Elizabeth “Liz” Bobo was the first woman to be elected to the office of County Executive in the state of Maryland, making Howard County the first in the state to elect a woman as its chief executive. She also served as a member of the Howard County Council for two terms and as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing a district of that county for 20 years. During her many years in public office, Bobo focused on social, economic, and environmental justice.
Elizabeth Gilner was born in Baltimore on December 21, 1943. Her mother, Helen, though not having completed her fourth year in high school, was, in Liz’ words, “one of the most widely read people I have ever known.” Her father, Bernard, “Barney” to her, worked as the head of the photo engraving department at the Times-Herald newspaper in Washington, D.C. He died at an early age from Parkinson’s disease.
After graduating from high school, she earned a B.A. in Literature from the University of Maryland. She attributes her choice of that major to having observed her mother’s deep love of literature.
Married in the early 1960’s, she and her husband, Clifford Bobo, had two children – Christine and Clifford. When the children began elementary school, she became involved in public policy in Howard County. She returned to the University of Maryland, earning a Juris Doctor degree in 1981, and was later admitted to the Maryland Bar.
In 1977, Bobo was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Howard County Council. She won the election for that seat the following year and served until 1986 when she was elected as the County Executive of Howard County, the first woman in Maryland to attain that office. During her tenure, the county received its first AAA bond rating and national recognition for its innovative method of preserving farmland, the installment purchase agreement, which was later adopted by numerous other counties across the nation experiencing the pressure of rapid growth and development. Her administration also initiated considerable preservation of historic sites and buildings, particularly in Historic Ellicott City along the Patapsco River Valley.
Following her service in Howard County, Governor Schaefer appointed Bobo as the Assistant Secretary for Programs in the Maryland Department of Human Resources, where she worked for several productive years. In 1993, she married Lloyd Knowles, a recognized land use planning advocate with whom she had served on the County Council years before. When a state legislative district opened up as a result of the redistricting that followed the 1990 U.S. Census, Bobo sought public office again. In 1994, Bobo was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, where she became a leading legislator on justice in financial regulation, representing a district comprised of mostly West Columbia.
Liz Bobo has received many awards over the years for her extraordinary public service and leadership and was inducted into the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame in 1997.
“It was an honor to be elected as the first woman to serve as County Executive in the state of Maryland, giving me the opportunity to achieve accomplishments in the areas of social, economic, and environmental justice for all, regardless of gender or race. Now it is another great honor to be included in the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.”
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2020.