Mike’s Community Service
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How did Mike Ertel become Mike Ertel?
Mike has been a community leader in Baltimore County for more than two decades. Known as a guy who “gets things done,” he’s earned the respect of his neighbors, elected officials and the business community at large. Mike grew up in Hamilton in Northeast Baltimore City, graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Towson University, and lives on Joppa Road with his wife Anne and their three kids, all of whom attended Baltimore County Public Schools. But how did he develop such an interest in community service?
Mike was raised in a middle-class neighborhood, to parents who believe in both hard work and giving back to others. His father was an engineer in the Baltimore City schools who didn’t hesitate to have Mike help him work on the house or the family car – even in 10-degree weather. His mother, who stayed at home with Mike and his twin brothers, was active in the school PTA and other causes.
But it was perhaps his grandfather, a World War II vet who landed in Normandy on the second day of D-Day, who had the greatest influence on Mike’s present-day interest in community problem solving. Grandpa Kowalchek was known as a man who could repair anything. He taught Mike that if you have the patience to take something apart, you can usually fix it.
In the beginning
Mike started thinking seriously about issues when he was at Poly. Elected student government president, he became an outspoken leader on matters important to students. He also served as a board member on the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City, where he tackled citywide issues – even meeting with then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
After a year at CCBC Essex Mike transferred to Towson University where he became the president of the Young Democrats Club. With a degree in finance, Mike began a career in the insurance industry. He soon developed an interest in the community – and making things better for those who lived around him.
Mike joined the Optimist Club 30 years ago because he believed in its mission of bringing out the best in our children. As a member of the Loch Raven Optimist Club he’s worked on projects that empower kids to reach their potential, most notably as chair of the club’s oratorical program which teaches kids public speaking skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
Mike’s also been an active coach in both the Towson and Parkville Rec Councils. He believes in the value of teamwork, and sees it as another skill that kids can take with them through their adult years.
In 2007, Mike took on the problem of school overcrowding when he noticed a baby boom in the Towson area and recognized that the area’s four core schools would not be able to handle the projected number of students. He brought the matter to the attention of the school system, County government, and later to Cathi Forbes, another parent who founded the group Towson Families United – which convinced the county to build a new elementary school and renovate three other schools. Cathi now serves as a Maryland State Delegate.
Looking out for kids
As a four-term president of the Towson Communities Alliance (formerly the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, or GTCCA), an umbrella organization representing more than 30 neighborhoods and over 40,000 residents, Mike worked with Towson University to create the University Relations Committee, comprising representatives of the university and adjacent neighborhoods in 2006. The committee has met monthly ever since and has developed many innovative solutions to common problems related to students, university growth and construction.
Mike also took a leadership role in creating the bi-annual Towson Clean-Up in 2006 that has teamed up the residential and business communities with Towson University students.
In 2011, Mike was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), where he served for eight years and eventually became the chair of the Budget & Finance Committee.
Now Mike’s ready to bring the same leadership and problem-solving skills to the reconfigured 6th District as our next county councilperson.