldn’t believe how many people call you for things that are so minor but that you know you can help on.” Delegate Arentz would also like to continue putting aside partisan differences to work with his colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Recognizing the importance of his role as a public servant and how legislators should conduct themselves, Delegate Arentz stated, “This is a really an important job and I wish with all my heart we could do it more for the people and not the party. Right now, America is caught up in the parties and not in the people and if you really look at some things, we need to focus on the people.” With Delegate Arentz’s success as a businessman and in the legislature, we are are hopeful he can help lead the charge to a stronger and more unified state government.

By:  Kenneth N. Harris, Jr.

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