Governor Martin O’Malley

Affiliation and Title:   61st Governor of Maryland

Title of Presentation: Designing Coastal Resilience


Last year, the health of the Chesapeake Bay was restored to its highest levels since a standardized assessment was begun in 1985. This progress didn’t happen by itself. Using new information technologies to model, measure, and map, Maryland led the way in this six-state effort. A healthier Bay was, therefore, the product of better human choices — a combination of different actions taken together across the variety of lands which encompass this massive watershed. But now, this promising restoration faces a new challenge —  climate change. The heating of our atmosphere and the warming of our oceans, is resulting in rapid sea level rise. Already, more than a dozen islands in the Chesapeake Bay have been swallowed up by rising waters. Islands that had existed on nautical maps for centuries are no more. With its extensive shoreline, Maryland’s coasts will now face higher and more frequent levels of flooding and erosion than ever before.  But, the future is what we make of it.  Natural habitats, such as marshes, oyster reefs, and coastal forests, can reduce the impacts of these hazards through the processes of wave attenuation, increased infiltration and sediment stabilization. For many years we have learned how to evaluate and map the ecological benefits of these natural lands for the sake of healthier water, air, and animal habitats. Now it is time to understand the risk-reduction benefits that can be gained from the well-targeted restoration and expansion of these natural lands for the protection of human life. In his keynote address, O’Malley will layout how a new way of governing — with scientific data, performance measures, and more intelligent maps — has brought forward exciting new tools to target coastal adaptation efforts in ways that not only protect or restore natural habitats, but also provide the greatest risk reduction benefits to people living in coastal communities.


Elected to Baltimore City Council at the age of 28, Martin O’Malley was elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1999 and served in that office for eight years. In that role, he won Harvard University’s Innovation in American Government Award and Time Magazine named him “one of American’s top five big city mayors.”

Elected Governor of Maryland in 2007, in that role he demonstrated enormous attention to education, resulting in Maryland being recognized for five consecutive years as having the best public schools in the country, and one of the best states at holding down the cost of higher education. He signed marriage equality into law, abolished the death penalty, and passed the Maryland DREAM Act expanding the opportunity of a college education. As Governor, he continued to demonstrate results-driven leadership with the introduction of StateStat and BayStat, a system which has since inspired other systems, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Stat program. Called "the best manager in government today," Governor O'Malley has been recognized for his skillful leadership of Maryland and his success in implementing critical environmental priorities such as growing the state's renewable energy generation by 41 percent and driving down Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 9.7 percent. During his two terms, he brought Marylanders and neighboring states together to reduce runoff and save the Chesapeake Bay. Governor O’Malley ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. And during the 2018 midterm cycle, hand Win Back Your State PAC campaigned on behalf of state and local Democratic candidates in over 30 states.