Kate Maerten’s journey into politics
The Mom who would be Commissioner
That was the moment Kate Maerten realized the only way to free her children was politics.
She watched her resolutely determined yet still youthfully delicate 15 year old daughter march alone into that empty colorless conference room to stand before those facelessy masked adults, to plead to the Board of Education on behalf of the struggling friends and classmates who’d confided in her, for schools to finally be reopened.
But her speech was cut a little short – because what everyday teenager is aware of the Board’s three minute public comment limit – leaving her feeling unheard and helpless.
Kate found the tears of desperation welling up in her daughter’s eyes.
That was enough. Kate would fix it.
She didn’t know exactly how, but she knew, reluctantly, that the solution could only be found in politics.
The Reisterstown home Kate grew up in was religious in the traditionally Christian sense, but never especially political. Her parents raised their children to be worldly and productive people, imbuing in them that set of proven values that might now be considered “traditional”, like working hard, being self sufficient, and competing earnestly when the situation required it.
Kate remembers her Mom and Dad riding them up to the election day voting polls a time or two. Not to nudge them towards any particular political point of view, but simply to expose them to the civic process with the expectation that one day they’d participate in it with intention – voting is a privilege after all.
He was a capable and diligent salesman, Kate’s dad. And Mom stayed home full time, presiding closely over her children while staying informed on matters of world and local affairs. They were a good looking and well spoken family, beaming of that uniquely American middle class prosperity.
Then everything changed.
Kate was but twelve years old when her Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And when the doctors gave her only six weeks, Dad quit working to be by his wife’s side to hold her close and care for her while he still could.
She fought like hell for two long years before finally passing on.
A full family fractured. And with Dad having been out of work, their financial situation was bleak.
Kate was in middle school then and took to babysitting. And her sister picked up shifts at the local grocery store to help make ends meet too. They were tough times, but formative.
Whatever a teenage Kate got, she worked for. Permanently instilling in her an ethic that would serve her well for the rest of her life.
Eventually Dad’s career picked back up. You can’t keep a good man down is a truism for a reason. Only now he took to wincing a bit whenever he’d open his paychecks to find that a profligate government had already gotten a big taste of the fruits of his labor that would otherwise be going directly to his children.
Your perspective hardens when you’re building back from the bottom.
And although he rarely talked openly about what could fairly be considered a maturing sense of libertarianism, Kate’s brothers certainly picked up on it.
Her younger brother Ben was a thinker with the anti-tax and American exceptionalist sympathies that would soon define an emerging tea-party movement. He channeled his political enthusiasm into campaigning for Maryland’s soon to be Governor Robert Ehrlich.
And her twin brother Pat was a sort of freedom fighting savant, always debating his teachers with arguments rooted in fact and logic, challenging a curriculum and a culture that was, even then, propped up by hollow progressive premises.
Pat would keep pocket sized constitutions on his person, handing them out at events to spread the good word. Later he campaigned for Libertarian Presidential candidate Ron Paul, before tragically dying in a motorcycle accident after being cut off on his way to a sign waiving event.
He was 29 years old.
But unlike her brothers, Kate never felt the personal call into politics. Instead finding a passion in athletics, excelling in soccer and track in high school. She enrolled at the Community College of Baltimore County and became a two time All American, later being inducted into their athletic hall of fame.
And after two years there, she transferred to St. Francis University in Pennsylvania to play Division I soccer. Today she is an avid runner and crossfitter, as a veteran member of Eldersburg’s Blackbird Crossfit and Rogue Runners.
Those same skills that brought her athletic success translated well into the small business she would eventually startup as an entrepreneurial insurance provider.
And now her and her husband count themselves fortunate to have built the stable and loving household that each of their five children deserve.
Things were good. Then the virus came.
Kate recognized immediately that everything had gone wrong.
The liquor store down the street was open for potentially destructive business, but not the church she frequented which offered true salvation and fulfillment.
She could shop at Walmart to pad their massive global profits, but not at the Mom and Pop shops that were the beating heart of her community.
And then there was the required masking and stay at home orders. Was this no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave? Kate knew those words to be principles, not just slogans to recite when convenient.
Turns out her brothers and their devotion to freedom were onto something after all.
Kate’s skepticism of the mandates was rooted in a gut instinct of what was right and what was wrong, coming not out of any cavalier dismissal of the potentially grave stakes.
Kate knows death too well to dismiss its proximity.
Besides that, one of her cherished sons was born with a heart condition and twice underwent serious surgery as an infant, falling squarely into that category of person who might require special protections at a time like this.
The mandated masking in particular was problematic. Because of her son’s condition, if his lips were at any point to turn blue, it means rushing to the emergency room where the stakes might be life and death. Masking him just wouldn’t be an option.
Kate knew it was bad and she knew others in her community had to be seeing it too. So she turned to Facebook and found the newly formed Concerned Parents of Carroll County Facebook group, an organization of parents advocating for keeping schools open and lifting mask mandates.
When Concerned Parents Chair Bryan Thompson asked Kate how she wanted to contribute, she expressed an uninterest in titles or formalities, promising nothing more than a willingness to show up for everything. Every internal gathering. Every brainstorm call. And every public Board of Education meeting.
That was all she knew. It’s what carried her through losing loved ones and brought her success in athletics and business. You go and go and go until you no longer can, and the result is eventually success.
Kate became a regular speaker at Concerned Parents events and Board of Education meetings.
Those Board of Education meetings got intense, even hostile. The opposition was just as motivated, and probably better suited to the nastier elements of activism.
But if ever Kate suffered a moment of weakness, she could feel her Mom around her urging her forward, reminding her that the privilege of fighting for your children is one not every Mom gets.
And she could hear Pat in her ear, demanding that she hold the line. She’d stick one of his old mini constitutions in her pocket, if she was going to keep doing this he damn sure would be coming right along with her.
But it was when Kate’s darling daughter gave that courageous speech in front of the Board of Education only to leave crestfallen, that Kate’s attention narrowed towards specific political posts.
Only those wielding actual policy making power could fix this, and it turned out elections were right around the corner.
Kate along with the Concerned Parents would find candidates who were willing to fight to fill those seats. And if they couldn’t, Kate might just do it herself.
Shortly after, the near unanimously conservative supported Board of Education slate known by the acronym BMW came together and looked formidable immediately, featuring qualified candidates to carry the movement that was starting to affect policy change forward.
But even if a battle had been won, the war was far from over.
The basically benign third variant was now sweeping through the country and all but one of the County Commissioners fell for the hysteria and voted to mask unvaccinated county employees, in what many felt like amounted to indirect political discrimination.
Kate threw up her arms in disgust. A disgust that turned quickly to resolve. She would sit in those very seats and ensure a decision like this would never get made again.
So Kate Maerten filed to run for Commissioner in Carroll County’s District 5, where she’ll go heads up with an opponent who has all the developer money and insider connections a certain type would always wish for.
If a tale of David and Goliath shall unfold here in Carroll County, here may it be.
It will be late into the still of night after a long and hectic election day, when Kate will get the news that she’s won.
She and her husband will jump up with brief excitement, only to sink into the floor with exhaustion.
She’ll get up and peer into each of her sleeping kids' bedrooms, just watching them lie there, knowing she’s done right by them.
Then she’ll think of her Mom and Pat up in heaven. And she knows they’ll be smiling down on her, the proudest mother and brother there ever could be.