When Terry Schum first came to College Park in 1986, there were few sidewalks, apartment buildings and bike lanes. Fast food restaurants and drive-thrus were scattered across the city, but city residents wanted more.
For many of her coworkers and colleagues, Schum didn’t just contribute to College Park during her tenure as planning and community development director. She built it into what it is today.
Schum left a legacy by leading the city through multiple major developments that have transformed College Park. She worked with the Maryland State Highway Administration and Prince George’s County for more than two decades to create bike lanes and sidewalks along Route 1 and created new land-use rules to allow for housing along the road.
As the planning and community development department’s first director, Schum retired on March 31 after 37 years of working with the city. She began her career in housing and community development in Howard County and later moved on to the city of Bowie before starting her economic development role in College Park in 1986. In 1992, Schum was named planning and economic development director.
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“I’ve always been interested in cities and urban areas and how they grow and develop and change over time,” Schum said. “Planning was an obvious field to go into. That’s where I landed and that’s where I stayed.”
Schum became involved in local government while working with federal programs from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement the Section 8 program for multi-family housing, which created more affordable housing options across the country.
Staying in the same job for decades was rewarding, Schum said. It’s allowed her to see the results of the changes she’s implemented to zoning laws and long-term projects.
“Working in local government is the lowest level of government and is the most rewarding because that is where the action is,” she said.
District 1 city council member Kate Kennedy has continually seen the dedication Schum has for the city in her work.
“She had a vision that was created by the city, for the city,” Kennedy said.
Schum also had to work with other decision makers on approving projects and zoning in the city. College Park is part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. To make planning decisions, the city of College Park must coordinate with stakeholders including Prince George’s County and other government agencies.
“You learn how to adapt, adjust [and] improvise to do the best you can on behalf of the city,” Schum said. “You have to compromise and in the end, accept and make the best of it.”
Prince George’s County Council member Eric Olson first got to know Schum in 1997, where they discussed development plans for the city. Since then, Olson, who represents District 3 on the county council, knows Schum to be thoughtful and collaborative.
“She has good vision for how to look ahead and work on how to reimagine the ways things can be to better [a] community,” Olson said. “I still have her phone number and definitely gonna be calling on her when I have questions about things.”
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Janeen Miller, the current College Park city clerk, met Schum at a community outreach planning before assuming her role in 2004. Even early in their friendship, Miller felt that Schum was very approachable and knowledgeable.
Since assuming the role of city clerk in 2004, Miller enjoyed working alongside Schum. The pair worked together whenever there was a new planning or development project presented to the city council.
“She really wanted to hear ideas and to take them back to the mayor and council, and I found her very friendly,” Miller said. “She’s a pleasure to work with, fun to be around and very good at her job. I have a lot of respect for that.”
Assistant city manager Bill Gardiner was an intern in the economic development department for the city when he met Schum. They kept in touch after his internship and started working together when he took on his current role in College Park in 2014.
“Terry is really passionate about urban design and the quality of design,” Gardiner said. “She’s always been a strong and vocal advocate for the city’s interest.”
Although there’s always work to be done, Schum is honored she was part of the change she wanted to see in the city.
“I’ve been able to see the results of many years of work,” Schum said. “I believe in neighborhoods and cities and residents and governments working together to solve problems, so this has been a great stomping ground for doing that.”