Mechanicsville, MD- Cpl.(ret.) Elizabeth O’Connor joined the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office in 2000, not too long after turning 21 years old. Before joining the department, O’Connor attended Southern Maryland Christian Academy; graduating in 1997, and then Charles County Community College(now known as The College of Southern Maryland) where she attained her A.A. degree and then headed to the University of Maryland.
O’Connor has a HUGE love for horses. At age 19 while at a horse show, O’Connor was kicked in the chest by a horse. It broke her ribs, punctured a lung, tore her rotator cuff, and broke her right arm. She required two weeks in the hospital, with eighteen months of physical therapy. Due to this injury, her plan to join the military was derailed. The military considered a metal plate in her arm a prosthetic. While at CCCC, she met Greg Marshall, a Howard County Police officer teaching classes. A career in Law Enforcement piqued her interest.
After graduating college, O’Connor started applying to local law enforcement agencies., While at a college fair, she spoke with several agencies and began the paperwork. The day after turning 21, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office(SMCSO) hired her. She graduated from the academy in second and completed her Field Training Officer(FTO) course.
Not too long after finishing her courses, the St. Mary’s Dive Team had an opening. “I was the first female on the dive team. And that eventually was disbanded due to cost. I was on patrol for seven years while I worked for the Sheriff’s Office, including the Academy for seven years before I applied for the position of canine handler. And I was advised that I had tested very well. And I was selected to be the first female Canine handler in the history of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office. And I was a canine handler for four years until my partner retired, at which point the sheriff’s office decided that they wanted to put me back on the road,” said O’Connor.
After the birth of the O’Connor’s son, John; she returned to the SMCSO where she returned to full duty on the nightshift. In November of 2019, she was approached about an opening within the department. “The position was the domestic violence coordinator in the Criminal Investigations Division. So it was clearly advised to me that it was going to be a temporary assignment and that eventually the position would be advertised and people would have the opportunity to put in for it. And I acknowledged that but you know, I saw it as an opportunity to not work shift work, and to broaden my horizon. And I was also firmly advised that it was not a stepping stone to becoming a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division,” she said. Eventually, the position was opened, but no one applied and O’Connor stayed with it until her retirement in April 2022.
During O’Connor’s career with the SMCSO, she was the first female member of the now-disbanded St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team and the first female officer canine handler. In March of 2022 the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Officer honored the women in the department, however, O’Connor was not mentioned as a “first” while three other women were, along with highlighting several other female officers. O’Connor currently has a lawsuit filed against the SMCSO for sexual discrimination and harassment. (The Southern Maryland Chronicle is currently reviewing this case and will have more on it in the future.)
O’Connor retired from the SMCSO in April 2002 and we asked her when she decided to run for County Commissioner.
“I was working as the domestic violence coordinator, [and] I saw a side of law enforcement that I really hadn’t had the opportunity to see. And by that, I mean, you know, as a patrol officer, it’s a lot of running and gunning, it’s a lot of slapping the handcuffs, on writing the report, and eventually going to court. There wasn’t a lot of follow-up to it, there wasn’t a lot of victim assistance to it, and there wasn’t a lot of working with a community. So what I saw as the domestic violence coordinator is that I actually worked more with non-law enforcement entities than I did with law enforcement entities. And I would say that I also worked more with like, if it was a law enforcement entity, it wasn’t within my agency. So let’s say, working with Charles County, because of a suspect that had cases in both counties, or contacting NCIS, because a victim or defendant was an active duty military, or they were both active duty military. But I started working with the Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services, and the Southern Maryland Center for Family advocacy. And my role as a police officer dealing with the victims became a lot more than it had ever been. I had a couple of victims with that I followed things through. There was actually one victim who had extensive domestic violence history. And you know, I worked with her a lot. And developed a relationship with them. And there was more than one victim that I developed a relationship with, and there were male victims too. And it was just as a side of working with a community that I really hadn’t had the opportunity to see. And I liked what I did. And so when I decided that my time as a police officer was done. I’m, you know, I’m young, it’s too young to hang everything up and, you know, sip mimosas and stuff. No, I don’t drink but eat bonbons. But I, part of me wanted to still have that connection with the community. And I’ve always had a servant’s heart. And when John made the decision to run for sheriff, obviously had he not made that decision I wouldn’t have made that I wouldn’t have run against my husband. Obviously, that’s kind of silly. But when he made the decision to run for sheriff you know, I know a lot about the county from my years at the sheriff’s office. I know a lot about the political aspect from Jon’s eight years as a county commissioner. And I was like, you know, this is a perfect segue in. I mean, I know a lot of people in the community. I know the county. I know the seventh district. I know, Ridge. I know Scotland. I know, Golden Beach. I know Charlotte Hall, you know, I know Lexington Park and Great Mills. So it just seemed like a perfect segue into still being able to be in the community serving the community contact with the community, but in a non-law enforcement aspect,” she said in an interview.
Below are excerpts from the interview on specific questions:
So taxes and fees, we’re overtaxed or overburdened, everybody knows that. Unfortunately, in the past, the growth rate has been underestimated in the county. And that could be an easy solution to not raising taxes is to pay attention to that. And, everybody is working their butts off just to get a little piece of the American Pie. And I feel like a lot of politicians have forgotten. And I said this the other day where a politician is elected by the people, for the people. And I think sometimes these politicians are just out of they’re disconnected. They’re disconnected from their people. Either it’s because they don’t have monetary issues, or they forgot when they did. But when you look at your paycheck and between federal taxes, state taxes, everything you’re like, Whoa, Politicians and politicians have a responsibility to spend and to attempt to spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely. And more often than not, it’s not I absolutely am against tax increases, I would like to try to decrease taxes. But I’m not going to make promises. I’m not going to make promises to people just for their vote. That’s what a politician does. I’m not a politician. I want to be a public servant. And there, there’s a big disconnect these days between a lot of politicians. They forget what they’re supposed to do. They are, they are public servants. They are serving the community. They’re serving their constituents. So I won’t make any promises that I don’t know that I can keep. But I will do my best to be an advocate and a voice of reason. When it comes to people who want to make tax increases and increase on fees. I mean, I’ve built a house in St. Mary’s County, I did the whole taking out a construction loan and doing the drawers and I saw all the fees and you know, impact fees and this fee and that fee and road fees. And it’s overburdening. And you know, granted, there’s some have a good reason and their purpose. But at the same time, it seems like all that keeps happening as more and more and more and more and more, when things can probably be more streamlined and concise. And people again need to spend taxpayer dollars more wisely.
Land Use and Growth
There are a lot of people in St. Mary’s County that are upset that the county’s growing. Growth is inevitable. It’s inevitable. Urban sprawl. It’s inevitable. So I think that the county so far has done a nice job with the parks and with open space. Yeah, I do. There are numerous parks that have been preserved. You’ve got Newtown Neck State Park, you’ve got Greenwell. You’ve got Point Lookout State Park, you’ve got county parks. Do I feel like there are a lot of homes that are sitting empty? And a lot of these older neighborhoods that could, you know, be possibly more affordable housing for people? Yes. I feel that the housing market is attainable for the average citizen in the county. Yes. Do I feel like the county got caught with their pants down? When it came to wastewater management and our aging roads? Yes, I was directly affected by Dr. Johnson Road New Market Turner Road, Route five, and Morganza. I think there needs to be better stormwater management. I think that as far as growth in the county it’s going to happen. I think that more often there needs to be anytime that there’s something large that goes into including the marijuana farm and the seven public hearings need to be held the citizens should have a say in that it’s kind of a scary thought. If Pax River ever were to close, what would happen to the south end of the county you know, the North End has kind of become its own self sufficient you know, we’ve got a lot of people that commute to DC and Virginia and stuff like that but the South end of the county if the base were ever to close that’s a scary thought. I thought about it and you know, and I think that’s why Steny Hoyer has kept his reign as long as he has because for some reason people think that he is the reason that it stayed and I don’t know that that’s necessarily a true statement.
I’m a parent. We live in very scary times. Unfortunately, we’ve already had an incident where two lives were cut short, and one, you know, in particular, and the Willey family, you know? Who knows if it could have been prevented or not. But, you know, Monday morning quarterbacking is very easy to do, something that law enforcement officers are notorious for doing. And the public loves to Monday morning quarterback, police officers, you know, when you have seconds to make a decision, they like to spend hours and question your decision. But I have zero problems with metal detectors. Unfortunately, that seems to be the society that we’re moving to. You know, other counties have done the same thing. Now, is a metal detector going to stop everything? No, there’s a little thing called a 3d printer. You know, so there are all plastic guns, there are ways around it. But would it be a deterrent? Would it make kids or I shouldn’t say kids, but would it make criminals work harder? Yes. Would it show the public that there is an act of interest being taken into keeping our schools safe and making them less of a soft target? Yes. Do I think the average parents in the county would rather see money be put into school safety over further amenities? I think so. I think there should be a cop in every school.
SRO’s need to be at that school during school hours. They shouldn’t have six schools that they’re supposed to be at. That should be their school, a dedicated school. Absolutely. That is their patrol assignment, that is where they are to be, they are expected to be there and to protect.
You say you want to be a proponent of efficient transparent government battle to reduce overburden curb government over late regulation is a bureaucratic process, ensure public access to records fight back against government corruption.
Good old boys. I’m tired of the good old boys. And so as half of them if not two-thirds of the county, that goes back to elected officials are elected by the people, for the people to serve the people. And there are plenty of politicians from the local level all the way up to Congress who forget that they’re not in it for themselves. And they’re besties. They’re in it for themselves and not all of their constituents. I’m tired of people trying to make rules, laws, and regulations, and help certain people out, but forgetting about the other people. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of, you know, if you’ve got money, then you can get somebody’s attention. But if you don’t have money, then you’re not worth my time. People are tired of the good old boys. St. Mary’s County is 30 years behind the times. This is like, like, I kid you not Dukes of Hazzard. I feel like just the good old boys. You know, that’s their theme song. It really is. And the corruption just makes your head hurt.
On a possible conflict of interest if she were elected to the Board of County Commissioners and her husband elected as Sheriff
If it came to something that would affect his salary directly, I would recuse myself. But, you know, as far as other things we’ve been vetted, and everyone’s like, as long as it’s not something that’s personally affecting his salary. And, you know, that was something that some would say. They would not let go for eight years of being a good old boy. They kept on,” you can’t vote on the budget, because your wife works there.” Well, he’s not voting for me individually to get a raise. He’s voting for everybody to get a raise.
Early Voting has started as of Thursday, July 8, 2022, in the State of Maryland.
Eligible Marylanders may register to vote in person during early voting and on Primary Election Day, July 19. Voters can register to vote and vote early at any early voting center in the county in which they reside.
Editors Note: The Southern Maryland Chronicle has reached out to multiple candidates in several races for interviews. We are publishing interviews of any candidate that we held an interview with. If no article is written, it means that the candidate did not respond to an interview request. We will not write articles based on their Facebook or website scripted posts.